British Columbia History

BC Historical News Apr 30, 1972

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APRIL 1972
V81. 5 No. 3
April 1972
Published November, February, April and June each year by the
British Columbia Historical Association, and distributed free to
members of all affiliated societies by the secretaries of their
respective societies. Subscription rate to non-members: $3-50 per
year, including postage, directly from the editor, Mr P.A. Yandle,
3450 West 20th Avenue, Vancouver-8, B.C.
Hon. Patron:
Hon. President:
Past President:
1st Vice-President:
2nd Vice-President:
Sec. & Editor:
Executive members:
Lieut.Gov. J.R, Nicholson
Dr Margaret Ormsby
Mr H.R. Brammall
Mrs Mabel E. Jordon
Mr G.T. German
Mrs J. Roff
Mr P.A. Yandle
Mrs H.R. Brammall
Mr F. Street
Mr H.B. Nash
: Editorial
Society notes & comments
Book Review: Making it: the Canadian Dream
Vitus Bering's Voyages, by Jack Mcintosh ■
"Alberni", by E. Leslie Hammer
"The Lady Rose"
' Registration form
FRONT COVER: Chief Dan George, drawn'by Vancouver member Robert Genn. EDITORIAL
This year the News on its covers has saluted some British Columbians
who, by their unselfish lives, are living symbols of our finest people.
They do not come from the institutions of learning nor from the world of
commerce. They all seem to have had a dedicated purpose in life and have
fulfilled their destinies, which this province will reap as a legacy.
Ma Murray, by her own admission, never had much education, but in
her own inimitable way she had a flair for making people read her editorials
and columns in her various newspapers. As she said at a memorable B.C
Historical Association banquet "Hell, I've never had much time for reading history - I've been too busy making itl" Both friend and foe have
paid tribute to her ability and she's still going strong.
Ralph Edwards is the kind of man that is fast disappearing in this
age of specialization. Not only did he pioneer in a wilderness that
required all the vitality and ingenuity of a superman, but he remembered
the creatures that made his lakeside home thenatural paradise he wished
to live in. There are few people indeed who would have toiled so hard
to bring in food to save the diminishing flock of trumpeter swans, with
no thought for reward. It is in the past few weeks that Canada has
conferred the recognition he so richly deserves.
Chief Dan George, who "stands tali" on this issue of the News, has
shown the dignity of the Indian people by word and stature. His fine
modulated voice has stirred many white people to meditate on the injustices
that were meted out to his native people. It is not for his nomination
for an Academy Award by the motion picture industry that we salute him,
but for his ability to restore the image of pride in his native birth right
and for his native people. He has brought about an understanding by his
example that no amount of pious writing could ever do.
The June cover will be a tribute to Jimmy Sewid who, by his own
ability, has shared both his native world and also the fierce competitive
world of the white man. He must be an own people who
have seen that it is possible for them to survive and take a place in our
modern society without surrendering their cultural traditions.
This comes at a time when national prejudices have been receiving a
lot of column inches in our daily press. Many of the ills of our present
economic plight have found ready sympathisers willing to espouse the
cause of anti-Americanism. It was the immigrant who eventually became
the Canadian, and today, be he first or fifth generation, he still has
an immigrant background. How little does it matter from whence he came,
and when he stayed it was what he did that counted. The News proudlY
salutes two transplanted Americans and two truly native sons. SOCIETY NOTES AND COMMENTS
BURNABY 1971 was an exciting year for the Burnaby Historical
Society. Their long cherished dream of a pioneer park came to
reality when Burnaby chose as its Centennial project the construction
of Heritage Village. The Society provided furnishings, artifacts
and many volunteer hours towards the opening of the Village in November. They will continue to work closely with the Century Park Museum
Association which is the governing body of the Village. Four BHS
members sit as directors in the Association.
So far this year at their monthly meetings the Society have enjoyed
a slide showing by Dr George Bramhall on North American historical
sites, a dinner and showing of old Burnaby films, and a display and talk
on part of her extensive collection of spoons by Mrs Charles Killip.
Future projects include a field trip in June and a start on a library
of old pictures and films, along with taped and recorded memoirs of
Burnaby old-timers.
WEST KOOTENAY At the annual meeting in March a new executive was
elected as follows: Pres.: Mr Stephen Saprunoff; Vice.Pres.: Mr Velen
V. Fanderlik; Sec.Treas.: Mrs Alta Weir; Directors: Mrs Helen Peachey;
Mrs Ethel Mcintosh; Mr Craig Weir; Mr Thos. Weir; Past.Pres.: M.F.
Edwards. This meeting concluded with a showing of slides by Mrs Mcintosh
on her trip to South Africa and Rhodesia. A previous meeting Was
addressed by Mr R.D. Willans of the Trail Wild Life Association. He
gave facts and figures of the changes in our environment during the last
15 years and asked rhetorically,. "Can Kootenay Lake be saved?" Logging
and mining operations, followed by the modern need for hydro power, the
latter necessitating numerous dams, have altered the face of our countryside. Mr Willans pleaded for support of his contention that some compromise must be maintained if we> the general public, are to enjoy the best
of both aspects - progress in material things and sport - especially
Wishing. ' ■
NANAIMO At the February meeting "Members' Night", Mr Walley, in
theatrical wig and facial foliage, clad in a frock coat, led off with
various anecdotes, serious and in lighter vein, that he had had from
.Nanaimo old-timers. Mrs McGirr spoke on childhood recollections of
Nanaimo's great fire which destroyed the Bastion Street bridge. Her
brother-in-law, Jack Green, had a tale to tell of a Chinese New Year
when hewas 17 and got drunk on Chinese, whiskey (for the first and last
time in his life, he says), Pat Johnson had some gleanings about
Nanaimo's population and its occupations found in an old directory.
