Written by: Jordan, Marine Natualist/Deckhand
Located just over one nautical mile south from Vancouver Island is Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, the southern most part of Canada on the pacific coast. On our tours we are very fortunate to have Race Rocks in our range, that gives us the opportunity to come close to this very historical area.
Race Rocks lighthouse was built in 1860 and financed by the British Government, it was quite a remarkable undertaking. The bottom two-thirds of the tower is granite quarried in Scotland and brought over as ballast in a timber ship. For the final third of the tower is topped with sandstone quarried on Gabriola island. A much shorter journey for that sandstone compared to the granite coming all the way from Scotland. This adds to the uniqueness of Race Rocks lighthouse as it is the only lighthouse constructed from stone in our area, as most are made from reinforced concrete or brick.
Race Rocks lighthouse is very important as over the years it has helped guide ships in the from the open ocean out west. With our foggy days and dark nights it was needed because before it was constructed, as soon as a ship would turn in to the Juan De Fuca Strait they would see no navigational aids and be in unknown coastal waters with very fast currents in some areas. Before the lighthouse was built this caused several shipwrecks on the rocks just off the southern tip of Vancouver Island. One of the those shipwrecks was the Nanette, a 385 tonne tall ship. On December 23rd, three days before the light was cast on Race Rocks she ran aground on the small rocky out crop. The Nanette was stuck in 7 knot current pulling them directly for the rocks. An all hands on deck call was made to try and bring up all of their sales to try and avoid the rocks but it was too late. She struck the rocks and their cargo worth $160,000 was strewn across the rocks. Luckily with construction workers on the island at the time, all souls were saved on the Nanette. Although their cargo did attract local salvagers trying to profit, and in one case a group of people with an overloaded small boat with a portion of the Nanette’s cargo capsized with everyone perishing.
Here at Orca Spirit Adventures we are very fortunate to be able to get close to Race Rocks and showcase to our guests some of the most picturesque scenery here on the west coast.
If you would like to learn more about Race Rocks and more about what mammals and sea birds call it home, come join us on tour!