On today’s date in 1789, Scottish explorer Alexander Mackenzie viewed the Arctic Ocean before turning home.
In 1989, the Royal Canadian Mint featured the Mackenzie River on a Proof silver dollar, commemorating the bicentennial of the first full length voyage of the river by its namesake in 1789. Engraved by John Mardon, the coin’s design features Mackenzie traversing the river with his crew, with “CANADA 1989” above and “FLEUVE MACKENZIE RIVER / DOLLAR” below. It had a mintage of 110,650, a weight of 23.30 grams and a diameter of 36.07 mm.
While looking for a Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean, Mackenzie discovered and charted the largest river in Canada, the 1,738-kilometre long Mackenzie River. He would reach the Arctic Ocean on July 14, 1789 – the same day as angry mobs stormed the French Bastille in Paris – and was so upset at finding the wrong body of water he named it “Disappointment River”. Arctic explorer John Franklin later renamed it the Mackenzie River.