Ron Norris, whose grandfather founded "The Nanaimo Free Press" in 1874
told a little of his family's history, going back to a "Princess Royal"
arrival. Miss E. Morcross's contribution was an excerpt from a Cowichan
diary which told of a day trip to Nanaimo in 1907.
One of the best features of the evening was the music supplied by
Mr Burdock who had brought his 1879 Edison gramophone and some records of
the, same vintage. He and a friend, Mr Palmer, had also made up a tape
of old-time music, with dedications to one or two of our people, which
they played.
At their annual meeting the Nanaimo society elected the following officers: Pres.: Mrs Emily Kneen;,: Miss Elizabeth Norcross;
Sec: Mrs Isabel Rowe; Treasurer: Miss Helen Brown. Speaker at that meeting was Mr- David Smith, instructor in forestry at Malaspina College. Mr
Smith took his first degree in forestry at the University of Wales, then
came out to the Island, worked as a logger for several years before going
to UBC and obtaining his Master's degree In forestry. Mr Smith's topic was
the history of logging on Vancouver Island, with Special reference to the
Nanaimo area. He remarked that considerable research had .been done on early
sawmiUing on the Island, but very little about its logging. -After•remarking that the first loggers could, with justice, be said to be the Indians
before the coming of the white man (he pointed to the ocean-going canoes,
dug-outs, of the Nootkas), he said there is a record of Indians bringing
logs to the first sawmill at Nanaimo (and the third on the Island) arid that
they were paid at the rate of one blanket for eight logs 15" at; the small
end. Mr Smith traced the changing logging methods on the Island down to
the present day, the use of oxen and then horses, (with a passing glance
at the hand-logger who was not permitted to use either), the logging
locomotives and the type of rails they ran on, down to the use of trucks.
The truck, he said, really came into its own when bulldozers were obtainable to build the roads. He described also the development of the donkey
engine, the rigging of the spar tree, and the development of the steel
spar and now the mobile spar.
VANCOUVER The Vancouver Historical Society continues with interesting
programmes and a good attendance at regular meetings, but has expressed
the same thoughts as voiced by its member Mrs J. Greseo, when speaking in
Nanaimo, a plea for more communication between historical societies,
professional historians and students. An idea, expressed by some members -
to obtain an historically interesting building,, restore It and use it as a
meeting place, or for the Society to hold their meetings in different local
buildings of historical significance, could help to create a"stronger
public image and promote a wider interest. An active interest- is certainly
expressed by the Society in events and people of the past, as is-shown in
their financial assistance to the 'Gassy Jack' Memorial Fund and'^'the
proposed assistance, financially or otherwise in the dredging of the old
'Beaver'. The annual Incorporation Day Dinner, held in a'.French restaurant
in Gastown, helped to create a feeling of history, as did the programme,
with excerpts of historical events read by various members Of the' Society
and an impersonation of Stephen Leacock by Mr John Stark. A variety of
old prints displayed on the walls added local colour. Slides of various
society outings were afterwards shown by John Raybould. Mr J-. Lawrence,
Chairman of the Publishing Committee, was very pleased to present a cheque
for $100 to Mr Alan Willmott, the winner of the Annual Essay Contest. The
subject of his essay was Early Days in Eburne. The President, Mr G.
Elliott, thanked the Social Convener, Mrs Bowes, for all the work done in
arranging the annual dinner and- on behalf of the Society, presented her
with a lapel pin, whale motif, as she is planning to move to Vancouver
Island to live,
VICTORIA Members of the society enjoyed a variety of Victoria
nostalgia during'the winter session. The four speakers were: (l) Miss
Elizabeth Forbes, newspaper columnist and author, who spoke on "Pioneer
Women of Vancouver Island"; (2) Mr James K. Nesbitt, columnist, "A look
back at other Victoria Christmasses"; (3) Mr John Adams, -history student
at U.B.C, "Victoria's old town of the 1.9th century"; and (4) Mr Ainslie
J, Helmcken, Archivist of the City of Victoria, "Victoria: Port of call." This latter address was presented under the auspices of the Society in
aid of the Clifford Carl memorial scholarship fund. Following these
glimpses into Victoria's past, the society was taken half way round the
world by Cmdr. A.G. Coning who spoke in February on "The siege of Malta".
And at the March -meeting, the speaker was Mr Clifford P. Wilson, formerly
editor of the Hudson's Bay Company's periodical, The Beaver. In 1940
Mr Wilson agreed to act as "technical adviser" in the production of the
motion picture "Hudson's Bay". He pointed out the trials, tribulations
and frustrations of his position, and used photographs to illustrate
many interesting details of the production.-
"The society has recently established a committee under the chairmanship of Mr Ian Sutherland to establish an oral history programme. To.
date interested members have been studying the techniques involved in
interviewing and in transcribing interviews.
In response to a letter from the Association supporting the Sierra
Club's proposal regarding the Nitinat Triangle, the following is part
of a reply received from Mr D. Bruce Amos, Special Assistant to the
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development,
".;-...«.. The Sierra Club has proposed a good alternate plan for
the ..park area. Certainly the Tsusiat-Hobiton Watershed would be a very
valuable addition to the National Park; also a wider park strip is
essential if we are to protect and maintain the Lifesaving Trail's
wilderness environment in a coastal region committed to sustained yield
forest management. I must point out, however, that under the British
North America Act the Provinces were given the responsibility for
managing the natural resources on Provincial Crown Lands. Consequently
to establish a National Park, an area under federal management in any
of the provinces, requires the involvement and co-operation of the two
governments, provincial and federal. The federal government therefore
must rely on the negotiation process to finalize the boundaries for the
West Coast Trail Unit of the Pacific Rim National Park.
