Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Vicks' Store, Fisherman Bay, Cape Scott

In the late 1800s, Danish settlers at Cape Scott set up an initial Co-operative Store at Fisherman Bay, at Nissan Bight. By 1907 the coastal steamships were no longer stopping at Fisherman Bay, and the store closed in 1909 as many of the original settlers left the community. A few years later, with an influx of new settlers living on pre-emption's dotted along the North Island's coastline, the store re-opened and was run by Archie Darlington and then the Vicks family. It again closed in about 1916.

Vicks' Store at Fisherman Bay (circa 1914) City of Vancouver Archives  P1153.4  

Friday, December 7, 2018

Steam Donkey in Quatsino Sound

This week's North Island historical photo shows a logging crew, three uniformed members of the Armed Forces, and an unidentified woman posing with a steam donkey. The photo was taken in Quatsino Sound by Ben Leeson in the early 1900s.
From the mid-1880s, when they were invented, until about 1920, most steam donkeys were powered by a fire which created the steam. One person's job was just to manage the firewood to keep the boiler running. For a short period after that some donkeys ran on oil powered engines. Steam donkeys were an essential piece of coastal forestry equipment until about the 1930s, enabling loggers to pull logs through the woods, therefore leading to logging moving from steep coastal areas to more inland locations.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Kains Island Light Station

The first light station was established at Kains Island, at the mouth of Quatsino Sound in 1905.  At the time the Inlet was becoming a bustling centre of industry and the site of numerous homesteads, pre-emptions, and settlements. At times the mouth of the Sound was easy to pass by, as was evidenced by Captain Vancouver's early charts which missed identifying Quatsino Sound completely. The initial light station was unmanned.
VPL Accession Number: 14135
A more permanent light was established in 1910, and Quatsino Sound resident Nels C. Nelson and his wife moved in as the first resident light keepers.

This photo includes Mr & Mrs Nelson in 1911.

VPL Accession Number: 14154
An excellent account of the history of the Kains Island Light Station is provided on the Lighthouse Friends website: http://lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=1195 .

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sealing Schooner Diana in Quatsino Sound

This photo of the sealing schooner Diana, was taken in Quatsino Sound in about 1896 by Ben Leeson of Winter Harbour/Quatsino. Until the start of the first world war there was a thriving sealing industry in the Bering Strait, and about 50 vessels engaged in the fishery had their home port in BC. Many of the crews were Japanese Canadians. Indigenous people from the North Island were also recruited as crew on the sealing ships because they were good hunters with excellent ocean experience. West Coast Indigenous peoples generally were also experienced whalers.

Sealers would sometimes be away for months at a time, and could travel as far as to Japan on a seasonal trip. There are stories about some of the first people of European heritage to attend a potlatch in Quatsino Sound who were quite surprised to find Indigenous women dressed in kimonos, which had been obtained by men working in the sealing industry.

BC Archives H-04069

Friday, October 19, 2018

Kwakwaka'wakw Dancers of Fort Rupert

This week's North Island historical photo is called "Indian Dancers of Fort Rupert," taken about 1896. Within the big house, large elaborate dances and productions were an important part of the Kwakwaka'wakw culture. Some of the stories portrayed killings and even cannibalism, at times this would include the resurrection of a murdered person or supernatural being. Special effects, such as tubes running under the ground, special material thrown into the fire to make smoke or explosions, and other special effects were used to create an amazing experiences for audiences. Some of the first people to record seeing these events in English expressed their shock and horror at events that were both very scary and seemingly magic.
BC Archives H-04849

Sunday, October 14, 2018

RCAF Station Coal Harbour

Previously a small outpost, Coal Harbour became a bustling Royal Canadian Air Force Station during World War II. When the base shut down in 1945 much of the military infrastructure was dismantled, and a small maintenance crew remained. Much of the infrastructure became a busy whaling station. As was the case at the Port Hardy base, many airmen who brought their wives to the base built their own cabins and lived in their own houses. These houses are identified as the homes associated with the RCAF Station, although the photo is dated 1947 and most of the members of the air force would no longer have been on the North Island at this time.

BC Archives g-03958

When World War II broke out, Canada perceived a threat on its Pacific Coast from the Japanese. In 1940 the government authorized the establishment of a Royal Canadian Air Force Station at Coal Harbour. The station supported both initially radio operators, and eventually the No. 120 Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron.
BC Archives a-142512

BC Archives a-142516

Coal Harbour's 'Jokerville' BC Archives g03242
Although the 'Jokerville' in Port Hardy is better known, the Air Force employees in Coal Harbour also constructed makeshift cabins just off the base so that their wives could join them during their posting. At its height during the war, the population of Coal Harbour reportedly reached about 1500 people. This was a big change for the small outpost, which spent the previous 50 years mainly as a terminus of the Port Hardy - Coal Harbour trail/road and home to the Hole's hotel & store. In 1927 the Port Hardy - Coal Harbour road became passable by motorized vehicles, it wasn't until the Island Copper Mine opened that the road was paved.
BC Archives G03241

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Steamship Beaver

An icon of the BC Coast, the Steamship Beaver was originally built in England in 1835. Able to proceed under either sail or steam power (via a side paddle wheel), she heralded a new era of coal powered vessels on the Pacific Coast.

The SS Beaver arrived in British waters in the Pacific Northwest in 1836, and in 1837 William Henry McNeill took over as her Captain. As steam power began to replace sail as the preferred mode of transport, the economy and trade on Vancouver Island shifted from the fur trade to the search for reliable sources of clean coal. This resulted in the establishment of Fort Rupert at Beaver Harbour (today Port Hardy), and Fort Nanaimo.

The SS Beaver played a prominent role in early coastal history, serving the needs of the Hudson's Bay Company, transporting trade goods, and shuttling dignitaries around the South Coast until it foundered on the rocks off Prospect Point in Stanley Park in 1888.

Beaver Harbour in Port Hardy and Beaver Cove in Port McNeill are named after this ship. Port McNeill is named after her early Captain, William Henry McNeill, who was also for a time the Chief Factor at Fort Rupert.