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A Most Curious Map
Six months later, in March 1775, J. N. Buache responded with a rebuke of de Vaugondy's Mémoire and map. Buache's Mémoirebore the same title as de Vaugondy's except for the map which he titled, "Carte de Comparaison des Plans de MM. Engel & de Vaugondy, avec le Plan des Cartes Modernes."
Buache quickly noted de Vaugondy's apparent indecision regarding the de Fonte discoveries. "This map, I acknowledge, impressed me at first glance by depicting the discoveries of Admiral de Fonte which until now M. de Vaugondy had rejected. I thought M. de Vaugondy must have received some new Spanish or other authentic information.... I am obliged to reject these now, based on the latest Russian discoveries. I soon realized I couldn't profit from any of the advantages de Vaugondy's map had appeared to offer."
With relish, Buache turned to the location of the Kamchatka peninsula. Krasil'nikov had accompanied Delisle de la Croyère to the Kamchatka peninsula in 1741. After de la Croyère's death, he had made very precise observations at Okhotsk, Bolsereck and Awatcha. Bolsereck (now Ust'-Bol'sheretsk) was an early Russian trading post on the western side of Kamchatka, Awatcha later became Petropavlovsk (now Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy), the major port on the eastern coast of Kamchatka. This data was then used by Maraldi in locating these settlements to within seconds of both longitude and latitude.
Buache reported, "Such are the observations which now fix the location of the Kamchatka Peninsula. These are taken from a manuscript of M. DeLisle, the astronomer (J. N. Delisle) who communicated them to his nephew-in-law, M. (Philippe) Buache." De Vaugondy had obviously erred, admitting later to having been unaware of these more accurate observations.
"Chart of the New Northern Archipeligo" by J. von Staehlin.
Turning to the west coast of America, Buache noted that Engel and de Vaugondy strongly favoured Acosta's maps. When Acosta's work was published in 1590 in Seville, it contained no maps. Buache noted the first maps to accompany the text were included in a German edition published in Ursel in 1605. Buache obviously enjoyed writing, "One must believe it was the printer of Ursel who added these maps to this Acosta edition. The maps are but copies of maps drawn by Wytfliet. They are badly engraved, without scale or attribution. One should not blame M. Acosta or M. Engel for these ignorances or imperfections in artistic content, but rather the barbaric way in which ignorant copyists treat geography."
De Vaugondy's map "New geographic system...the countries north-west of America with the new discoveries of the Russians ..." 1774 comes from the Mémoire.
De Vaugondy had agreed that Cabo San Lucas was located at 267 degrees east longitude. His 800-league coastal length allowed him to locate Cape Mendocino at about 230 degrees east longitude. Buache reported numerous voyages setting the distance at about 500 leagues, moving Cape Mendocino eastward some 12 or more degrees. He found it incredible that De Vaugondy had based his 800 leagues largely on the time required for Vizcaino's voyage. Citing Torquemada's report of that voyage, Buache described the difficulty of sailing north along the California coast into the prevailing wind. As an example, Torquemada had written that after a week of trying to round one particular point, they had named it "Cerro del Enfado" (Mountain of Irritation). Buache further noted Vizcaino's return voyage from Cape Mendocino with the wind had required less than 50 days to pass Cabo San Lucas and sail on to Acapulco.
Buache saved his greatest contempt for de Vaugondy's treatment of Cape Schalaginskoi. De Vaugondy drew a solid North Asian coast with a phantom dotted Cape labelled, "C. Schalaginskoi, which we do not believe exists." Reports of this mercurial mushroom-shaped peninsula dated all the way back to Dezhnev's circumnavigation of the Chukchi peninsula in 1648.Russian explorers kept bumping into an icy barrier with a rocky point, impeding eastward travel in the Arctic Ocean. There were further reports of a land to which natives retreated in the face of Russian land pursuit. Could this have been Wrangel Island and the land bridge formed of shifting ice? Fisher felt it was probably a much lesser cape, known today as Cape Shelagskiy, at the mouth of Chaunskaya Bay. Buache reported, "On the tip of this land are found men who wear small decorations of stone inlaid with bone in their cheeks. These people seem to have a widespread relationship with the people of North America." Buache's modern map showed Cape Schalaginskoi as a firmly rooted peninsula topped by a large dotted land mass labelled: "Noss or Cape Schalaginskoi, Country of the Tschutsches, we are not sure of its dimensions." Buache was as sure of Cape Schalaginskoi's existence as de Vaugondy was of the existence of the Strait of Anian. Of course, both were wrong.
We should not be surprised by the lack of accurate information about this region. It is, after all, one of the most difficult climates in which man has learned to survive. Winter lasts most of the year. Ice storms and whiteout conditions are common. It's a tribute to the human spirit that men have learned to exist there.
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