During the summer of 1970, officers of the National and Historic
Parks Branch carried out a study of the park area and certain boundary
adjustments were recommended. The Branch then placed an alternative
boundary proposal before the Province'for consideration,
Mr Chretien wrote again to the Honourable W.K. Kiernan, Minister of
Recreation and Conservation, British Columbia, in December 1971. In his
letter he stressed the urgency of designating at the earliest possible
time,--the boundaries of the Part III lands which will provide the highest
possible park values........."
After sending to Mr Ralph Edwards a copy of the last issue of the News
with his portrait on the cover, the following reply was received:
"....Thank you for -your little note and the pictures. Yes, your
artist made a good job. Oona River is on the south east corner of Porcher Island about 25 miles from Prince Rupert. It Is serviced by a weekly
plane on Mondays (mall) and it is possible to get a scheduled plane on
Wednesdays and Fridays as well, a \.^ minute flight. Of course everyone
has bolts (good boats) which make frequent trips to Prince Rupert, a
3 hour trip. Sincerely, Ralph A. Edwards, Oona River, B.C."
One of the more attractive local histories recently noted is Marks
on the Forest Floor; a story of Houston, B.C, published by the Houston
Centennial '71 Committee. This handsome well illustrated book covers the
story of the people - the Indians, the Dutch, the Scandinavians, in
particular; how they made a living - agriculture, mining, forestry; and
how they ordered their lives - their schools, churches, recreation. The
book is interesting to the outsider and has several good maps to guide
one along the path of the Grand Trunk Railway. Has anyone ever heard
of Slab City? Read this book and find out about it. This local history
should be an example to any community about to write one. The list of
acknowledgements and patrons in itself is sufficient to show that no small
elite made this book, but that it was truly a community effort.
The Oregon Book Society, organized in 1971, is a union of bibliophiles
interested in the originalliterature of the history of the American Northwest. The Society's purpose is to assist in preserving this material by
publishing, in fine-book form, the most important of the first-rperson-
singular accounts of early explorers, travellers and settlers. Their
first book will be the Oregon Journals of David Douglas, of his travels
and adventures among the traders and Indians in the Columbia, Willamette
and Snake River regions during the years 1.825, 1826 and 1827, edited with
an introduction by David Lavender. Inquiries about the Society may be
directed to Mr Lewis Osborne, P.O. Box 647, Ashland, Oregon 97520.
From the Vancouver Sun, April 7th. "A new Class A provincial park,
has been established at Seton Portage, west of Lillooet, commemorating
the historic short portage between Anderson and Seton Lakes. The short
portage, a part of the Douglas Trail which started at the head of
Harrison Lake, was used by many prospectors heading for Cariboo gold
fields in the 1860's. Land for the two-acre park was donated to the people
of British Columbia by the B.C Railway, formerly the PGE. It will be
officially known as the Seton Portage Provincial Historic Park.
Although another Centennial year is over, some of you ladies may still
be interested in a booklet called Patterns of Fashions of the 1870's, by
Eileen Collard. The booklet discusses clothing styles of the period and is
skillfully illustrated to show how the various women's, men's and children's
fashions were made. Complete instructions and pattern diagrams are provided
for modern day construction. The booklet is available for $1.80 from the
Joseph Brant Museum, 1240 North Shore Blvd East, Burlington, Ontario. 7
Making it: the Canadian Dream, edited by Bryan Finnigan and Cy Gonick.
Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1972. 597 pp. $6.50 paper.
Bryan Finnigan.and Cy Gonick present a text, which consists of a
series of short essays for students of sociology. In compiling this
text, the authors fill the need for a Canadian text to deal with
Canadian problems, to arouse "... criticism, debate, and controversy ...
to stimulate interest and open the minds of young scholars to their
society". These are their stated objectives.
Sociology is a subject associated more with universities and colleges
than with secondary schools. Certainly the subject with this kind of
text is timely, in this age of youth's yearning for understanding of himself and problems of the world he lives in. It is hoped that the public
is tolerant enough to accept both the subject and the text in the secondary school system. By the various divisions of material-into sections,
for example. Growing Up, Growing Old, Learning, What is Poverty, Keeping
God's Country a Country, Race, and ending with Dreaming and by the juxta-
. position of each, the student is led to a challenging climax. How-amid
. all the problems posed do we dare have a Dream is reminiscent of Martin
Luther King.
In  a discussion of social problems in a fast changing society dates
of the essays are a prime requisite to any follow up research. These
were for the most part lacking, as was biographical material, A text does
not present solutions - it should ask questions and pose problems.,
Education is a world problem. The contrast of the rative Indian's home
training with a thirteen year old dropout is shattering. According to
Wilfred Pelletier, an Indian child "is never rejected .... the children
become very non-competitive". A contrast is the thirteen year old dropping
out of school because no one took the time to listen to him at home or at
school,, ..,, "teachers have been teaching so long they have forgotten how
to teach"r
According to the text, education from elementary school to university
has such a bureaucratic empha.sis, it is little wonder -that the bureaucratic mass media have an impact on the judgement of gullible people,
especially the power of the science of advertising .. "The intensification
of feeling and the degradation of significance", Lippman in A Brief to
the Senate Hearing on the Mass Media recommends "a 100$ tax on the cdvertis-
ing and public relations budgets of all vendors and producers of consumer
commodities and services except for minimum sized classified ads*, inserted
by individuals; the tax will go directly to an independent crown agency
for consumer research for a critical examination of brand-name propaganda".
