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Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barres

Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barres

Colonel Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barres (1721 - 1824)
was a cartographer who served in the Seven Years' War, in part, as the aide-de-camp to General James Wolfe. He also created the monumental four volume Atlantic Neptune, which was the most important collection of maps, charts and views of North America published in the eighteenth century. Finally, he was the Governor of Cape Breton Island and Prince Edward Island. Colonel Des Barres is buried in the crypt of St. George's (Round) Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

He was born in Basel, Switzerland, and was a member of a Huguenot family. Des Barres read mathematics and art at the University of Basel, studying under John and Daniel Bernoulli. Upon the completion of his studies he left for England.
There he enrolled at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. It was there that Des Barres trained to become a military officer, and studied military surveying. His training would also benefit him later in life for surveying, map making, and coastal charting.
In 1756 he was commissioned into the Royal Americans.

In 1756 Des Barres sails to North America and is with Edward Boscawen's fleet when it attacks the Fortress of Louisbourg in 1758.
He distinguishes himself by capturing a French entrenchment at Kennington Cove. Soon he is put to work charting the Gulf of St. Lawrence and approaches to Quebec, information that will be used the following year in Wolfs's assault on the City of Quebec.
In 1760 he is at Halifax to prepare plans for the city's defences and naval yard.
By 1762 he is sent to Newfoundland to survey Harbour Grace and Carbonear to draw up plans for new harbour defences to replace those destroyed by the French. James Cook was sent as his assistant. (Des Barres may have met Cook earlier at either Louisbourg or Halifax.)

Atlantic Neptune
Des Barres made many maps of the Atlantic, mapping the coast of North American from Newfoundland to New York. His survey of the coast of Nova Scotia took approximately ten years due its length and intricacy.
Des Barres was exasperated with the work stating "There is scarcely any known shore so much intersected with Bays, Harbours, and Creeks as this is" "and the Offing of it is so full of Islands, Rocks, and Shoals as are almost innumerable."
The survey work was carried out in the summer and in the winter he would retire to his estate, Castle Frederick, in Falmouth, Nova Scotia to complete his charts and drawings. His most notable work is the Atlantic Neptune.
In 1774 under direction for the British Admiralty, Des Barres compiled and edited his and many others' charts and maps of eastern North America. The completed work was published in 1777, having cost the Admiralty an estimated 100,000.

Current stock of charts by Des Barres.



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Author: Paulus Swaen 2016