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Introduction | People | Landscapes | Transportation and Maps

Transportation and Maps

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Engraving of map of Nova Scotia, with view of Halifax, 1750
Watercolour showing sailing ships and smaller vessels at sea, with Inuit in kayaks in foreground, 1819
Print of ship battered by storm at sea, 1873
Print showing horse-drawn sled and tandem meeting in a narrow road in winter, 1867
Watercolour scene of buildings and market alongside wharf with boats, 1829
Oil painting showing people on dock, boats, and buildings in distance, 1886
Watercolour showing lumber raft carrying people, sailing past shoreline, with smaller raft and island in background, circa 1868
Watercolour showing boats and rafts passing under Victoria Bridge in Montréal, circa 1860
Print showing waterfront view of shipbuilding yard, circa 1865
Oil painting showing a large Hudson's Bay Company freight canoe and its passengers passing a waterfall, 1869
Watercolour showing boat docked at shoreline, with buildings nearby and mountains in the distance, 1856
Watercolour showing farmers and their livestock heading down a village road in winter, 1846
Drawing of three horsedrawn sleighs laden with people, racing along a country road, 1888
Watercolour scene of large steamship in harbour, with First Nations people standing on dock in foreground, 1839
Watercolour showing man, child and dog walking along dirt road in wooded area, circa 1830
Watercolour showing railroad bridge over river, with figure in canoe and large fallen tree on shoreline, 1856
Watercolour showing waterfall, rocky shoreline and wooden observation platform, 1827
Watercolour showing shoreline, with cluster of buildings on partially cleared land, circa 1853
Print showing canoe carrying 10 passengers, 1824
Oil painting showing man with covered wagon pulled by oxen, on mountain road with river below, circa 1887
Print showing ships in frozen sea, and men pulling small boat across ice, 1853
Watercolour showing rugged shoreline, with people in foreground and sailboats in water, 1792
Topographical map showing mountain ranges and waterways, with prospectors in foreground, 1858
Watercolour of steam engine, with hotel and mountains in background, circa 1887
Oil painting showing large group of men in canoe, shooting the rapids, 1879

Transportation and Maps

The first Europeans who came to Canada brought with them a culture of transportation centred on the wheel. North America's Aboriginal peoples had developed differently, and moved through their country by means of canoes, kayaks, umiaks, coracles, and other water-borne vehicles, constructed from various types of bark, hide, bone, wood, and other materials; as well, the snowshoe, toboggan and sled were essential during the winter conditions that prevailed throughout the northern half of the continent for much of the year. Europeans quickly adopted all of these technologies themselves, and therefore were able to travel to the northern interior via the many waterways that branched out from the St. Lawrence River and from Hudson Bay.

Advances in sailing technology from the 15th century onward enabled Europeans to make longer voyages into regions with more extreme weather and climatic conditions. Improvements were made in the design of sails, masts and rigging, and navigational equipment became more sophisticated. Ships went further north, stayed longer on the Grand Banks and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and eventually began to explore the Pacific Northwest and the Western Arctic. However, even superior sail technology and better navigational tools could not prevent disaster. Extremes of weather, uncharted shoals, miscalculations of time and tide -- all could take the lives of hundreds in a short time, whether through shipwreck or the disappearance of a vessel at sea. Nor did European technology protect even the best equipped from the hazards of starvation, scurvy, and mutiny.

The greater experience of First Nations enabled them to travel from year to year with relatively little danger of becoming lost; journeys were documented through oral tradition. Europeans, however, demanded that map-making provide them with accurate and accessible documents. Hydrographers and surveyors gradually delineated the country's dimensions, dangers, and physical outlines. Through coastal outlines and topographical profiles, cadastral surveys, depth charts, chain measurements, and other tools of the surveying trade, maps were eventually created to benefit navigator and settler alike.

The domesticated horse and the Industrial Revolution forever changed transportation in Canada. By the late 17th century, many western First Nations were using horses for transportation, engaging with their environments in an entirely different manner. European settlers also used the horse to accelerate land-travel times, but also began to build roads. Initially, they crossed rivers by ferries, but eventually bridges were constructed; as the technology developed from wood to iron to steel, the bridges spanned wider and wider gaps. The Industrial Revolution not only made stronger materials available, it also brought steam power to bear on shipping and river travel. Ocean-going steamships shortened travel times, while river transport opened up many areas of the country to large-scale movements of goods and people. In winter, at least until the mid-1850s, everyday life was delimited by the ability to travel by sleigh. The railroad construction boom of the 1840s and 1850s transformed life in central Canada, and eventually opened up winter travel between the ice-free Atlantic ports and the rest of Canada. Ultimately, it extended westwards to the Pacific, forever altering the nature of the country as a whole.