The concentration of power in the media is proved by listing chain interconnections. Students are led to question the freedom of the individual's
thinking under the barrage of the total mass media - "Fixes the attention
but does not engage the mind".
The Economic Council of Canada in identifying poverty states, "There
is more of it than our society can .., afford ... at a time when the bulk
of Canadians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world".
A distinction is made between cultural poverty and monetary poverty. The
advice of Don Mitchell to farmers has been taken by western farmers in
organizing themselves; nevertheless, our Canadian farmers are the least 8
organized group and suffer consequently. The poverty of Indian and
Eskimo people demonstrates how insensitive most.Canadians are to the
human needs of all Canadians. The culture of the Eskimo is being lost
as quickly as that of the Indian. The reserve cannot support the Indian
and modern housing and weapons have destroyed the Eskimo life.  "The
school curricula should be revised to prepare Indians (and Eskimos) to play
their rightful part in the fields of public service and employment,
tribal administration, and in the new industries to be established". -
The Red Paper.
The Gaspe Plan projected to 1982 lists among others, these objectives:
1. modernization of agriculture, forestry, fishing
2. creation of dynamic new types of economic activity
3. occupational and geographic mobility of the region's manpower
(it could have dealt with population control).
4. rational organization of land-use.
Students are led to probe the question of Quebec to understand it.
"I, too believe in federalism provided it works and gives good results
where I feel priority to be, I'm a Quebecois." - Rene Levesque. Militancy
is growing. "Violence is often a symptom of deep social unrest." - Pierre
These are the questions - can the answers be found in time?
. 1. What is a minority group?
2. What sanctions the continuing existence of such groups?
3. What are the needs and desires of minority groups?
4. How well are the needs and desires met by the larger society?
The answer to these questions is the answer to the French Canadian,
Indian, and Eskimo problems - On Keeping God's Country a Country. .
Perhaps the jolt of Women's Lib and Pollution will change attitudes
to Americanization; this controversy is fairly dealt with from opposing
points of view. The Canadian challenge is "to turn Canadians to the
human need of creative work - a decolonialized Canada, a free, non-repressive
decentralized society based on   a new sense of human solidarity."
Yes, this book will "generate criticism, debate, and controversy;
it will also stimulate, interest, and open the minds of young scholars"
- the objective of Bryan Finnigan and Cy Gonick.
Anne Stevenson
Mrs Stevenson, of Williams Lake, is a school trustee and member of the
Vancouver and Victoria Historical Societies.
. For details see end of this issue 9
(Adapted from a lecture given at the Maritime Museum, Vancouver, January
1971, by Jack Mcintosh, Mathematics Librarian, University of B.C.)
 1.40°      1.60°    1.80°    1.60°    1.40°
- - ■->  route of
Bering and Chirikov
in 1728
_ ^ Bering's
route in 1741
 y>   Chirikov's
route in 1741
_9gp Km.
1. Petropovlovsk
2. Bering Island
3. Kamchatka
4. islands discovered by Bering
5. islands discovered by Chirikov
+" site of the wreck of the St. Peter Nov.5, 1741
The two Russian expeditions of the second quarter of the eighteenth
century which put Vitus Bering's name on the map involved great distances
and enormous hardships. In this account of Bering's voyages, I should
like to emphasize the obstacles and terrible ill fortune that made his
relatively modest geographical discoveries a magnificent achievement. Let
us first consider some historical background to remind ourselves of the
reasons for these expeditions and of what, was to be achieved.
By the year 1.600, the whole eastern coastline of the American continent
all the way from Labrador to Cape Horn was already well known to Europeans.
However, the west coast remained almost completely unexplored. To Europeans
America represented a long barrier separating the Atlantic Ocean from the
Pacific - a very narrow barrier, it seemed, for wherever Europeans had
succeeded in crossing the continent - Balboa in Central America, Magellan at
the southernmost part of South America - it was indeed very narrow. 10
In Mexico, and although the continent was wider there, than in the Panama
region, it was nevertheless less than three hundred miles across. When
Spanish mariners sailed from Mexico northwards in the Pacific, they took
California to be an island, so sure were they that America was narrow and
could not extend far to the west. The same conviction had been held by
Henry Hudson when he entered Hudson's Bay in 1.6li, thinking it to be the
Pacific Ocean. That America and Asia were far apart was evident from the
experience of Spanish, Dutch and English ships which crossed the Pacific
from Cape Horn to China, India or Indonesia. To reach Java from Cape
Horn, a ship had to travel almost half way around the world. It was therefore natural at first to believe that America and Asia were everywhere very
distant from each other.
In the second half of the seventeenth century, these conceptions
changed little by little. English explorers penetrated ever farther westward into North America through prairie, forest and mountains. Moreover,
the Spaniards found that California, far from being an island, was part of
the American continent, and the further north one travelled, the wider it
became ■      i
At about the same time, new information began to filter through from
Russia indicating that there was a part of northern Asia that extended far
beyond China to the east. Russians had crossed all of Siberia within a
single century following the reign of Ivan the Terrible, reaching the ocean
at the Sea of Okhotsk. Further east, the great Kamchatka peninsula was
also found to be part of the continent. Before long, it became known from
hunters that the Asian continent stretched even further eastward beyond
Kamchatka, The question inevitably arose: was there actually a gap between
Asia and America at all, and if so, how wide Was it?
