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Articles in Category: Geography & Landmarks
At the Mouth of the Esquimalt Harbour
Ecological Reserve and Marine Protected Area
Race Rocks Lighthouse is majestic icon on Vancouver Islandʼs coastline with its striking black and white striped tower rising above the sea. It is the second oldest lighthouse on the Canadian Pacific, with close-by Fisgard Lighthouse being only six weeks its senior. The lighthouseʼs lantern was lit for the first time on December 26 of 1860. It was a much needed beacon of light to guide ships moving down the sometimes treacherous Straight of Juan de Fuca in darkness or foggy conditions. Race Rocks is located 16km (10 miles) from Victoria, being passed by all ships coming from the open Pacific Ocean to ports in Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, the Inside Passage, and other smaller destinations.
Established as an Ecological Reserve in 1990
Trial Island Lighthouse is situated in the Straight of Jun de Fuca just off the shores of Oak Bay in Victoria, British Columbia. The lighthouse was built in 1906 to warn passing ships of the chain of islands and the shallow surrounding waters. The channel between Oak Bay and Trial Islandʼs rocky outcrops is only 300 feet wide with strong tides flowing through it. During war times, after British naval boats were refitted in Esquimalt Harbour, they were taken on a sea trial to test the repairs. The vessels sailed to the island and back and thus it was given the name Trial Island.
The Chain Islets and Great Chain Island lie between Trial Island and Discovery and Chatham Islands, 2km off the coast of Victoria, British Columbia. It consists of approximately 18 small rocky outcrops and the large Great Chain Island. During high tides, several of the islets disappear below the waterline. Always visible around the the Chain Islands, are huge beds of bull kelp where Harbour Seals play and hunt for fish. The Great Chain Island is the only island in the group that supports grasses and shrubs, including several rare species. The most impressive thing about the Chain Islands is that it hosts a globally significant population of Glaucous-winged gulls and a migratory population of Brandts Cormorants. The population of Glaucous-winged gulls on the islands is the largest in all of British Columbia, and the Brandts Cormorants represent 2% of the entire world population with approximately 2000 individuals.
Discovery Island lies in Canadian waters at the eastern end of the Straight of Juan de Fuca, marking the beginning of Haro Straight. It was named after British explorer Georges Vancouverʼs boat, the HMS Discovery, which explored the coast of British Columbia in 1846. Chatham Island lies next to Discovery Island, and was named after the HMS Discoveryʼs escort ship, the HMS Chatham. The island is a Marine Provincial Park, making it an attractive destination for kayakers and hikers who only have to paddle 3 miles over from Oak Bay. The northern side of the island is Songhees First Nations Reserve lands.
Chatham Island is located on the northern side of Discovery Island at the eastern edge of the Straight of Juan de Fuca. Similar to Discovery Island, it was named after the explorer Georges Vancouverʼs escort ship, the HMS Chatham. Georges Vancouver explored the coastline of British Columbia between 1782 and 1794. The island is uninhabited and is under the control of the Songhees First Nation. The host interesting piece of history to do with Chatham Island is its role in the illegal transport of alcohol from Canada to the United States during the American prohibition from 1920 to 1933. Chatham Island contains a protected cove which got the nickname Rum-Runners Cove because Canadian bootleggers would hide containers of rum and Canadian whiskey in the cove and even in the water. American buyers would pick up the alcohol and smuggle it into the United States to sell to anxious buyers. There are even rumours that if you dive around Chatham Island, and if your lucky you can still find old bottles and barrels of rum and whiskey, aging to perfection!
The Esquimalt Harbour sits just west of the Victoria Harbour, and is home to the Canadian Pacific Naval Base. The harbour is rich in history as it is the site of the first landing of a European in Victoria. Don Manuel Quimper of Spain first set foot here in 1790. It is also the oldest continuously operating dry-dock on the Pacific coast of North America. Esquimalt Harbour includes a large mud-flat area that is important to many species of waterfowl. Whales that visit the area have been known to enter Esquimalt Harbour, in fact a grey whale made the harbour home for several days during the summer of 2010.
