Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Conrad Heidenreich on Champlain in Huronia

At the OAS Huronia Chapter meeting in September 2010, Professor Conrad Heidenreich spoke to some twenty interested parties about Champlain’s visit to Huronia and the location of the villages he visited including Cahiague. 
it was a very interesting talk and shed a lot of light especially on Champlain and his navigational accuracy and how a geographer approaches understanding the historic descriptions and maps.
Heidenreich reviewed the available documents, maps and archaeological evidence in the 1960s.  Since the 1960s no new documents or maps have been found. There have been some advances in linguistic analysis of Huron names (John Steckley). There have been more site surveys since the 1960s.  Heidenreich pointed out that he is not familiar with this work, his academic work is not archaeology but historic geography.
He went on to explain in detail his review of the accuracy of Champlain’s navigation based on his books of 1603 and 1632.
On his maps and in his navigational text, Traitté de la marine, Champlain mentions only the use of the Spanish marine league (5.5 km), yet when we examine estimates of the same distance taken from his writings and compare them to the same distances taken from topographic maps, in most cases the league he appears to be using is much shorter.
Examples: 1603: The distance estimates given by Champlain in his first book Des Sauvages, have an average league of 3.6 km (2.3 miles)  (s= 1.3 km) (N=37).
Example: 1632: The estimates of distance given in Les Voyages, have an average length of 4.7 km (s=1.5 km) (N=105).
If one breaks down the 1632 sample of 105 estimates one finds:
His estimates on the high seas had an average of 5.5 km to the league (s-1.5 km) N=24). This shows he used Spanish marine league determined with instruments.
In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, his estimates had an average of 4.3 km (s=.58) (N=10) and along coastal areas and the St. Lawrence River, between Tadoussac and the Lachine Rapids, the average length is
4.5 km (s=1.04 km) (N=45). These two are virtually the same; statistically they don’t differ significantly.
The large standard deviations indicate a horrendous inconsistency in his estimates. What is more disconcerting is that the diminishing length of the league, from an average of 5.5 km on the high seas, to about 4.3-4.5 km along coastal stretches and the St. Lawrence and eventually 3.4 km inland, may indicate the use of different leagues without notifying his reader...Did Champlain use any other measures?
Measures Champlain may have used?
*Petite lieues 30 to a degree of latitude – 3.27 km – 2.03 mi.
Lieues commune 25 to a degree of latitude – 3.91 km – 2.45 mi.
*Lieues marine 20 to a degree of latitude – 4.91 km – 3.05 mi.
**Lieues géographique, ou marine de Espagne 17.5 to a degree of latitude – 5.55 km – 3.45 mi.
*measure he may have used, **measure he says he used.
I think the averages I have calculated may indicate what he is trying to use, the petite Lieue, Lieue commune, and lieue marine, when he is on land or in coastal waters, but he is poor at estimating distances. Rather than guess at what league he may be using I think it is safer to use his average league calculated for specific topographical circumstances, recognizing also that whatever he is estimating lies within a large range of variablity.
Heidenreich went on to point out that the sample available is too small to know what league Sagard and the Jesuits used.  It seems possible that the Jesuits used the lieue commune, which was the standard French measure at the time.
Heidenreich went on to review the days of travel and villages visited in Champlain’s account.  He spoke about what we can glean from Sagard’s account.  He also addressed the Jesuit reports of villages (they make no mention of Cahiague).
Heidenreich then reviewed the descriptions of Cahiague in Champlain and in Sagard, linguistic analysis of the name, and stated that he remains convinced that the Warminster site is Cahiague.
He concluded:
1.       I surmise that Champlain and Sagard landed along the stretch of shoreline between Georgian Sands Beach (XIV Con.) and Balm Beach (IX Con.); Champlain perhaps near the exit of Copeland Creek and Sagard farther south at Balm Beach. I would look for a village (Otoϋacha) and artifacts along the shoreline from the XIVth to the IXth Concessions, in particular close to the beach near Copeland Creek.
2.       I think we have Tequenonquiaye and Cahiague located properly.
3.       We have the general location where Carhagouha should be.
4.       We should be able to locate the successors to these villages. Ossosane by its shape; Quienonascaron because it is a triple village and Contarea from its location on the western outskirts of Orillia.
5.       We might be  able to decide on a probable route of travel by Champlain for a supposed landing spot to Tequenonquiagey and Carhagouha but without additional information I would hate to hazard even a guess where he wandered around to get to Cahiague.
This article first appeared in the Fall issue of The Pot, the newsletter of the Huronia Chapter of the OAS

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