Tuesday, October 29, 2013

North Island coho runs were decimated by DDT experiment

This article appears in the October 31, 2013 issue of the North Island Gazette.
We don’t have to look very far into our history to see some surprising examples of a different idea about what constituted ‘acceptable environmental impacts.’
In 1955 North Island foresters realized they had a problem.  The valuable stands of timber in the area from the Nimpkish River north were seeing a significant infestation of the black-headed budworm.  Worried about the possible impact on timber supplies, the province decided to experiment with a new treatment that was first used to kill parasites during World War II to prevent the spread of malaria and typhus. Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, known more commonly as DDT, is colourless, tasteless, and almost odourless. 
The government knew that the DDT application could have significant effects on the local fish and wildlife, and involved the Department of Fisheries and the Game Commission in the experiment.  Flight patterns were designed to avoid rivers.
DDT being applied to forested areas by aircraft
The treatment on North Island forests involved mixing one pound of DDT with a wood penetrating emulsifier, added to a gallon of diesel oil.  One gallon was then applied per acre by low-flying aircraft, with a total of 155,000 acres being sprayed in effected areas between June 10 and 20, 1957.
The spraying annihilated almost all insects within the treatment area.  Even stream-dwelling insects were almost totally eliminated, as recorded at number of stations sampled prior to, immediately after, and four months following the application.
The impacts on salmon were also catastrophic.  It was hoped that the timing of the application would minimize impacts on local salmon runs, but there were many tens of thousands of juvenile coho salmon and trout within local watersheds at the time.  
Thousands of chum fry died as a result of the DDT application in the estuary of the Nimpkish River.  In the Keogh, Waukwass, Klaskish, and Benson Rivers, coho salmon mortality approached 100%.  Steelhead trout may also have suffered significant losses.  There were also lesser impacts on other North Island streams and rivers.  Many fish that did not die suffered from blindness, with a cloudy covering obscuring the lens of their eyes following exposure.
The Lower Nimpkish River
Researchers concluded that the decimated runs would take many years to rebuild.  There were suggestions that juvenile fish from other areas could be flown in to Port Hardy to restock local creeks.  Some reports of the day noted that it was good the area was isolated, because it would mean light angling pressure in the affected creeks.
Rachel Carson used the North Island DDT application as an example of the the harmful environmental impacts of synthetic pesticide application in her famous book Silent Spring (1962).

Some local people from Quatsino Sound have reported that the Marble River watershed had a rain event shortly after the DDT application, and that there were piles of dead sea creatures which washed up on the shores of Quatsino Sound in the following days.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Nimpkish miners extracted iron ore

The article originally appeared in the North Island Gazette April 3, 2008.
The Nimpkish watershed is a part of the traditional territory of the 'Namgis First Nation.  It is the largest watershed on Vancouver Island, draining almost 1800 sq kms.  Although the Nimpkish is a beautiful area for recreation and fishing, many industrial activities have also taken place within the watershed.  One of these activities was the Nimpkish Iron Mine, which operated from 1959 to 1964.
In the 1950s Al Upton secured an iron ore deposit in the Nimpkish, about five kilometers from Anutz Lake.  He brought in a firm who drilled and determined that there was about a million tons available, but they declined to develop the claim.
Ted Takahashi, an American agent who marketed iron ore to Japan, offered the claim to another company.
Representatives came in to examine the claim in 1957.  By 1958 a deal had been struck for the property, and construction of the Nimpkish Iron Mine began in 1959.  The company had about 30 employees, who were housed in Canadian Forest Products Camp A at Anutz Lake.  A number of new panabode homes were constructed on the lake and mine employees lived alongside the employees of CFP.
The mine was an open pit operation which also provided processing to secure the iron content required for markets.  David W. Burns, the operations manager of the mine, explained the process:
"The grade of the ore was about 42 percent iron.  The contract called for 62 percent iron, therefore the product had to be upgraded.  To do this we used the property that magnetite could be attracted by magnetism," said Burns.
"The ore was crushed in two stages to about half inch size.  This material was passed over a small magnetic drum, like a 45 gallon steel drum.  It rotated and inside was a stationary magnet that covered hald of its circumference.  When the material was fed into the drum, the waste (not magnetic) dropped off the rotating drum.  The ore (being magnetic) stuck to the rotating drum until it passed the magnetic field, then it dropped off and was conveyed across the river to a stockpile.  This was the dry phase of the plant. The ore was now about 50 percent iron."

Nimpkish Iron Mine Dump at Beaver Cove (1960) BC Archives E-03698

"Next the ore was conveyed to a rod mill, something like a rotating cement mixer.  It was a large cylinder about 8 feet in diameter and ten feet long.  It was charged with 2 inch steel rods 8 feet long.  Water and ore were added.  The grinding of the rods reduced the material to sand.  The product then went into a wet magnetic separator. This unit was similar in construction to the dry separator.  In the rotation the non-magnetic waste dropped off, the magnetite ore adhered to the drum until it was ready for the next step.  The product was then pumped to a filter, dewatered, and conveyed to rail cars for shipment to Beaver Cove.  The grade of the ore was 62 percent iron or better."
Burns said that he and his family spent a few wonderful years at Anutz Lake.  "Living at Anutz was a wonderful experience for us - the location and the logging families will never be forgotten."

