No. 76
15 January 1859
I beg you will allow me to solicit your earnest attention to a subject which is of the highest importance to the progress and prosperity of the Colonies of Vancouver's Island and British Columbia.
2. I allude to the necessity whichManuscript imagewhich exists for the early construction of Light Houses upon some of the salient points of the approaches to the Harbours and Anchorages of these Colonies.
3. At the present moment, however, I will only mention two positions which are of the first importance, and which the experience of every succeeding day renders more and more evident should be properly lighted at the earliest possible period.
4. The first of these is the Race Rocks, situated in the Strait of Fuca, between 2 and 3 miles from the main land of Vancouver's Island, and about 12 miles from the Harbour of Esquimalt. TheseManuscript imageThese Rocks or Rocky Islets may be viewed as the turning point in the Strait for Ships bound to Vancouver's Island, or to the Gulf of Georgia. They form a most dangerous cluster, and the making them out is not only an object anxiously sought, but it is one of essential help in the determination of position. They are mostly above water, and the largest of them would be found an admirable situation for placing a Light House. It has some considerable elevation above high water mark, and the materials for building can be found in abundance close to the spot. The Light at this position should be one of the firstManuscript imagefirst order.
5. The next spot upon which I would urge the establishment of a Light House is the Fisgard Rocks at the entrance of Esquimalt Harbour; a harbour whose growing importance can scarely be overestimated. It is capacious and secure. Her Majesty's Ships always resort to it; the Admiralty and Military Buildings are also there, and it is the Harbour to which all Vessels of large size must come, and consequently it must be the great Depot of the Ocean Traffic. The entrance being narrow, the back ground composed of high hills exhibiting no remarkable leading marks, and the coast line adjacentManuscript imageadjacent being rugged and full of indentations the Harbour of Esquimalt presents no characteristic features to guide the Mariner to its tranquil security. During the day the entrance is difficult enough to find to those possessing no previous knowledge of the locality, but at night the difficulties of distinguishing it are so great that the attempt to enter the Harbour is never made except by those whose long acquaintance with the Coast has rendered them intimately familiar with every peculiarity. The establishment of a Light upon Fisgard Rocks, would at once unmistakably pointManuscript imagepoint out the position of the Harbour, and would render access to it, or exit from it safe and easy at all times.
6. The navigation of the Strait of Fuca, and of the inland waters leading from it, is attended with no small amount of danger without the valuable assistance of Lights. The Government of the United States have already acted very promptly and liberally in lighting their portion of the Strait. They have placed a Light of the First order upon Tatooch Island, at the entrance of the Strait, and Vessels from seaward are now enabled to continue their course upManuscript imageup the Strait at all times. This Light has a range of 20 Miles, and if a Light of the First order were placed on the Race Rocks, as I now submit, and a Light of an inferior order upon Fisgard Rocks, a Vessel running up Fuca Strait would scarcely lose sight of the Tatooch Light before she would discern the Race Light, after rounding which she would perceive the Fisgard Light, and thus be enabled to proceed into Esquimalt Harbour without a check, and by such means, valuable time would be saved and considerable risk avoided.
7. The United States Government haveManuscript imagehave also placed Lights upon two other points in the Strait of Fuca, Dungeness near the entrance to Puget Sound, and upon Smith's Island, near to the southern termination of the Rosario Strait. The Light at Tatooch Island is, undoubtedly, of equal advantage to the British Possessions in this quarter of the globe, as to those of the United States, the other Lights are also useful, and I therefore conceive that we are in honor bound to reciprocate the benefit.
8. I am not aware of any funds that may be appropriated for these objects, nor do I know to what Department of State I should properly apply for assistance: the infant state ofManuscript imageof the two Colonies precludes the possibility of their being able to help themselves, and the matter being one which it is manifest must materially affect their future development. I trust you will pardon me in bringing it before you and in earnestly soliciting your aid towards the accomplishment of the desired object.
I have etc.
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
Copy to Bd of Trade requesting to be informed whether the Lords of the Cee would wish to offer any further observations (see their Letter 2588/59—not yet acted upon) upon this subject. Perhaps this occasion might be made use of to say that this Dt cannot possibly apply to Parlt for a grant of money for these necessary public works; nor has the Colony the means either of paying for them. Under these Manuscript imagecirces Sir E. Lytton would enquire whether their Lordships cannot include the required Light houses within "the class of Imperial Lights" & give the Colony some assistance out of the funds placed at their disposals by Parlt for such services?
ABd 18 March
I think so; we ought surely to follow the example of the United States in this matter. The issue was also brought to notice by the Admiralty report on the Straits the other day.
HM Mh 18
C Mch 19
EBL M 19
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Merivale to J. Booth, Board of Trade, 31 March 1859, forwarding copy of the despatch for consideration.