Marco Polo in Seattle

Traditional historians missed all the clues. Marco Polo says in his Travelogue that he sailed with a Chinese expedition “40 days beyond Siberia.” He mentioned “pumpkins,” “cochineal dye,” “brasilwood,” and “corn.” All of these are New World plants. Polo mentioned that it took him and his father four years to travel from Venice to China in 1271. They could have made the journey in less than six months.

Why did it take so long? Did Marco sail someplace beyond the Far East? And, why did he mention so many New World plants?

These are just a few of the puzzling questions that led a Seattle crew of “Time Detectives” to undertake an exhaustive study of cartographic evidence. We also examined a chest-full of Marco Polo’s letters in the “Rossi Collection.” These documents are virtually unknown to historians – yet they give us a fresh new look at events that changed the course of history. You will be astonished by what we discovered.

Marco Polo wasn’t just a famous journalist who happened to write a Travelogue about the Far East. He was a highly-skilled espionage agent. He went to China on a mission for the pope. And yes — he sailed into the waters of Puget Sound, Seattle, and the Salish Sea. We have the map to prove it!

Marco Polo’s Map (c.1285) shows all the key geographical features of the Pacific Northwest Coast: 1) the Salish Sea (or “Strait of Juan de Fuca”); 2) Vancouver Island; 3) the Gulf of Georgia, or Fraser River; 4) Puget Sound – Gateway to Seattle; 5) the Olympic Peninsula; 6) Mouth of the Columbia River; and 7) the South Branch of the Willamette River. Polo’s map is compared above to an early West Coast Map by Washington Irving in 1836. The similarities are unmistakable.

The map by Marco Polo was a copy of survey charts that were prepared by Persian and Chinese surveyors in 1285 at the order of the Mongol Emperor, Kublai Khan. This was part of a grand scheme to map all the New World Territories that were situated east of China across the Eastern Sea (or “Pacific Ocean”). Presently, John Dee’s copy of the Regional Survey is in the Special Collection Salon at the Philadelphia Public Library. Author Gunnar Thompson examined this manuscript copy in the company of Joel Sartorius, Curator.

The document, drawn in pencil and ink on paper in about 1575, is universally accepted as an authentic relic of the Renaissance. It was copied by Queen Elizabeth’s Chief Geographer as part of an English plan to establish colonies on both the West Coast (near modern-day Seattle) and on the East Coast at St. John’s, Newfoundland. This map played a crucial role in Francis Drake’s navigation along the West Coast in 1579. Drake was scouting for the entrance to Marco Polo’s Northwest Passage; and he was under orders to establish a Colony of New Albion at Latitude 48°N – which happens to be the Latitude of the Salish Sea, Puget Sound, and Seattle.