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Highway was an empty promise

The article originally appeared in the North Island gazette October 31, 2007.
In the early days of settlement, activities on Northern Vancouver Island centred around the water, and the main form of transportation in and out of the area was by boat and scheduled steamship.  As the economy and population of the Northern Vancouver Island grew, the communities of the area lobbied the government to provide more reliable and affordable transportation routes which would connect the Northern and Mid-Island communities.  Ferry, road, and even railway service were discussed, including connections all the way to Cape Scott.
In 1967 a car ferry service brought passengers and their vehicles from Kelsey Bay (Sayward), to Beaver Cove (South of Port McNeill).  The run was operated by a private company who operated the Lady Rose on the route. Originally cars were hoisted by a lift on and off the boat.  In 1969 the service was taken over by BC Ferries and a ramp was added to assist in the movement of cars.
Kelsey Bay Ferry Terminal
As recently as the 1970s, the only way to reach North Island communities by car was through a series of private logging roads via a gate in the area of Gold River.  The gate would remain locked to non-logging traffic during the day.  In the evenings, traffic would line up at the gate, and from 5pm to 6am non-industrial traffic would be permitted to use the road system.  The logging road system was originally a 'toll road' with rates set the same as the ferry costs.
While campaigning in 1969 then-Premier WC Bennett said in Nanaimo: "With or without any aid from the federal government, I give you my solemn promise that construction of the road from Kelsey Bay to Port McNeill will commence early next year."  Successive politicians made promises relating to the development of an Island Highway that would reach Port Hardy, but after being elected governments continually failed to follow through with construction.
"The Carrot" in Port Hardy's Carrot Park, marking the end of the Island Highway.
It was not until 1979 that the initial 'island highway' from Campbell River to Port Hardy was finally completed.  In order to commemorate the long-fought and hard-won battle for a highway to their community, the District of Port Hardy named the feature waterfront park in the middle of their town "Carrot Park."  A large carving of a carrot sits prominently at the site, which marks the end of the Island Highway.  The carrot symbolizes the success of the Carrot Campaign launched by the North Island Gazette and is a reminder of the 'carrot' that was dangled in front of the North Island electorate for so long, the promise of a highway which would connect their communities to the rest of Vancouver Island, which only after many decades had finally become a reality.


Northern Vancouver Island the last place on the world map

This article was originally published in the North Island Gazette January 29, 2009.
Arrival of the First Nations peoples onto Northern Vancouver Island may have occurred gradually in the pre-history period, with groups arriving via a possible land-bridge with Asia, in boat or by canoe across the Pacific, or possibly traveling from inland North America starting about 12,000 years ago.
Contact between First Nations and foreigners in pre-history times would have likely included encounters with Chinese, Japanese, or Polynesian sailors who were carried offshore by tide and wind.  Local stories from First Nations communities tell of strange people coming to visit in ships from across the sea.  Some trade goods also made their way to this area in advance of active trading directly with outside peoples.  These may have come from trading in the area of Alaska with the Russians, or through trade with First Nations to the South or East.
One of the reasons that it took Europeans so long to explore the Northwest coast of North America was the difficulty of travelling the the area in ships.  Predominant winds made sailing to the area difficult, especially when travelling North from South America.
The Pacific Northwest was a blank on many maps of the world when the rest of the world's oceans and land masses had been mapped in detail.

Map of the World from the 1600s, with a lack of detail relating to the Pacific Northwest.
The earliest suggested documented outside contact with the First Nations peoples of Northern Vancouver Island could have happened as early as 1579, when Sir Francis Drake's expedition is thought by some to have traveled to what is now known as Vancouver Island.
A great deal of mystery surrounds the actual places visited by Drake.  There is some supposition that, as England was secretsly trying to locate the Northwest Passage at that time, they craved an advantage in trade and did not want to make publicly available information about their voyages of exploration.  On Northern Vancouver Island, Drake Island and Pamphlet Cove (Drake's first mate) in Quatsino Sound are lasting reminders of these explorers, although we will likely never know if they actually visited Northern Vancouver Island.
In 1592 it is believed that Juan de Fuca (actually a Greek named Emmanouil Fokas, but sailing for Spain), again searching for the mysterious Northwest passage, visited Southern Vancouver Island and discovered the existence of a significant Strait along the coast, which since has been named after him.
Russians were taking an active role in trading in the area around Alaska by 1770, although there is no evidence that they traveled as far South as Vancouver Island. 
In 1774 Juan Perez, sailing under the flag of Spain, recorded sailing in the area of Vancouver Island, although he did not venture ashore.
Only brief references were made in the journals of the ship's officers and crew to this encounter.  Perez is believed to have traded with the First Nations in the area of Nootka.  In 1775 Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, sailing under the Spanish flag, sailed to 58 degrees latitude (the Queen Charlotte Islands) in the schooner Sonora but was far offshore while passing Vancouver Island.
Captain James Cook of the Royal British Navy made the first documented visit to Northern Vancouver Island when he landed in the Resolution in 1778.  He was accompanied by the Discovery, captained by Charles Clerke.  George Vancouver was a mid-shipman on this expedition. 
The Resolution and the Discovery roughly mapped the outer coast of BC from 44 degrees latitude to the Arctic.
Captain James Cook
They anchored at Ship's Cove (now Resolution Cove) for about four weeks, and refit their ships at Nootka Sound, mapping the area.  They met the local aboriginal people and traded various items with them in exchange for seal lion pelts.
In his notes Cook stated that Nootka would be an excellent place to trade furs with the natives in the future.  Cook did not live to return to the area though, as he was killed February 14, 1779 during an encounter with natives in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii).