This question was basic to European trading interests, concerning as
it did the shortest route to China and India, and the possible existence of
a northwest passage. European merchants and mariners had to sail either
around the southern tip of Africa or of South America to reach the Pacific
or Indian Oceans. The route to China and India would be cut to one-third
or one-quarter of the distance if a northern route could be found: such a
sea route could exist only if there were a northern passage between Asia
and America.
In 1697, that most famous of Russian tsars, Peter the Great, while
returning to Moscow from a stay in Holland, met with the famous scientist,
Gottfried Leibnitz, in Germany. Leibnitz urged Peter to have maps drawn up,
astronomical observations made, and other, scientific activities initiated
in his country* Most important, Peter was persuaded to set in motion an
investigation of the northeastern coast of Asia to find out whether Asia
and America were joined.
This project was put off for years because of Peter's preoccupation
with matters of more urgent concern - Russia's war with Sweden and Peter's
wide-ranging reforms within his empire. However, his pledge to Leibnitz
was not forgotten. On Peter's death-bed in 1725, he wrote out orders for
an expedition which would go to Kamchatka, and then proceed north along
the coast to determine whether Asia and America were linked by land.
Peter's orders were brief and simple: to' build in or near Kamchatka,
one- or two-decked boats, sail in a" northerly direction to find out where 11
the coast joins with America, proceed to some settlement under European
jurisdiction, learn the name of the coast should a European ship be
encountered, land to obtain more detailed information, draw up a chart
and return.
To head up the expedition, Peter appointed a 44-year old Danish
born captain named Vitus Bering, who had served in Russia's Baltic
Fleet and had been in charge of important transport operations in the
Swedish war.
The first expedition set out in 1725. Compared with the second,
it was modest in scale. When he started, Bering commanded only thirty-
three men. With seventy-five wagonloads of materials, they travelled
by river and overland across the whole of Siberia. On the way, further
supplies were requisitioned and the expedition was reinforced by
soldiers, carpenters, and blacksmiths. Not until July 14, 1728, were
Bering and his men ready to sail from the mouth of the Kamchatka River.
Following Peter's instructions, the first expedition set out
along the Asiatic coast to the north. The farther north they went, the
more the shore turned toward the east, as if to meet America. On the
28th of July, they passed the mouth of the Anadyr River. This was the
most easterly point in Asia about which there was any definite information at that time. There were only some vague rumours from the
natives about lands further to the east.
North of the Anadyr's mouth, Bering discovered a bay beyond which
the shoreline turned sharply eastward and even to the southeast. On
August 6th, Bering's ship, St. Gabriel, was near the mouth of a small
river and had been anchored so that barrels of fresh water could be
taken aboard, when eight natives (Chukchi) approached in a canoe made
of skins. Bering allowed them to come aboard and, with the assistance
of some native interpreters (Koryaks) brought from Kamchatka, began to
question them. Very little communication was possible, as the Koryaks
hardly understood the Chukchi at all. Nevertheless, one very important
fact was learned - the Chukchi knew of the Kolyma River which flowed
into the Arctic Ocean. This especially interested Bering's Russian
assistant, Chirikov; here was evidence that the Pacific was connected
with the Arctic Ocean. However, it turned out on closer questioning
that the Chukchi went to the Kolyma overland, not by water. They did
not know whether it was possible to reach the mouth of the Kolyma from
their settlement by sea.
On August 10th, the coast turned sharply to the Jiorth again.
Chirikov was very glad - perhaps this was the passage to the Arc tic S
When he*mentioned this to Bering, Chirikov was amazed at Bering's
apathetic response:
"Very good. We have found the passage. Asia is not joined
.to America and now we can go back home!"1-
Chirikov protested that they must go right on through the passage
and turn around only when they were convinced they were in the Arctic.
Besides, they were to find out the width of the strait.
1. Nikolai Chukovsky* Bering. Moscow, Molodaia Gvardiia, 196l, p.25.- 12
Bering seemed to agree. The St. Gabriel continued northwards for
three days, but the shoreline did not turn westward. On August 13th,
when the ship reached 650 30*N. Bering called the ship's officers to his
cabin and put to them the question: What to do now? (Strange as it may
seem for those times, it was laid down in naval regulations that in
matters where the lives of a ship's company were at stake, all were to be
consulted on the course of action to be taken.)
Martin Spanberg, Bering's chief lieutenant, proposed that they proceed
north for another three days and then turn back. It was already mid-August,
the summer would end soon, and the St. Gabriel might get caught in the ice.
Chirikov objected. He maintained that the purposes of the expedition
had not been achieved. It was still not clear whether a passage into the
Arctic Ocean had been found and they still did not know how far it was to
America. Moreover, there was no sign of ice yet.
Bering sided with Spanberg, and the St. Gabriel sailed north for
three more days through what is now the Bering Strait. But Bering could
see only one side and could not know that it was really a passage. In
fact, -they were already in the Arctic Ocean. Bering would have only
needed a week or so more to clear up all the questions posed by the Tsar,
but, instead, the expedition turned back.
It has always been a mystery how Bering could not have realized that
Peter's instructions had not been carried out. How could he not have been
aware that he had no definite proof to offer for the existence of a
passage between the two oceans?
Was Bering's haste to return a result of the political situation in
St. Petersburg - the takeover by noble families after Peter's death, the
fall into disfavour of-his proteges, as suggested by Nikolai Chukovskii,
a recent Soviet writer- - or was: it something inherent in the man himself -
a competent sea captain and masterful organizer, who still lacked a spark
of explorer's daring?
Bering's own explanation suggests a degree of prudence later considered
unwise by those to whom he had to report.
