The first literary reference to British Columbia in English literature occurs in the second book of Gulliver's Travels, a fictional work by satirist Jonathan Swift, in which Gulliver sails up the northwest coast of America in 1703 to a land of giants called Brobdingnag.

This land of giants was located north of New Albion in an area roughly approximate to the locale of British Columbia. Gulliver's ship is caught in a storm "so that the oldest sailor on board could not tell in what part of the World we were.";

Swift blended some known geography into his creation by incorporating the findings of world traveller William Dampier, referred to by Gulliver in the text as "my cousin, Dampier.";

The term New Albion was derived from the secret voyage of Sir Francis Drake in 1579 when he was searching for a Northwest Passage back to England. In those days the dastardly Drake was the scourge of the Spanish, having plundered tons of silver and gold, so Queen Elizabeth had to be circumspect about backing the first Englishman to circumnavigate the world.

Only three copies of Drake's original "Queen's Map"; were made. All copies have been destroyed or lost. Drake's charts were kept secret but his term New Albion did begin to appear on some maps that attempted to depict the western coast of North America. The first public map to record the presence of Drake on the northwest coast of America was published in a book by Richard Hakluyt in 1582.

When Swift required a setting for a mythical faraway land of giants more than a century later, New Albion was appropriated. The myth of British Columbia as a land of giants, home to the elusive Sasquatch, also has some literary roots in the journals of John Ledyard, the young American seaman who sailed with Captain Cook.

John Ledyard wrote: "The 15th we altered our course in search of some islands, which the Russians said were inhabited by people of a gigantic size, who were covered with hair; but who notwithstanding were very civil, and would supply us with cattle and hogs, with which their island abounded.";


Travels Into Several Remote Nations Of The World. In four parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of several Ships (London: B. Motte, 1726).


Gulliver's Travels. Ed. Paul Turner. Oxford: Oxford University, 1998.

Gulliver's Travels. Ed. Peter Dixon and John Chalker. Penguin, 1967.

Gulliver's Travels. Ed. Robert A. Greenberg. 2nd Edition. Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 1970.

Gulliver's Travels. complete, authoritative text with biographical and historical contexts, critical history, and essays from five contemporary critical perspectives. Ed. Christopher Fox. Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1995.

The Writings of Jonathan Swift; Authoritative Texts, Backgrounds, Criticism. edited by Robert A. Greenberg and William Bowman Piper. Norton Critical Editions. New York: Norton, 1973.

Jonathan Swift. ed. Angus Ross and David Woolley. New York: Oxford, 1984.

Gulliver's Travels. Aldren A. Watson, illustrator. Illustrated Junior Library. New York : Grosset & Dunlap, 1947.

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2003]