Blakiston, Thomas
Thomas Blakiston (Courtesy "The Palliser Expedition")
(1832-1891)

Thomas Blakiston was a remarkable man who travelled the world pursuing adventure and his scientific interests. Born in England, he obtained a commission as a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery, serving in England, Ireland, Nova Scotia, and the Crimean War.

In 1858 he travelled west with the Palliser Expedition in the capacity of magnetic observer with a special assignment to explore the southern passes of the Rockies to determine a feasible route for a transcontinental railway.

Lieutenant Blakiston was certainly gifted but he may have been difficult to work with. He had his differences with John Palliser. After setting off to the mountains with Eugene Bourgeau and James Hector, Blakiston left a letter for Palliser, "wherein I threw off his command." Setting out on his own he travelled down the eastern edge of the Rockies, along the route of the present day Highway #22 from Turner Valley to the Crowsnest River and into the southwest corner of what is now Alberta. Along the way he named the Livingstone Range and Gould Dome. He thoroughly explored the Kootenay Passes area, determining that it was wholly in British Territory and its suitability for a railway. Later he travelled over South Kootenay Pass, following Blakiston Creek past what is now Mount Blakiston to the series of lakes which he named Waterton.

Although he followed the previously issued instructions regarding his exploration objectives and used expedition men, horses, and supplies, Blakiston refused to hand over his observations, and maps for the Expedition's records. Returning to England in 1859 he submitted a separate report on his own personal findings.

The year 1861 found this adventurer very far from these mountains as he led an expedition up the Yangtze River in China, travelling 1500 kilometres further up the river than any Westerner had previously reached. After retiring from the army he visited Japan by way of Russia and Siberia where he pursued business interests. During the 1870's, he compiled a catalogue on the birds of Japan which was the authoritative document for years in that country.

In 1884 he retired from his Japanese business interests and settled in the United States where, pursuing his interest in ornithology, he completed publications for the United States National Museum.

[Additional Information: Spry, Irene M. "The Palliser Expedition". Toronto: Macmillan Co. of Canada Ltd., 1963]

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