"We .... turned back because the coast did not extend further
north and no land was near the Chukchi or East Cape, and there--
fore it seemed to me that the instructions of His Imperial Majesty
of illustrious and immortal memory had been carried out. Had we
gone on and met with unfavourable winds, we might have been prevented from returning to Kamchatka that season, and to have wintered
where we were would not have been wise, because there was no wood
of any kind, and the native population does as it pleases, is not
under Russian control, and has nothing to do with the Russian
tribute collectors,"^
Upon Bering's return to the capital, the Admiralty College studied his
report, and esaily determined that not everything had been completed. He
had proved that Asia and America were not joined south of the 67th parallel,
but what about further north? Besides, he had not seen the coast of
America at all,.and could not, therefore, answer the question of how far
2. in Bering's report, quoted in F.A. Golder. Bering's Voyages, Vol. 1,
New York, American Geographical Society, 1922, p.19. 13
Asia and America were separated.
His leadership was not altogether discredited, as shown by the fact
that he was given another chance. No doubt, it was felt that his experience would ensure that he would do better next time.
Perhaps in an effort to vindicate himself, Bering himself drew up
a proposal for a second expedition. He seemed satisfied that America
and Asia were separate - it was the second part of the original assignment
that he now proposed to complete - finding the distance between the
When final orders for the new expedition were drawn up, it became
clear :that far more than a single ocean voyage would be involved.
The whole-of northern Asia, the Arctic coast of Siberia, and the
North American coast all the way to Spanish America were to be charted.
Bering was to be in charge of all the arrangements, including ship construction for the American voyage and exploration in the area of Japan;
he would have to supervise the hiring, transportation and feeding of
hundreds of people on the journey right across the continent and thereafter. In addition, he was to establish schools of navigation, iron
mines, foundries, depots and housing for his men!
Not to be left out, the Academy of Sciences received approval for
a contingent of specialists to go along to investigate the land and "
peoples of all Siberia and the lands that lay beyond. These scientists
had also to be provided for, although■they were to be independent of
naval command! Thus, Bering had to consult the academicians as woll as
his own crews on all important decisions.
Preparations progressed slowly over the years 1733-1737. All
personnel and supplies again had to be transported in stages across
Siberia. Yakutsk was Bering's-headquarters for three years as he organized the various aspects of the complex venture, and sent men on ahead
to build and repair ships. Hardly anything went forward on schedule;
when Bering's senior lieutenant arrived in Okhotsk in 1.735 to supervise
the completion of ships, he found no ships, no quarters, no food, no
Russian farmers with full granaries, no herds of cattle - and no sign
of the man who had been sent out to prepare all these things.
Not only at Okhotsk did the well-laid plans of the Senate and
Admiralty College miscarry. Instead of being free to lead the expedition
as he should have been able to do, Bering had to spend precious time
around Yakutsk and other places doing the work of a petty officer. He
had to recruit men, requisition horses and supplies, and start them
towards Okhotsk. The local authorities in Siberia either could not or
would not help him. One blamed another; Bering's own officers sided
sometimes with one and sometimes with another. Naturally the authorities
back in St. Petersburg were greatly displeased, At first, they tried
to help Bering by relieving him of control of the scientists who were
involved with the expedition, and of the work of supervising the Arctic
explorations. Nonetheless, month after month went by with comparatively
little headway made. When the undertaking was planned, it had been
assumed that Bering would be ready to sail by 1737. According to Bering's 1.4
first estimates, the cost would be 1.0,000 to 1.2,000 rubles. However, by
1737, he had got no further than Yakutsk, and 300,000 rubles had been
spent! In 1738, the Imperial Cabinet, after taking into consideration
the cost up to that time, the burden imposed on the Siberian people, the
lack of progress, asked the Admiralty College to do something to get the
expedition moving, so that the Treasury would not be further emptied in
The Admiralty had to put the blame on somebody and, justly or
unjustly, blamed Bering, even going so far as to cut his pay in half .
until his ships were launched.
In response to the complaints, Bering sent petitions and letters
explaining his actions and. his powerlessness to act otherwise. With all
these problems, it is not surprising that when the time came for his sea
voyage, Bering was discouraged and worn out, both physically and mentally.
He pleaded ill health and advancing years, and urged repeatedly that a
more capable man be sent in his place.
In June 1740, the two ships for the voyage to America were launched
and named the St. Peter and the St. Paul. Each measured eighty by twenty
by nine feet, had two masts and was brig-rigged, and each carried fourteen guns, with crews of 74 and 75  respectively. All the needed supplies
were loaded on these two vessels and on two freight boats, and in September, the small squadron sailed across the Sea of Okhotsk to the mouth
of the Bolshaya River on the west side of Kamchatka. In October Bering
left the freight boats there because they were not strong enough to weather
the autumn storms, and with the St..Peter and the St. Paul, he sailed
around Kamchatka-, almost losing the ships in a storm, to a newly surveyed
harbour which they called Petropavlovsk after the names of the two ships.
There they spent the winter of 1740-41, waiting for supplies to come
overland from Kamchatka and preparing for the great voyage.
The grandiose plans called for the expedition to winter in America,
thus spending two years on the trip. Therefore, in 1741, a very early
start would be essential, and they would need to take enormous quantities
of food along. To supplement the unsatisfactory fish diet available at
the Pacific coast of Siberia, a large supply of ship's biscuit was
prepared during the expedition's sojourn in Okhotsk.