Ogden Point is a deep water port for large boats and cruise ships located in Victoria Harbor. It also serves as a ship repair location and supply dock. Building of Ogden Point began in the early twentieth century when an increase in shipping was expected due to the opening of the Panama Canal. The 2,500 foot long breakwall is the most iconic feature of Ogden Point with its red and white light beacon that guides boats into the harbour mouth. The wall was constructed in 1916 using 10,000 granite blocks along with additional concrete blocks, and over one million tons of rock. It was an expensive project for the time, costing $5 million. The breakwall is a popular dive site as it provides great habitat for marine invertebrates, seaweeds, fish, seals and most impressive- Pacific Giant Octopus! Thousands of people every year also enjoy walking on the breakwall, taking in the stunning view of the Olympic Mountains across the Straight of Juan de Fuca.
Oak Bay is a seaside community on the eastern end of the city of Victoria. The Oak Bay marina is a protected bay where hundreds of boats moor year round. The marina is a popular tourist attraction with its great views, restaurant, coffee shop, and gift boutiques. Whether walking along the docks or kayaking around the marina, it is easy to find Harbour Seals frolicking in the water or hoping to convince someone to throw them a fish with their big, puppy-dog eyes!
The Olympic Mountains rise from the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state, USA. The majority of the Olympic peaks are snow-capped year round. The highest mountain peak in the range is Mount Olympus, measuring 2427m (7962 feet) tall. The western slopes of the Olympic Mountain Range make up the wettest place in the lower 48 states with 360-430cm (170 inches) of rainfall a year. Port Angeles is a town at the base of the Olympic Mountains which is accessible from Victoria via the Coho ferry. Forks is another town nestled in the Olympic Mountains that attracts many people as it is the setting for the popular Twilight series.
Mount Baker is one of the most picturesque landmarks east of Vancouver Island. It is one of the few mountain peaks that can be seen from Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle. The stunning peak towers 10,781 feet into the sky and is snow-covered year round. This ancient volcano is the 3rd highest peak in Washington state, and holds the worldʼs record snowfall level with 1140 inches in the winter of 1998-1999.
Mount Rainier is part of the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington, USA. It is the highest volcanic peak in Washington at 14,410 feet. It is also the most glaciated mountain in the lower 48 states. Mount Rainier is only visible on very clear days, and appears as a massive white cone in the distance.
The Straight of Juan de Fuca is a 153 km (95 miles) long channel of water that lies between southern Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. It encompasses what is known as the Salish Sea and extends out to the open Pacific Ocean. All vessels coming from the Pacific Ocean and heading to ports in Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, the Inside Passage and other smaller locations must pass through the Straight of Juan de Fuca. It is known as the busiest shipping lane on the Pacific seaboard. This channel can experience rough seas due to exposure to westerly winds and waves from the open Pacific.
The straight acts as a passageway for many species of migrating salmon moving from the ocean to freshwater rivers to spawn, the Fraser River near Vancouver being the largest spawning river for salmon in the area. Resident orcaʼs diet mainly consists of salmon, so from April until November, Southern Resident Orca feast on the salmon coming through the Straight of Juan de Fuca. The Straight also acts as a resting ground and final feeding area for dozens of migrating humpback whales from late August until December.
Haro Straight is a channel of water that connects the Straight of Juan de Fuca and the Straight of Georgia. The Canadian-American border runs down the center of the straight. It is a major shipping lane for cargo ships, cruise liners, ferries, ecotourism boats and private vessels. Haro Straight runs along the western shores of San Juan Island, which is where the majority of whale watching trips are spent, watching resident orca feed, rest and socialize.
The Straight of Georgia is a body of water than runs 240km between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia. It is a major waterway for boat traffic heading between Victoria, Seattle and Vancouver. Because it is part of the route for migrating salmon coming from the open Pacific Ocean to spawning freshwater rivers, many species of marine mammals can be found here from spring until winter, especially resident orca!