The community of Mahatta at the mouth of Monkey Creek

This article originally appeared in the North Island Gazette in August 2, 2006.
The Mahatta River is located on the Southwest portion of Quatsino Sound.  The name is derived from a Kwakwala word "melade" meaning "having sockeye salmon."  This area falls within the traditional territory of the Quatsino First Nation.  At one time there was a large Koskimo summer village at the mouth of the river.
A short distance from the Mahatta River, behind Salmon Island, is the mouth of Monkey Creek and the location of the former community of Mahatta.  Monkey Creek was named for a local man, known by the nickname of "monkey", who lived alone in the cove in about 1904.
The cove was reportedly used by Wallace Brothers, who operated a salmon cannery there is 1911. It was later moved to Koskimo. The cannery was purchased from the Winter Harbour Canning Company Limited, who operated a crab and clam cannery in the building.
In about 1930 a trapper, Gordon Cox, built a small shack at the mouth of Monkey Creek, in which he and his wife lived for 30 years.
Cox, who had lived in Holberg as a young man, served in World War I as a sniper.  During the war he had taken a young wife in England, Elsie, who had accompanied him back to Canada.  Cox and his wife lived in almost total isolation in their small cabin.
In the early 1850s Emil Stevenson began logging at the area near the mouth of Monkey Creek, where the Mahatta Camp would eventually be located.
At this time the Port Alice Pulp Mill had the timber rights to the larger area, but it was difficult to access.  It was determined that a logging camp should be established in the vicinity of Mahatta to allow for better access to the timber reserves on the South side of Quatsino Sound.  The location in the cove by the mouth of Monkey Creek was chosen as the site.
Once the land was logged, a float camp was towed from Port McNeill (around Cape Scott).  These buildings served as an initial home for the loggers and construction workers tasked with setting up the camp.
By Christmas of 1953 they had cleared a large portion of land, completed a dock, a few short roads, and three houses.  Gordon Cox and his wife were provided a house by the logging company.
Mahatta Camp
At its peak Mahatta had more than 300 residents.  There were married quarters, single men's bunkhouses, a large cookhouse, a community centre, a school, a swimming pool with sand filters, and a sauna.
The swimming pool sat on water and faced west, catching the afternoon sun.  It was a favourite with the local children.
The Mahatta swimming pool.
O'Connell Lake was also used as a playground by local families, and a shooting range and dirt bike track were other popular outdoor activities.
In the 1970s Mahatta even had its own airstrip, and a number of planes regularly traveled in and out of the camp.  A shuttle from Mahatta to Port Hardy was $10 one way.
Former residents fondly remember the "Welcome to Mahatta" sign complete with a fountain and goldfish.
A full-time gardner cared for the beautiful gardens in the village, and there were many varieties of trees, including lilac, laburnum, and Japanese cherry trees.
At one time Prime Minister Diefenbaker visited the community and fished in the Mahatta River.  The Diefenbaker Pool is named for him.
Mahatta 1977, donated by a former resident.
In 1985 a road was punched into the area from Port Alice, making the area accessible by truck.  Most of the camp was disassembled and closed by 1988, and the logging crews were moved to Jeune Landing.  Except for a couple of buildings, most were either sold or destroyed, and the ground where Mahatta once stood was leveled and planted with trees.
All that is left today in Mahatta are a shop and two bunkhouses, hidden in the forest which has reclaimed the area.

Holberg named for father of Danish literature

This article was originally published in the North Island Gazette January 19, 2008.
At the end of Holberg Inlet in Quatsino Sound lies the little town of Holberg.  With a population that ranges between 100 and 200 people, Holberg lies within the traditional territory of the Quatsino First Nation.
Holderg was initially established in 1895 by a group of Danish homesteaders.  It was named for the Danish writer, playwright, poet, and historian, Ludwig Holberg, baron of Holberg (December 3, 1684 - January 28, 1754).  Holberg is known as the father of Danish literature.
Ludwig Holberg
Prior to his writings, Danish was not generally used  as a language of the upper classes in Denmark, and therefore prior to his time there was no body of Danish literature.

A series of trails, some constructed with felled trees that formed criss-crossing boardwalks, connected Holberg with San Josef Bay and Cape Scott.  The trails were well used, with a number of settlers building their homesteads along the trail.

In 1907, disillusioned settlers from the Cape Scott Colony started moving to Holberg.
Holberg was serviced for a period of time by the motor vessel the m.v. Cape Scott, built by members of the Cape Scott community and captained by Captain Henry Petersen, who lived in the area of Sea Otter Cove.
In 1913 the Dominion Government Telegraph Service line connected Shushartie, Fisherman's Bay, Cape Scott, San Josef, Holberg, and Coal Harbour.  In this year a wharf was also completed in Holberg Inlet which was a half mile in length, necessary to deal with the large and muddy foreshore area.
Logging played an important role in Holberg, as the forests in the area traditionally provided the wood for the Port Alice pulp mill.  In 1951 Spry Camp, the floating logging camp at Port Alice, was towed to Holberg where it joined a number of older float homes.  For a time Holberg was known as the largest floating logging camp in the world.
One day in the early 1950s, Holberg settlers were surprised to see a party of people land a boat and disappear into the bush.  Not long afterward it became apparent that there was work being done high up on one of the mountains in the area.  At some point local people were told if they traveled to Vancouver they were not to tell anyone about the strange looking domes that had been constructed on the mountainside.
The site became one station in the Pine Tree Line, a long range radar defense system managed cooperatively by the Canadians and Americans, built to protect North America.  The radar station was built atop the summit of 2200 ft Mount Brandes, with the base support camp lower down in the valley, four miles from the original Holberg townsite.
Holberg Radar Station on Mt. Brandes
The Royal Canadian Air Force Station Holberg reported through the 5th Air Squadron in Vancouver.
Men and their families brought in to work on the construction of the base lived in homes in the community of Holberg.
Construction took place from 1950 to 1954, and the site was operational by April 1954.
In 1956 the base became known as the 53rd Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron.  The site eventually closed in January 1991.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Tragedy of the "Nahwitti Incident"