But this turned out to be in vain. In transit to Kamchatka, the
ship carrying the biscuit was grounded by an inexperienced sailor - all
of the food and most of the other supplies were ruined. Although many,
lesser difficulties had gone before, the loss of the cargo was a major ,
disaster, setting the voyage back another year. The plan for spending a
winter in America had to be dropped. Too much money had already been
spent for"the Admiralty and Senate to have the patience to support and
wait out a two-year voyage. Now- Bering and his men would have to get to
America and back in a single summer.
Yet another stroke of ill fortune that befell the expedition diotated
the- choice of course to be followed from Kamchatka. In the words of Sven
Waxell, Bering's second-in-command on the voyage,
All winter the officers discussed a suggested course of east and
east by north, and. such a course would certainly have been the best 15
for us, as we unfortunately discovered later.. A consultation on
this problem was held between all the officers and mates; this
was also attended by a professor of astronomy, de la Croyere, who
was with the expedition, such being our instructions. He brought
with him to the consultation a map, in drawing up which, as it
later proved, certain false and unfounded information had been
used. This map showed the so-called Juan de Gama's land as lying
to the SE by E of Avacha on latitude 47, 46, and 45 degrees north
and south of that again, and the altered 3?ngLtude east was about
13°. On the basis of the new information given by this map, we
agreed that we ought to touch at that Juan de Gama's land. So we
all approved a course of SE by E as far as latitude 46°N and
longitude 13°E. To this we all put our signature.3
If they had held to the course which the ship's officers had
■advocated at the beginning, they would have reached the American coast
in eight days. The inventions of the armchair cartographers of St.
Petersburg, backed by the Academy, prevented that and contributed to
disaster. The surviving second-in-command.,, writing of the voyage forty
years later, said of Gamaland and the false map: "My blood still boils ^
when I think of the scandalous deception of which we were the victims".
For eight precious days, the expedition sailed south by southeast
in a fruitless search for the non-existent Gamaland; many more days
were to be used to make up for the distance lost on the original course.
On June 1.2th, the two ships drew together and agreed to change course
to east-northeast and sail for America.
At that time, the ships were situated at about 174°E; the nearest
land was 375 miles to the north. Nevertheless the brash and self-
assured Georg Steller insisted that another day on the old course would
bring them to land.
A word of introduction: Georg' Wilhelm Steller was a German
botanist and student of medicine who, drawn to Russia by a desire for
adventure, had started out as a medical advisor to an artillery
regiment. Ee soon developed influential connections in the Academy of
Sciences. In 1.735, when the Academy was preparing to involve itself
in Bering's second expedition, Steller asked to be recommended to take
part in the exploration of Siberia and Kamchatka. He was sure that he
could then persuade Bering in person to allow him to go to America.
Eventually, Bering had consented, knowing that Steller had medical
experience and was;experienced in other sciences. His presence on the
ill-fated voyage was, as we shall see, a mixed blessing. His intelligence
was counterbalanced by  his intolerance and bad temper, especially •-•
toward mere sailors.
His argument over the course to be followed grew so intense and he
became so abusive that the naval officers finally refused to listen to
him - a pity because he would later prove to be right about some things.
3. Sven Waxell. The American expedition. London, Hodge, 1952, pp.101-102.
4. quoted in Robert Murphy. The Haunted Journey. London, Cassell, 1962
p.132. 16
On Juno 20th, during a gale with intermittent fog, the St. Peter
and St. Paul lost sight of each other. For several days, the St. Peter
searched the area as had been previously agreed, but after six days, the
crew decided to resume their north and west course. The two ships did
not meet again. It is the fate of Bering and the St. Peter that we
shall follow. From this point, the fate of the two ships diverges; only
the St. Paul would return, though it too was to suffer losses and much
Fog continued to slow them down, and the water supply began to run
low; to conserve water and rations, the crew's portion was cut to "mush"
twice a day.
By July 1.4th, half the water supply had gone and it was not known
whether the reserve would last until August 25th, the prearranged date
for them to start home. It began to appear that they would have to return
to Kamchatka without seeing land at all.
On the 16th July, the clouds lifted to reveal the massive Alaskan
coastal range capped by an 1.8,000-foot peak which they named after the
saint for that day on the Orthodox calendar - Elias.
There was an excited celebration on the St. Peter, but it did not
include Vitus Bering. When the sighting was reported to him, and he
came up on deck, he simply gazed upon the sight for a while, shrugged,
and turned away. After all the hardship, and trouble, his triumph had
come too late, and he may have felt foreboding as well as exhaustion.
He is reported to have turned from his men when they congratulated him,
giving rise to some disgruntled comments behind his back.
After anchoring a mile off shore, Bering's first interest was to
send the longboat to seek safer anchorage in a sheltered spot. Steller
was most impatient to get on with his explorations. Bering preferred to
look ahead, America had been found; there would be opportunities for
better supplied expeditions to investigate further. Now it was of
primary importance to replenish the supply of fresh water and get ship
and crew back safely.
A furious argument between Steller and Bering ensued. Bering
refused to take responsibility for Steller's safety on shore. He remained
adamant, and Steller threatened to report him to the Admiralty and Senate.
Finally relenting, Bering laughed and gave Steller permission to accompany
the watering party ashore. As Stellar climbed into the boat among the
water barrels, Bering, in a rare moment of comic relief, ordered the-
ship's two trumpeters to blow a fanfare in Steller's honour.
At the first opportunity, Steller jumped ashore, the first man to
touch the New World from the west. Steller took samples of everything.
He worked furiously all day ignoring one direct order to return or be
left behind. He found the remnants of a recent meal scattered about and
a covered pit with bark utensils and food in it. The people had fled
into the woods. He set off again, up hill and down, collecting the
plants he came upon and trying to find good vantage points from which to
view the surrounding land. In just about six hours, Steller succeeded
in describing 1.60 kinds of plants! He was exhausted when he returned to
the ship, and prepared for a great row for staying away so long. Instead, 17
Bering offered him a rare and expensive treat, some hot chocolate.
