Active Passage, Saturna Group, Looking West


The Northwest Boundary Survey of 1857-61 was a joint U.S.-British project to survey the border between the United States and Canada from the crest of the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Carried out jointly by American and British experts, it involved four years of strenuous work in rugged and heavily forested terrain. James Madison Alden (1834-1922) was a Massachusetts artist who, in 1854, enlisted in the U.S. Navy and worked as a cartographer on a project to chart the California coast. In January 1858, Alden became the official artist of the Northwest Boundary Survey. Because of the Civil War and other complications, the American survey never published its final report, and much of its documentation was lost. Alden’s watercolors, which reflect his sense of color and skill in handling the watercolor medium, are mainly what survived from the American side of the project. This painting shows a view toward Saturna Island, part of the Gulf Islands chain in British Columbia, Canada.

Last updated: January 8, 2018