The article was originally published in the North Island Gazette July 17, 2008.
In 1850 three white men, employees of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) who were indentured labourers, deserted the HBC on the steamship Beaver.
The men had signed contracts to work for the Company for a certain period of time, in exchange for the cost of their passage to Vancouver Island and basic amenities.
The men had deserted from the Fort Victoria, believeing that they were boarding a ship bound for the California gold fields to the South.  Unfortunately they accidentally boarded a ship bound North, and the next port of call for the ship was Fort Rupert on Northern Vancouver Island.  When the boat arrived the men jumped ship and managed to find a way to run off up the coast.
There are contradictory reports as to what exactly the HBC communicated to local First Nations about the deserters.  Some of the company's employees, Scottish miners, claimed that the First Nations were told that the Company wanted the men back, dead or alive.
It is clear that the HBC put a price on the heads of the deserters, and made it clear that there would be a reward for their return.
While they were hiding in the woods on a nearby island, the deserters were found and killed.  Two of their bodies were found on Willes Island, not far from Shushartie Bay.
The HBC believed that they had been killed by members of the Nahwitti tribe - the First Nation known today as Tlatlasikwala.
Kwakiutl traditional dugout cedar ocean-going canoes
When the bodies of the deserters were discovered, the HBC did an initial investigation and accused the Nahwitti of murder.  They denied the charges.
HBC clerk C. Beardmore sent word to Fort Victoria that the Nahwitti had killed three British subjects.  In October 1850 the Royal Navy frigate HMS Daedalus (42 cannons; 1,082 tons) arrived at Fort Rupert.
Magistrate J.S. Helmcken negotiated with the local Nahwitti chief, who offered to pay restitution to the HBC, however this was declined.  The Royal Navy was sent in with 60 men to apprehend the murderers by force.
When they arrived at the Nahwitti village on Nigei Island the navy found it deserted, so they burned all the buildings to the ground and destroyed all remaining belongings.
In 1851 the HMS Daphne arrived at Fort Rupert and tried to capture the murderers.  The naval ship found the natives staying in a more fortified village at Cape Sutil and a fight ensued.  In the end the First Nations agreed to hand over the murderers, but in the tumult both these three and a young chief were shot and killed.
The three suspects' bodies were buried at Fort Rupert, not far from the bodies of the deserters whom they were believed to have killed.
The Nahwitti incident further increased tension between the First Nations, HBC employees, and company management.  Many people believed that the First Nations had been treated harshly and unfairly by the HBC and the navy.
Even in correspondence between Fort Rupert, the governor of the colony, and England, it is unclear whether First Nations had been instructed to kill the deserters.  Most of the remaining members of the Nahwitti First Nation moved to the village of Mel-oopa at Hope Island.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The early days of Port Alice

Port Alice is situated on Neroutsos Inlet in Quatsino Sound.  It is withing the traditional territory of the Quatsino First Nation. In pre-history times it is believed the Nuu-chah-nulth also inhabited this area.
Pre-1750 the Hoyalas tribe lived in the area around Port Alice, and in the late 1800s the Koskimo also lived in this area. During the Indian Reserve Commission allocation the First Nations claimed a piece of land in the area of Port Alice for firewood gathering, which they called "Tsokumstala."
In 1904 a wood pulp lease was granted for Quatsino Sound, and the Quatsino Power and Pulp Co. began to look for a site for a pulp mill.
The company was sold a couple of times over the next few years, and construction of a mill began in 1916. The impetus for the mill was the demand during World War I for cellulose products.  In 1917 Whalen Pulp and Paper Mills took over the mill working the wood pulp lease.  Sixty acres was cleared adjacent to the mill site, upon which a small community was built.  Local homesteaders from around Quatsino Sound worked on the construction of the townsite.  The town included 50 houses as well as a hotel and boarding house.  The community was initially called New Caledonia.
By 1918 the mill was in production, producing 75 tons of lumber per day.  The same year saw the grand opening of Whalen Pulp and Paper, and the production of the first pulp from the mill.
The name of the community was changed to Port Alice, after a daughter of one of the mill owners.  The first load of lumber left Port Alice for San Francisco in 1919.
Port Alice Pulp Mill
In the 1920s the town began to develop.  The three story Jones Hotel was moved to the town from Drake Island in 1920.  A company store opened in 1921.  In 1925 the BC Pulp and Paper Company took over Whalen Pulp and Paper and the community of Port Alice.
A floating hospital was completed in 1927.  In this year an impressive four story community centre was also constructed.  There were badminton and basketball courts, a recreation room for games of billiards and cards, a library, and a performance stage.
The golf course (which still sits beside the mill today) was completed on company land in 1928 and initially boasted 51 members. Cattle roamed the fairways at will and kept the grass trimmed.
A three room school was completed in 1928, and two churches were also built.  Ripley's Believe it or Not apparently listed St. Paul's Anglican Church as the only church located on a golf course (?!).  St. Teresa's was the other church.
In 1930 the bank of Nova Scotia opened the community's first bank.  For many years this bank was the only one available for most of the North Island.
From the beginning, the Port Alice mill seemed plagued with long periods of shut-down.  Those who enjoyed the community and the hunting and fishing it offered, were usually the workers who braved mill employment and stayed in the community.
During this period the only transportation in and out of the community was by boat, and later float plane.
At some point in the 1930s the community suffered its first major landslide, which resulted eventually in the town being moved to its present location.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Gold fever sparked Zeballos rush

This article originally appeared in the North Island Gazette April 26, 2006.

