On today’s date in 1605, Samuel de Champlain and Pierre Dugua de Mons began the search for a better site for their colony, sailing 650 kilometres south to Cape Cod, Mass., and drawing the first maps of New England coastline.
In 2014, the Royal Canadian Mint featured de Champlain on the third coin of its Great Explorers series. The pure gold Proof coin with a face value of $200 features de Champlain alongside a First Nations guide as they disembark from canoes on the Ontario shoreline. The coin was designed by Glen Green and has a limited mintage of 2,000.
Born into a family of French mariners in 1574, de Champlain began exploring North America in 1603 and eventually climbed to the top of society on this side of the pond. He went to New France in 1620 and spent the rest of his life improving the territory rather than exploring it. On March 1, 1632, he was appointed New France’s governor – the first ever.
After exploring sites in the Bay of Fundy along the Atlantic coast, Champlain selected Saint Croix Island (present-day Maine) in the St. Croix River as the site of the expedition’s first winter settlement. Following a particularly harsh winter on the island, the settlement was relocated across the bay, where it established as Port Royal.
Champlain used that site as his base until 1607, exploring and mapping the Atlantic coast all the while.
Champlain died on Christmas Day 1635 in Quebec City.