“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods
Anyone who studies Canadian history will know the name Jacques Cartier.
Jacques Cartier was a Breton who was known for his expertise in navigation and cartography. He had a grand aspiration to find the legendary North-West passage, the sea route around North American that would enable Europeans to trade directly with China. His persuasive skills convinced King Francis I of France to agree to his ambitious plan. In April 1534, Jacques Cartier left the port of St. Malo, his hometown, on what was the first of three voyages. Twenty days later, he sighted Newfoundland, which was the beginning of his detailed exploration of the coastline of what is now known as the Gulf of the St. Lawrence.
The next year, on the second voyage Jacque Cartier entered the river on August 10, the feast of St. Lawrence. He named it, fleuve Saint-Laurent. To the Tuscarora nation the river was Kahnawáʼkye; and to the Mohawk nation it was Kaniatarowanenneh, names that signified “big waterway.” The St. Lawrence River is 1,197 kilometres in length with a basin of 1,344,200 square kilometres. It is the outflow for the entire Great Lakes system, which holds approximately 20% of the world’s fresh water. The river’s extensive coastal wetlands provide a paradise for wildlife.
Jacque Cartier may not have found the North-West passage, but his carefully planned and mapped exploration gave a clear understanding of the land complexities of eastern Canada. He gave names to Quebec City, Montreal and the Lachine Rapids. And he named the land “The Country of Canadas,” originating from a First Nations word kanata for “village.”
“Our hopes are high. Our faith in the people is great. Our courage is strong. And our dreams for this beautiful country will never die.”