The discovery site on Buttermilk Creek.

Dr. Heidenreich with a replica of the astrolabe.

Left: Champlain’s statue at Ottawa’s Nepean Point, taking a fix of the sun while holding a replica of the Cobden astrolabe upside-down. Above: the astrolabe as it appears in the collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization

See the map at the end of the article for a discussion of the portage route.

Jesuit Missionary en Route

Frank Charles Hennessey

c. 1927.

Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1970-188-425

W.H. Coverdale Collection of Canadiana

Astrolabe (aka Green) Lake

Ste-Marie among the Hurons

Rev. Henry Scadding

Looking east from Muskrat Lake in foreground. The town of Cobden is on the shore of Muskrat Lake. The first small lake beyond Muskrat is Astrolabe Lake. The chain of lakes in the portage stretches eastward, with the Ottawa River flowing in the background.

Google Earth image

A Jesuit astrolabe?

The University of Oxford’s Museum of History and Science features this astrolabe image in its online exhibit, “The Astrolabe, East and West.”

The caption notes:

“From an inscription on this astrolabe, we know that the name of the first owner was Philis de Din, who may also have made it, as it does not seem to have come from a commercial workshop. A devotional inscription, "SIT NOMEN DOMIN BENEDICTVM SECVLA SECVLORUM 1595" and the religious symbol suggests that he may have been a Jesuit.”

To learn more, visit:

The Jesuit Order’s symbol incorporates the sun, which is equated with Christ. This educated order produced some of the world’s most sophisticated astronomers, some of whom came to the Ste-Marie mission.

Could the IHS symbol (see Oxford astrolabe below) have been the symbol engraved on the silver cups discovered at Cobden but melted down before they could be properly described or photographed?

The Jesuit Relation

Lac Superieur is an exceptionally good map of the upper Great Lakes by a pair of Jesuit cartographer/explorers, Claude Dablon and Claude Allouez. It was published in the Relation in 1672. Only the Jesuits were allowed in-country beyond Montreal after 1632, a restriction not fully lifted until 1681.

National Archives of Canada NMCO06407