A Brief Biography of George Vancouver

By Tim Lambert

George Vancouver was a great navigator of the 18th century. He was born in Fincham Street in the town of Kings Lynn in Norfolk, England on 22 June 1757. His father, John Vancouver was deputy collector of customs in Kings Lynn. As the son of a well-to-do man George probably attended Kings Lynn Grammar School.

In 1771 he joined the navy. In 1772 Captain Cook gave George a position on board his ship The Resolution, which sailed on an expedition to the Pacific in 1772-1775. During the voyage, George learned astronomy, surveying, and drawing. George also accompanied Cook on his ship Discovery which sailed to the northwest of North America in hopes of finding a northwest passage to the Atlantic. The ship arrived off the coast of North America in 1778. Afterward, they sailed to the Sandwich Islands, where Captain Cook was killed. The ship returned to England in October 1780. Just 12 days later Vancouver passed the examination for lieutenant.

From December 1780 George served on a ship called the Martin. Early in 1782, his ship was sent to the West Indies. In May 1782 he joined the crew of a ship called the Fame. However, the war ended and the ship returned to Plymouth. In July 1783 George was placed on half-pay. But in November 1784 he joined the crew of the Europa and sailed to Jamaica. George progressed in his naval career. In November 1787 he was made a second lieutenant and in January 1788 a first lieutenant.

In December 1789 Vancouver was given command of a ship called the Discovery. In March 1791 George was given orders to sail to the northwest coast of North America to search for a water communication that would facilitate shipping between the northwest of North America and the northeast. Vancouver set sail in April 1791. He sailed around Africa then to Australia and New Zealand. George then sailed to Hawaii and then to the coast of North America, which he reached in April 1792. He spent the next 3 years surveying the coast of North America. George returned to England in October 1795.

George was put on half-pay in November 1795 and he settled in Petersham in Surrey. Sadly he died on 12 May 1798, aged only 40. He was buried in St Peter’s Church in Petersham on 18 May 1798.

In 1886 a settlement in Canada was renamed Vancouver after him.