For all their daring and enterprise, few of the early English fur trade explorers possessed the skill or carried the necessary instruments to report fully their discoveries. It was left to Samuel Hearne, an observant and industrious Hudson’s Bay employee, to publish the first comprehensive account of the inhabitants and terrain under the company’s control. Two initial attempts to reach the Arctic proved exhausting but fruitless. In 1770, Hearne set forward a third time, accompanied by the capable Indian guide Matonabbee, whose prestige and authority in the region seemed a guarantee of success. The party reached the mouth of the Coppermine River, establishing Hearne as the first European to see the North American Arctic and dissolving the myth of an ocean channel through the continent.
In 1774, Hearne built Cumberland House for the Hudson’s Bay Company, its first interior trading post and the first permanent settlement in present Saskatchewan. Appointed governor of Prince of Wales’s Fort in 1775, Hearne was forced to surrender to La Perouse in 1782 and return to England. La Perouse saved Hearne’s manuscript and returned it to the British for publication.