For many thousands of years the area around Zeballos has been home to First Nations peoples.  The Ehattesaht people claim the area as their territory, and currently about 85 people live at Ehatis - a First Nations Reserve across the river from Zeballos.  The current population of Zeballos is about 250.
The area around Zeballos was first explored by Europeans in 1791 when Captain Alexandro Malaspina visited the area.  Two officers on this expedition were Lieutenants Joseph de Espinosa and Ciciaco Cevallos. The Zeballos River was named after Cevallos, Espinosa Inlet after Espinosa, and many other local features are named after other members of the crew.
These explorers were looking for riches, and were rumoured to have found large amounts of gold.
Throughout the early 1900s local Northern Vancouver Island settlers, many loggers and fishermen who hoped to strike it rich, actively combed the North Island looking for mineral prospects.  Free Miner's Certificates were available for prospectors, which entitled the holder to free testing of materials for prescious metal content.
Other gold rushes on the West Coast fueled interest in prospecting, but exploring the North Island was not easy.  There were no stores or settlements in the area, the terrain was largely inaccessible, and prospectors had to pack in all of their supplies.  This usually involved hiking though the swampy underbrush with tents, food, and mining equipment.
In 1908 a fisherman from Kyuquot, Tom J. Marks, found gold at the head of the Zeballos River.  Other prospectors began to comb the area, and in 1924 the Eldorado claim was established when a large quantity of gold was discovered in the surrounding hills. Based on the success of this claim prospectors flooded into the area in the 1930s - a gold rush had begun.

Zeballos circa 1940.
 The resulting town, established in 1931, was named after the nearby Zeballos River.
At its height in the 1930s, some estimates put the local population at over 5000, most prospective miners. The fixed population was probably around 1500.
Many prospectors squatted, building shacks in the townsite.  Transport in and out of the area was by boat. Large boats or steamers like the Princess Maquinna would pull into the bay, and smaller boats or punts would be used to offload goods and people.

Zeballos mine
Unfortunately the foreshore in front of the townsite was thick with an oozing mud, which made transport in and out of the community difficult.  For the first few years there were no roads to help the prospectors get mining equipment up to their claims.  In the early days Zeballos became well-known for its muddy and almost navigable trails,  two of which were known as "Rotten Row" and "May West Avenue."
By 1934 there were 28 companies operating in Zeballos and over 369 active claims in the area.
In 1936 a syndicate was formed named the Nootka-Zeballos GOld Mines Ltd.  It later changed its name to the Privateer Mine.  In this year 4000 new claims were laid in the area, and in the next ten years gold bricks and concentrate worth more than $30,000,000 were shipped out of Zeballos.
Local lore tells of times when the postmaster had to sleep with gold bricks worth $100,000 under his bed, and a rifle under his pillow, while awaiting the arrival of the Princess Maquinna.  The gold would then be couriered to the Royal Canadian Mint.

Possible Civil War fugitive hides out in Coal Harbour?

A version of this article was originally published in the North Island Gazette May 24, 2004.

John Sharp arrived in Quatsino in 1902, and found employment as the caretaker of an empty mining camp in Coal Harbour.
When sober, he was a quiet man, but when he began to drink he became loud and agressive, making drunken claims about his role in battles and cavalry raids.
Local people thought he was a bit crazy, and he was arrested on at least once occasion for selling alcohol to the First Nations (which was illegal at the time).
After a newspaper reporter visited Northern Vancouver Island in 1907, a syndicated newspaper article ran across the United States, stating that the notorious William Clarke Quantrill was alive and living in Coal Harbour, BC, under the alias John Sharp.
William Clarke Quantrill was a notorious and viscous outlaw who had wreaked havoc during the American Civil War.  Quantrill was originally a school teacher in Illinois.  In 1858 he joined a wagon train and traveled to Utah, becoming a gambler under the alias Charles Hart.
He went on to become a petty thief and con artist. By 1860 he was wanted for horse theft and left the state.
When the American Civil War broke out, Quantrill was made a captain by the Confederate Army, and led a group known as "Quantrill's Raiders."  This gang, which included Dick Yaegar, Jesse and Frank James, and the Younger brothers, harassed Union soldiers and staged raids.
Quantrill's most notorious action occurred in 1863 when he led between 300 and 450 Confederate recruits in a raid on Lawrence, Kansas. where over 180 people were killed.
Some believed the gang was guilty of pillaging for their own gain and for the cold-blooded murder of innocent men, women, and children.
William Clark Quantrill
As the war ended, members of the notorious gang became fugitives.  Quantrill was reported to have been caught and killed in Louisville, Kentucky.
Many believed, however, that he had actually escaped to live in hiding in South America.  Quantrill and his raiders were not forgotten in the United States, and many people continued to believe he was alive, and would not give up the hunt for him.
He was believed to have returned to North America in the 1880s, eventually making his way to Northern Vancouver Island. A newspaper article, claiming John Sharp in Quatsino was the infamous William Quantrill, appeared in August 1907 and was picked up by syndicated newspapers across America, including the New York Times.
Some sources state that in late September two men arrived in Victoria and booked passage on the steamer Tees to Hardy Bay.
When they arrived they hired a local guide to take them over the trail to Coal Harbour.  The guide left the men with John Sharp.
John Sharp was found the next day by Ilstad from Quatsino, suffering from the effects of a serious beating, but he would not identify his attackers.  The local constable had him swear an affidavit that he did not want to press charges for the injuries he had sustained.
The next day Sharp died of his injuries.
Local lore tells that when Shrp's body was examined by the local coroner it was found to be covered with wounds from bullets, swords, and bayonets.  Sharp was buried in Coal Harbour, but that was not the end of his tale.
His gravesite was reportedly disturbed during the construction of the ramp for the RCAP seaplane base in Coal Harbour, and his remains were moved to Port Hardy.  Sharp worked a trapline in the area of San Josef, and a tributary of the San Josef River is named Sharp Creek in his memory.
The North Island will likely never know if he was really just John Sharp, or the infamous William Clark Quantrill.
The following obituary was published in the Colonist October 2007:

John Sharp, Who Claimed to 
Be Guerilla Chief, Passes 

John Sharp, can-taker of tho coal 
property of the West Vancouver Coal 
company at Quatsino, who claimed to 
be no less a personage thtin Bill Quan- 
trell, leader of Quantrell's guerillas, 
notorious for their raids in Kansas 
following the civil war, in which war 
included a massacre at Laurence, Kan- 
sas, is dead. News to tills effect was 
received yesterday morning from Quat- 
sino by way of Hardy bay. Report has 
it that his death was due to injuries 
received during a drunken brawl with 
an Indian, but no confirmation of this 
could be obtained last evening. 

