No. 7
20th May 1853
My Lord Duke
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of Secretary Sir John S. Packington's [Pakington's] Despatch of the 18th December last, stating that he had brought my recommendation with respect to the exploration and survey of the east coast of Vancouver's Island, under the notice of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, and their Lordships opinion that preparatory to making any survey, it would be desirable that some competent persons should make themselves acquainted with the pilotage of the principal channels and Ports of the District withtheManuscript image the view of inducing vessels to proceed there, for the coal or other produce.
2. In reply to that communication I beg to state, that every thing in my power shall be done to carry that suggestion into effect.
Passage in the Arro Archipelago.
Since the date of my letter of the 27th August 1852, to which Sir John S. Packington refers, in his said despatch, some progress has been made towards the attainment of a better knowledge of the navigable passages in the Archipelago of De Arro, the principal channels having been explored, and repeatedly traversed during the past winter and spring months, by the vessels of the Hudson's Bay Company with a favourable result, so far as regards the depth of water, which is ascertained to be sufficient for vessels of the largest class, and it is the general opinion, that the canal may be navigated by sailing vessels as far as the 49th degree of latitude with a great saving of time on the voyage, to the coal mines at Nanaimo, ie Wentuhuysen Inlet, as compared with the usual route by the Gulf of Georgia, and if Steam be brought into operation, as will probably soon be the case, the advantage will be still more decidedly felt, as theManuscript image whole passage between Victoria and Nanaimo, may be made by the channels of the Archipelago, in the course of a single day, and with smooth water, in the stormiest weather. This was actually accomplished by the Hudson's Bay Company's steam vessel, a small boat of 70 horse power, in the month of January last, with a sailing vessel, and the Boats of Her Majesty's Ship "Thetis" in tow; while by the Gulf of Georgia, the voyage would have occupied at least two days, under the same circumstances; and a longer time in stormy weather.
3. Whenever it may become the pleasure of Her Majesty's Government to direct that a survey of this Archipelago be made, I can procure a pilot at this place, to point out the best channels and the known dangers of the passage.
That service may also be greatly facilitated by the co-operation of the Colonial Surveyor, who might be employed in carrying on the survey by land, tracing the east coast of Vancouver's Island, and fixing the position of the most prominent head lands, in communication with, andatManuscript image at the same time that Her Majesty's Officers are prosecuting the survey of the Islands; by that means the work would be sooner and more correctly done, than by either party singly.
4. The progress made in opening the coal works at Nanaimo, has been rapid, and satisfactory, and the coal field has been traced by decided indications over a District about four miles in extent. The principal seam of Coal, which varies between 6 and 7 feet in thickness, is exceedingly valuable, and is immediately on the coast of a safe and commodious harbour, and can be shipped at a trifling cost. The depth of the Mine is about 60 feet, and the galleries, are now sufficiently extensive to furnish employment for 100 Miners.
Several cargoes of that coal have been exported to California, where it bears a high character, being preferred for general purposes to any other coal found in the countries on the Pacific, and it is even supposed to be not inferior to the best qualities of English Coal.
We have therefore in that District of Vancouvers Island thebasisManuscript image basis of a noble trade, which may be extended to all parts of the northern Pacific, and your Grace will perceive by the statements here made, how much the interests of that trade may be advanced, by the publication of correct charts of the navigable access to the mines, and by the removal time occupied in making the passage from Victoria.
5. That object has acquired further claims on the attention of Her Majesty's Government from the circumstance of Coal having been lately discovered by some American citizens in Bellingham Bay, which is on the continental shore of America, in north Latitude 48.43.
The discoverers propose to work the coal by means of a Joint Stock Company, which they are taking measures to raise in California and if the enterprise succeeds, the coal from the American shore, will come into competition with that produced on Vancouver's Island.
This will be a disadvantage to the Colony, which may however be greatly mitigated by judicious management, as labourers can be procured at a cheaper rate from England, thaninManuscript image in any part of the United States, and if a navigable channel be found in the Arro Archipelago, by which sailing vessels may run direct from this place to Nanaimo without taking the circuitous route through the Gulf of Georgia, the coal of Vancouver's Island, may be brought into market, on equal terms with that produced on the American side.
6. The present sale price of Coal in this Colony is Forty one shillings and eight pence a ton, in consequence of the present high price of labour and provisions in the country; I however prevailed upon the Agents of the Hudson's Bay Company to supply Her Majesty's Steam Sloop "Virago" with all the Coal she may require while stationed here, at the rate of Thirty shillings a ton for "Nanaimo", and Twenty five shillings a ton for the Rupert coal, which is I believe considerably under the price paid by Her Majesty's ships, for the coal purchased for the public service, on the coast of Chili.
I have the honour to be
Your Grace's most obedt Servt
James Douglas
Governor

The Right Honorable His Grace the Duke of Newcastle
Her Majesty's principal Secretary of State
For the Colonial Departmt
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Elliot
I think that a copy of the whole of this despatch might be sent to the Admy with reference to the former communications on the subject of a nautical survey of VanCouvers' Island, adding, if the Duke of Newcastle approves, that a survey of the Coast, its harbors, & navigable rivers would greatly tend to promote British trade and interests in that quarter of the globe, & that His Grace is very desirous that such a survey should be undertaken. See .9399-10199-11307/52.
Take this oppy of asking the Admy if they have been able to substitute a Steam for a Sailing Vessel off V.C. Island as asked for in the C.O. Letter of the 30 Octr/52, at present unansd.
ABd 11 Augt
FP 11 Augt
P.S. Since writing the preceding I find from 8062/53 of the 8 June that the Steam Ship "Virago" has been sent to Queen Charlotte Isd but it is not clear that she is to be permanently stationed off the Coast.
FP 11
Write to the Admiralty as above.
N 13
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Colonial Office to Secretary to the Admiralty, 18 August 1853, forwarding copy of the despatch and stating that it "is very desirous that such a survey should be undertaken."
Douglas, James to Pelham-Clinton, Henry Pelham Fiennes 20 May 1853, CO 305:4, no. 8063, 40. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. James Hendrickson and the Colonial Despatches project. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/V53107.html.

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