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Sooke Harbour: News: Maritime History


CREDIT: Ray Smith, Times-Colonist
LOOKING THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY: Pete Fletcher, one of three retired coast guard employees moving the old Triangle Island lighthouse to Sooke from its current home at the coast guard base on Huron Street, pokes his head through a missing section of the lens.


'Useless' lighthouse finds Sooke home

Sandra McCulloch, Times Colonist
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

They built a lighthouse at Triangle Island, 45 kilometres off northern Vancouver Island, in 1910 but soon realized it was practically useless.

Ferocious, unrelenting winds blew away a lightkeeper's dog and made the spot torturous for human habitation. The light, 210 metres above sea level, was out of sight for many mariners, especially in bad weather.

The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1918 and dismantled in 1920.

Now the 12-metre-high structure is finding a home that everyone heading to Sooke can't miss: on the corner of Sooke Road and Phillips Road, site of the Sooke Region Museum and on the doorstep of the municipality.

"This will be changing the face of Sooke," said Elida Peers, a Sooke native who is leading the lighthouse relocation.

Peers helped establish the Sooke Region Museum and received the Order of B.C. for her work organizing events celebrating the area's history.

"We are a maritime community," she said Tuesday from the museum.

"You sort of lose sight of that with All Sooke Day and forestry. But all of the commerce between Sooke and Victoria, all of our early industrial history, involved shipping out of Sooke harbour.

"We have a maritime history -- lighthouses are important."

The lighthouse, donated to Sooke by the Canadian Coast Guard this week, will arrive via barge in August from its current home at the coast guard base on Huron Street in Victoria.

A sturdy metal housing at the top of the lighthouse is more than four metres in diameter.

The lens, the largest of its kind, is being dismantled this week by retired coast guard employees. It will be packed in blankets and moved to the museum in wooden crates by the end of the week. The original lens used at Triangle Island went astray early on -- no one now seems to know how or when -- so was replaced by an identical lens used at Estevan Point.

History buffs are aware that the light at Estevan Point was the spot where Japanese shells reportedly landed during the Second World War.

So Sooke's new lighthouse is an ideal symbol of West Coast maritime history, said Pete Fletcher, one of the coast guard retirees helping out.

Peers had scored "a double whammy" with the lighthouse and lens, he said Tuesday during a break from dismantling the 38-section lens. "She's hasn't got one museum artifact that's steeped in history -- she's got two."

Building the lighthouse on Triangle Island "was an ill-conceived idea," said Fletcher.

"It was always shrouded in fog, in low cloud -- nobody could see the light. And they always used to have hurricane winds. I used to live at Cape Scott, 30 miles away, and we were in fog half the time.

"Estevan Point was the only place (in Canada) shelled during the Second World War. Well, lo and behold, this light was there then. So you got two hunks of history all wrapped up in one package.

"I think that's pretty neat."

Peers is delighted the lighthouse is moving to a spot that will raise its profile and serve as a welcoming beacon to those driving by.

The museum already has a lighthouse lens once used at Sherringham Point. But this addition will stand 12 metres high and its light -- not full power -- will rotate.

About 100 volunteers, including corporate sponsors, are giving their time and expertise to oversee the relocation of the lighthouse, said Peers.

"I think everybody just recognizes what a tremendous opportunity this is."


Copyright 2004 Times Colonist (Victoria)

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