Sharp lias been for many years in 
British Columbia, working as logger, 
trapper, and lor the past few years 
being located at Quatsino sound. Some 
months ago a visitor from the southern 
States met Sharp at Quatsino, and 
looking at liim sharply, said: 

"You old rascal, it's you, Quantrell, 
is it?" 

Sharp stated then tilat be was the 
notorious leader of guerillas and that 
instead of having been left dead on 
tho tii-hl after tin! cuctlng up of his 
troop, he had mounted a horse and 
ridden away, going to South America, 
| where he remained until the hue and 
cry following t.,^ misdeeds of Quan- 
trell's guerillas hud subsided, when ho 
came to the middle west, afterward 
working as a cattleman In Oregon, 
from whore he worked north into Brit- 
ish Columbia, being ft logger for some 
years at camps on ti e east, coast of 
Vancouver Island. Then ho became a 
t nipper, and It was while he was trap- 
ping that he moved to Quatsino sound 
whore he was appulnted caretaker of 
tlie coal mines. 

When In his cups Sharp had a habit 
of gripping his guests at tho cabin 
near the Narrows where he lived for 
some years by the arm, and, us though 
to impress them, he would say, "You 
don't know who I am. I'm Bill Quan- 

Many accepted his statement, some 
did not. 

Alfred Waddington - The man behind the mountain

The Northern part of Vancouver Island and the adjacent Mainland Inlets fall within the Mt. Waddington Regional District, named for the highest peak in the coastal mountain range (13,260 ft.), which is also the highest mountain falling totally within the borders of British Columbia.  The District covers 2,072,000 hectares and stretches from Sayward and Brooks Peninsula to Cape Scott on Vancouver Island, and reaches from Cape Caution to the birthplace of the Klinaklini River, back down to Johnstone Strait on BC's rugged Mainland Coast.
Mt. Waddington is named in honour of Alfred Waddington, a BC pioneer.
Waddington was at one time considered one of the wealthiest businessmen in the province.  He was also an advocate for the development of a free and public education system.
Alfred Waddington was born in London, England on October 2, 1801.  He traveled to France and then to Germany to complete his education, as was common with the wealthier British classes of the day.
The sixth son of a banker/merchant, Waddington tried his hand at a variety of business ventures in England and France before deciding to pursue his fortune in connection with the California gold rush in 1849.  He sailed to California and then when the Fraser River gold rush started he moved on to Victoria in 1858.
He arrived in the colony at the age of 57.
Alfred Waddington

Waddington wrote the first individually authored book published in British Columbia: "The Fraser Mines Vindicated" or "The History of Four Months."
Convinced that the future of the territories would require transportation systems, Waddington conceived of an ambitious project to connect Bute Inlet to Fort Alexandria.  He threw himself into this project, and personally financed and oversaw the surveying and construction associated with the development of this road.  He almost went bankrupt trying to see the plan to fruition.
In April 1864 his road surveying crew were attacked by the Chilcotin First Nation.  Fourteen of his seventeen surveyors were killed, and all of their tools, provisions, and plans were stolen or destroyed. In during the latter part of 1864 and 1865 five First Nations chiefs were captured, put on trial for the murders, and eventually hanged.  There was controversy at the time surrounding the trial, the verdict, and the methods used to capture the chiefs. In 1993 a provincial court judge was asked to look into the historical issue, which was still an issue of deep importance for the Chilcotin people.  The justice recommended the First Nations who were hanged receive a posthumous pardon from the government, and later in the 1990s the government issued a formal apology to the Chilcotin (now known as Tsilhqot'in) people.
Waddington sat for two terms on the Vancouver Island assembly, representing Victoria.
He served as Superintendent of Education for the Colony of Vancouver Island from 1865 - 1867, and was instrumental in the development of a free and accessible public education system in British Columbia.
In 1866 the Vancouver Island was merged with Mainland British Columbia, and free education became a thing of the past for Vancouver Islanders.
Waddington argued vehemently for the continuation of a free education system, however the new government closed schools and a public education system was not again established on the island until 1872.
Until his death Waddington maintained his obsession with the development of a trade route connecting the West Coast with the rest of Canada.
He lobbied for this cause both in Canada and England.  He did not quite live to see his dream completed, and he died at the age of 71 from smallpox in Ottawa on February 27, 1872.

Minstrel Island: Centre of the Logger's Universe

The article originally appeared in the North Island Gazette February 2, 2012.

Minstrel Island is located just North of Johnstone Strait, near the entrance to Knight Inlet, overlooking Clio and Chatham Channels.
The island is believed to have taken its name from a travelling theatre troupe that traveled through the area in 1876 aboard the HMS Amethyst.  
Also on board was Governor General Lord Dufferin, travelling North by ship to visit the village of Metlakatla.
The ship stopped at many small settlements and the theatre troup staged performances which included black-faced minstrel shows.
Oscar Soderman and his wife Sydney were the first pioneers to take up residence on Minstrel Island.  Soderman, a hand-logger, pre-empted a homestead in 1905.
In 1907 a hotel, saloon, and store were established on Minstrel Island.

