Alasdair MacCoinnich is the Scottish Gaelic version of a much better known name in these parts: Alexander Mackenzie. This man (not to be confused with the Prime Minister of the same name) was the young Scottish explorer who crossed Canada and reached the Pacific Ocean in 1793. It was a phenomenal achievement.
The following are a few tidbits about Mackenzie and his journey that may appeal to your imagination:
Mackenzie’s journey was the first crossing of North America north of Mexico. His explorations were completed ten years before Lewis and Clark set out on their famous expedition. Of course, to push west, Mackenzie and his crew of seven had to paddle against the current of the mighty Peace.
The Northwest Company sent Mackenzie to train with Peter Pond before taking over his job. Pond was leaving the post due to his involvement in the deaths of two rivals. Although he was fairly certain that his successor was a murderer, Mackenzie valued Pond’s knowledge and the two got on well enough during their winter together.
Mackenzie hadn’t yet reached the age of 30 when he returned to eastern Canada from his explorations.
He wasn’t the first white man to see the Peace River. That, as far as records show, was a man by the name of Boyer, who was sent by Mackenzie in 1787 to meet with the Beaver Indians and establish a post on the Peace River.
Mackenzie and his crew are the first recorded white men to sleep on British Columbia soil after arriving by land.
Mackenzie’s first great journey was on the Dehcho River. His goal then was also to find the Pacific Ocean. Legend has it that, rather disappointed when he found himself at the Arctic Ocean, Mackenzie dubbed the waterway “Disappointment River”. This isn’t supported by surviving letters, in which Mackenzie calls the river “The Grand”. However, it is true that before his next trip he went back to England to study surveying and map making.
Alexander Mackenzie was knighted in 1802. He remained in Canada for a few years, serving in the Legislature of Lower Canada, then returned to England and Scotland. He married and fathered three children, but died within eight years of Bright’s disease.