I am not just an orchid guy. Or a bog guy. Or a waterfall guy. Or an autumn leaf guy. No I am a man of many parts. I am also a lighthouse guy. I love lighthouses too. Actually I am a sucker for lighthouses. And that has got Chris and I in trouble on a number of occasions. Someday I will have to blog about that.
One day on Vancouver Island we went to see Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site, on Fisgard Island. Because of work in the park we could not get close to it the day we were there.
It was the first lighthouse built on the west coast of Canada. The light station and lighthouse were built in 1860 to guide vessels into Esquimalt harbour. Part of the reason to reinforce Canadian rights to sovereignty over its colony on the west coast against the ever greedy Americans. In other words, the Americans were as greedy as the British. 25,000 American miners had come to the area 2 years earlier in search of gold in the Fraser valley. If there was gold to be found there the British wanted it for themselves.
The Sheringham Lighthouse on Vancouver Island, like so many lighthouses was born out of tragedy. During the last part of the 19the century and the first part of the 20th centuries the South Coast of Vancouver Island saw more than 240 ship wrecks! As a result the area gained an unwelcome reputation as for its treacherous shoreline and was called by many, the “Graveyard of the Pacific.”
On January 20, 1906, the steamship SS Valencia left San Francisco bound for Seattle and Victoria with 173 passengers on board. Late at night during awful weather, which sadly is not uncommon on the coast, there was little visibility and the ship missed the turn into the Juan de Fuca Strait On board were 173 passengers and crew. During the dark night of January 22, in foul weather and with very limited visibility, the Valencia missed the turn into Juan de Fuca Strait and steamed directly on to the rocks near Pachena Point. Sadly, 137 men, women and children died as a result.
Both Canada and the Americans held inquiries and determined that they had to make efforts to improve navigation on the west coast. After the inquiry, the Canadian government decided to build 12 more lighthouses on the coast including this one at Sheringham Point.
The lighthouse is located on a spit that veers prominently out to sea, a pretty good spot for the light. This is the view from that spit. Long before first contact, the site was used by the Ditidaht First Nation (now called the T’Sou-ke First Nation) and called by them p’aachiida which means “sea foam on rocks.” The foam can be seen on the above photographs.
The light station and lighthouse were both built in 1912.
At first I was very disappointed even though I could easily walk to the lighthouse. It seemed there was no vantage point to get a good view. You can’t really photograph a lighthouse from right under it. You have to be some distance away to get a view of it in its setting on the rocks and by the sea. At first I could only get a shot from the top of the stairway.
With some extra efforts I found a place to get what I thought was a better view. Then I was happy. The lighthouse was declared a Canadian Heritage Site in 2015.