Minstrel Hotel - 1940s 

The facilities catered to clientele who worked in the logging and fishing industries.  Minstrel became a scheduled stop on the Union Steamship manifest, serviced by the steamship Cassiar.
Other businesses soon arrived, including a machinist, Clarence Cabeen, who moved to the island in the 1920s with his wife Nellie.
Due to its central location, Minstrel Island became a hub of activity and a centre for trade and transportation in and out of the area during the early 1900s.  
On steamship day the population of the small community would boom as people from nearby communities came in to meet the ship.
In 1922, the Port Harvey Hotel was purchased and floated to Minstrel Island where it was winched on skids onto the shore.  The building was known as "the hall," as the lower floor of the building was one large room which was used for dances and other community events.
Minstrel Island 1968
The upper floor included rooms which were rented out.  The building was also home to the Island's first post office.
Hood and Alan MacDonald owned the hotel from 1930 until 1963.  A brothel also operated in the community.
A new store and and a marine ways was constructed by Roy and Georgie Halliday in 1935.  The ways serviced local boats for 30 years.
In 1944 a boarding school was opened on Minstrel by Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Herbison.  Until the 1960s, Minstrel was the centre of the universe for many local handloggers and gyppo logging outfits.
People would come to the island to find work, get supplies, and for travel in and out of the area.  The bar at the Minstrel Island hotel reportedly went through more beer than any other establishment in BC during its heyday, and thousands of beer bottles litter the ocean floor.
Forestry businessman Pearly Sherdahl was reported to have been refused service in the bar in 1963 because he already "had a couple."  He reportedly flew directly to Vancouver, bought the establishment, flew back to Minstrel, and fired the manager who had refused to serve him.  Another story, told by Jim Spilsbury, tells of the "working girls" at Minstrel, who at one point decided to take a day off and closed up shop.  The irate loggers apparently got out their logging jacks and raised the building up, right off its foundation, only relenting when the girls again agreed to accept clientele. 

Historic Grant Bay provided recreation and respite

This article originally appeared in The North Island Gazette on September 6, 2012.

Grant Bay is located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, just North of Quatsino Sound.  Today the area is within the territory of the Quatsino First Nation. In early contact times ethnographers report shifting tribal boundaries in the area.  Around the year 1750 Grant Bay was reportedly within the territory of the Giopino tribe, but by 1880 it was the territory of the Quatsino First Nation.  Previous to this it may be been inhabited by the Nuu-chah-nulth, who now live in the area South of Brooks Penninsula.
Oral history reports that there was a great deal of fighting within the area during this period, with entire tribes being killed as a result of inter-tribal warfare.
Few Giopino survived, which may be why so little information is available about this area in pre-contact times.
In the 1850s, charts and maps of Vancouver Island had not yet identified Quatsino Sound, although it is included on maps after the 1870s. It is not clear where Grant Bay got its name.  John Marshll Grant, a Royal Engineer, and Gordon Fraser Grant, Chief engineer on the CGS Quadra, were both in BC in the mid-1850s, and are two possibilities.
From pre-contact times, the peninsula between Browning Inlet and Grant Bay was passable via trails used first by First Nations, and later by early settlers.  The trail originally went to a small bay just south-west of Grant Bay called Tsegwas, or "place of the trail."
In the 1800s, shelter shacks were constructed at various points along the west coast of Vancouver Island, to provide food, supplies, and shelter for shipwrecked sailors.  One of these shacks was located at Lippy Point on the Southwest tip of Grant Bay.  The shack is referenced on navigational charts of the are produced in 1865 and again in 1919, but there is no longer any trace of a shack in that location.
In the early 1930s another shack was built on the eastern edge of the beach at Grant Bay, and this shack is also not longer in existence.
It has been reported that there are some unique rock formations to the west of the bay, including a rock arch and a large pillar of rock named "Nomas" or "old man in a dangerous place."
There have been no reported attempts to settle or pre-empt land at Grant Bay.
In the 1930s residents of Winter Harbour would come overland to picnic on the beach.  It was also reported that in the early 1930s a dead whale washed up on the beach and rotted there over the summer.
In the 1950s locals would line up glass balls on logs on the beach and shoot them for entertainment.
A freshwater river runs out of the North side of the bay.  It is filled with logs, which likely were deposited there by a tsunami or storm many years ago.
Until recently there were the remains of a small cabin on the Northwest corner of the bay.  The cabin was constructed in 1968 by ornithologist Frank Richardson from the University of Washington.  On a sabbatical, he and his wife lived at Grant Bay over the winter.  After the Richardsons left another young man squatted in the cabin for two summers.
Until about ten years ago Grant Bay was only accessible either by boat or via a three hour hike.  Now a short and well-marked forestry trail make is accessible.  On the drive in there are also a number of culturally modified trees in close proximity to the road.  

Hardy Bay land scam helped to build community

Original article published in the North Island Gazette February 23, 2012

Until the early 1900s, Port Hardy was a small community situated on the opposite side of the bay, across from present day Port Hardy.
The population was more or less stable, with a few families that operated a small hotel and a couple of stores.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s the government was trying to encourage settlement on the coast, and pre-emptions were offered to homesteaders who agreed to make improvements, which usually included clearing a portion of the land and building a house.
Many locations around the North Island were settled by homesteaders during this period.
Much immigration to Canada was happening during this time, and it was not uncommon for people to move to a new location, sight unseen.
In early 1912 the Hardy Bay Lands Company Ltd. was incorporated in Victoria.  The company reported it had 1000 shares and $100,000 in capital.

