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Mystery of Champlain's astrolabe on a keychain

A delightful, yet useful, souvenir has been crafted for distribution during this Samuel de Champlain Quadricentennial year-astrolabe key chains. Miniature replicas of the device Samuel de Champlain used to map his navigational adventures have been affixed with metal grommets to sturdy chains to create the souvenir key rings.

Hopefully, many people will be attracted to this not-for-profit item and use it for their car keys as they strike out to navigate the numerous events and festivals planned for this summer. "Or perhaps you can just find your keys easier with it!" said Celine Racine Paquette, of the Hudson-Fulton-Quadricentennial Commission. This year is also the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage up the Hudson River to Albany, N.Y.

An informational booklet accompanies the keychains and illustrates Samuel de Champlain's use of the tool and describes in both French and English the significance of the astrolabe, "Guided by his dream and his astrolabe, in 1608, Samuel de Champlain crossed the ocean and discovered New France. In 1609, he arrived on what is now known as Lake Champlain, the only place that the widely travelled, yet humble explorer named after himself."

The astrolabe was the GPS of the time, giving the latitude in relation to the position of the sun and other celestial bodies. It is told that in 1867, Champlain's precious tool, his lost astrolabe, was found in the Ottawa River Valley. But no one knows for sure.

"What we do know for sure," Paquette said, "is that the key ring can be purchased for $5 in Champlain, N.Y., at the Champlain History Center, or at the Champlain Telephone Company Offices, in Elizabethtown, N.Y., at the Adirondack History Center, or in Plattsburgh, N.Y., at Primelink.

The introduction of the image of Champlain's astrolabe is new to the 400th anniversary of Champlain's arrival on Lake Champlain, and one not previously associated with the 300th and 350th commemoration celebrated in 1909 and 1959.

Celine Racine Paquette should be credited with identifying and promoting the mystical astrolabe as an exciting new twist to some very old history.

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