Its purpose was to promote the sale of land in Hardy Bay across Canada and throughout the United Kingdom through advertisements, brochures, and billboards.
Unfortunately, the advertising used to lure settlers to the North Island was highly speculative and misleading.
The Daily Colonist, July 28, 1912
Some time earlier, in order to protect future interests, James Dunsmuir (former Premier of BC and heir to the Dunsmuir mining empire), had filed a notice of intent to build a railway from the Comox/Cumberland area to Port Hardy.  Dunsmuir didn't actually intend to build the railway, he just wanted to lock up the rights to build the railway in case natural resource development on the North Island started to develop on a larger scale.
Armed with this information, the Hardy Bay Lands Company advertised properties which featured rolling farmland, rolling hills, a rail line and a sea terminal - a far cry from reality in the rugged outpost community.
People who purchased lots believed they were buying property in a bustling community.  Lots were advertised for between $125 and $145 and were available for $40 down.  Land was said to be "The finest area of farm land on Vancouver Island, especially for dairy purposes."
Victoria Daily Colonist newspaper - March 19, 1912
Prospective buyers were told the announced construction of a new railway to the North end of the island was imminent, and that land values would rise significantly in a short period of time.
The company even published a dubious newspaper - The Hardy Bay News - in 1913/14.  It contained many world events interspersed with tidbits of local news, including the story of a local woman who fell 20 ft from a dock onto the rocky beach at low tide, miraculously sustaining no serious injuries.
Many families spent their life savings to purchase a lot, then booked passage on a steamer to Port Hardy with what livestock and farm implements they would afford, with the intent of starting a new life full of opportunity.
Unfortunately when they arrived they found a small community with little more than a store and hotel, and a vast forest wilderness.  Some of the properties were actually subtidal, the are a surveyed being under water at low tide.
By 1914 the company had disappeared, along with its assets.  No one ever successfully sued the Hardy Bay Lands Company.
Many of the settlers who arrived took one look at the 'town' and got right back on the steamer back to Vancouver or Victoria.  Many had to sell their livestock to Alexander Lyon to pay for their passage back.
A number of families opted to stay.  They obtained crown pre-emptions and cleared land to farm.  A number of these families ended up in the area around Kains Lake.
The families of Alfred Moon and Peter Sandcock arrived in the spring of 1913.  After finding that the land they had purchased from the Hardy Bay Lands Company was non-existent, they secured 156 hectares at the mouth of the Tsulquate River.  The horses they brought for farming ended up being used to haul freight and mail over the path between Hardy Bay and Coal Harbour on Quatsino Sound.
The Port Hardy family history book, "A Dream Come True," noted that a widow, Mrs. Fenton, arrived as a part of the land scam with her children.
The family stayed, but unfortunately was beset with tragedy.  One son was killed in a logging accident, another was lost at sea on a trip to Seymour Inlet, a third died after falling off his boat during a drinking binge at Rivers Inlet, and a fourth died of a heart attack.
The Hardy Bay lands scam did have the effect of contributing to an increase in the population of Hardy Bay.  By 1919 there were 23 families and a number of single men living in the community.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

White visitors challenge grease trails

A version of this article was originally published in the North Island Gazette March 19, 2009.

There is much archeological evidence that Vancouver Island First Nations regularly crossed Vancouver Island to trade in a variety of food and goods.  These likely included eulachon grease coming from the Mainland Inlets and whale oil and meat coming back from the West Coast of Vancouver Island, among many other items.
These 'grease trails' were well known and well used, probably for thousands of years, saving First Nations people the treacherous voyage around Cape Scott by dugout canoe.
In 1862 Lieutenant Philip James Hankin and Dr. Charles Beddingfield Wood (ship's surgeon) of the Royal Navy decided to try to become the first non-natives to cross Northern Vancouver Island by foot.  Adam Grant Horne had previous crossed the Central Island from Big Qualicum to Port Alberni in 1856.
Hankin was the Lieutenant of the HMS Hecate, a British surveying vessel.  The Hecate was 860 tonne, 5 gun, paddle wheeled sloop which used a combination of sail and steam power.
On May 25, 1982, Hankin and Wood  were dropped off by the Hecate at Kyuquot, on the West Coast. They planned to follow the overland trade route utilized by local First Nations.  They were told that the journey would take four days.
The two traveled from Kyuquot to the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations village at Aktis Island by canoe.  They stayed a few days on the island due to bad weather, and noted that the whole village seemed to participate in organized sports.  Hankin noted that the local Chief, who was phonetically referred to as both "Clan-Ninick" and "Kai-ne-nitt", was a young man in his early 20s who seemed extremely well respected by his people.
Six local guides were recruited at Aktis who were each paid five blankets and two shirts, while three hundred blankets were given to the chief to thank him for his hospitality.
The party traveled to the head of Tahsish Inlet (which in Nuu-cha-nulth means "place where the water ends and we have to walk"), and then Hankin and Wood journeyed overland via Atluck Lake, Hustan Lake, Anutz Lake, and down the Nimpkish River to Nimpkish Lake.
Hankin and Wood found the trip more challenging than they had anticipated.
Hankin named the river connecting Hustan and Anutz Lakes "Famine River," as the party's provisions were depleted by that stage of the trip.  They had hoped to procure some wild game along the way to supplement their provisions, but were largely unsuccessful.  Once back on the coast Hankin and Wood traveled by dugout canoe to Fort Rupert, where they were reunited with the Hecate.
There are a number of coastal features names after Hankin, including Hankin Point in Quatsino Sound, Hankin Rock in Clayoquot Sound, the Hankin Mountain Range on Vancouver Island, and Hankin Ledge Point in Principe Channel.