The next morning, Steller woke up to find that the St, Peter had
set sail again. Later, he wrote exasperatodly in his notes that ten
years had gone by in preparing for the expedition, while he had been
given only six hours to investigate the country "as if all we were there
for was to take back some American water to Asia". Of course, from his
own viewpoint, Steller's indignation was understandable. But events
were to prove Bering right. He expected the weather to change and
determined to get away before it did. If the St. Peter had left the
shores of America even a few days later, it is certain that not one of
the members of the expedition would ever have got back to Russia.
Sure enough, bad. weather set in soon and lasted for several days.
The ship passed the entire length of Kodiak Island without even seeing
it. They finally found themselves close to land on August 2, so close
that they had to call all hands in a hurry to bring the ship about.
The crew, which had grown lackadaisical in recent days, was slow in
responding and some seemed clumsy on the ropes. The close call was not
reported to Bering.
After August 7th, the wind shifted to the west and gave indications
of staying there. Bering's fears of headwinds were being realized.
Worse still, increasing inefficiency of the crew was explained at last
by obvious symptoms of scurvy. Signs of the dread disease developed
among some of the men so rapidly that by August 10th, the ship's surgeon
reported that five of the crew were unfit for duty and that sixteen more
of them were affected and would be off their feet soon if conditions
were not improved. All of the men, including Bering himself, were
showing indications of the disease. Bering called a meeting of his
officers. Autumn was already setting in, the winds were showing signs
of change, they were a long way from home, scurvy had broken out, and
the planned exploration of the American coast was practically impossible
because of the incessant fogs and storms. They decided to start for
home at once, keeping as close to the 53rd parallel as the wind would
permit,     ._
For two weeks after August 1.0th, .the ship followed an erratic
course against the wind. As they were averaging only about seventeen
miles a day, they were two and a half months away from Petropavlovsk
at that rate. This would be disastrous because their water was down
to twenty-five barrels. It was decided to head northward to find land
again. On the 29th, they sighted a cluster., of small islands with the
mainland, about thirty miles beyond, and by evening, the St. Peter
anchored between the islands called Nagai and Near.
Early the next morning, the glow of a fire was seen on another
island a few miles away. One of Bering's lieutenants, Sofron Khitrov,
requested permission to take the ship's yawl and a crew to investigate ■
the fire. Sven Waxell, who was now in charge because Bering was too
sick to be on deck, objected that if a sudden wind came up, Khitrov
would have difficulty returning in such a small boat. Eventually,
Bering was consulted, and agreed that Khitrov might go if he took along
some presents for the natives. On August 31st, Hhitrov became stranded
on shore when the wind came up hard, and it was not until September 2nd
that the longboat could be sent to assist. Altogether, five days were 18
lost waiting for Khitrov and then for the wind after he came aboard,
five days that might have saved many lives later on.
While the Russians were thus anchored down, some Aleuts approached
in kayaks. The officers might have been able to communicate and trade
more successfully with these natives, but they made the mistake of
offering one of the natives a cup of vodka and a lighted pipe. These,
symbols of hospitality were too much for the guests, whose screams
aroused hostility among their friends on shore. It was only with the
greatest difficulty that some Russians who had gone ashore were able
to escape to the ship.
Meanwhile, another fatal mistake had been made. On Nagai, Steller
had found springs and had returned to the beach to guide the water detail
to them. He was. horrified to find the others filling'the barrels from a
stagnant pond close at hand. His protests were to no avail - the men
had heard too many arguments between him and their officers.
An ominous portent of things to come happened at this time, When
the crew members were sent ashore for a respite from the foul conditions
in the hold, one of the sailors died, the first of many.
When the St. Peter was finally able to sail on, the crew had to
fight increasingly strong winds. Not knowing about the southerly curve
of the Aleutians, they were much surprised on September 24th to come
upon some islands. No sooner had they changed course to get away from
the land, which was a terrible danger to the ship at night, than they
were caught up in a violent storm. This built up to a fury by the 27th,
rendering them almost helpless and out of control. The next day, the
storm continued unabated with rain and hail. Giving the men no respite,
a new storm struck from the southwest - no one could remain at his. post.
It was impossible to cook and 'their soggy biscuits began to run out.
When the storm finally began to blow itself out on October 13th, the
ship had been driven south below the forty-ninth parallel, and back
eastward nearly seven degrees of latitude.
What to do now? Would they have to consider wintering in America?
Bering, who was now very ill with scurvy, saw their only chance for
survival in returning to Kamchatka. They had been thrown about dreadfully and scurvy had been spreading quickly. Four more deaths had
occurred, and thirty men were out of action by October 26th, when it
began to snow. From this time, discrepancies began to appear in the
various logs kept on board.  .About that time, the ship was passing into
the Bering Sea through the Aleutian chain. Again nearly all the drinking water was gone, .put this time a proposal to send the longboat ashore
was vetoed because there were riot enough able-bodied men to raise the
anchor again. Soon, not surprisingly, their reckoning became confused -
so badly that they thought they were south of their destination and
turned northwards- again. If they had sailed westwards instead, they
would have reached Avacha Bay in little more than a week. But the
weather and the men's condition prevented them from getting their bearings properly. Men died every day, and the acting commander begged,
instead of issuing orders.
On the morning of November 5th, land'was sighted. Feeble rejoicing
broke out, as the men thought they had reached Kamchatka. This enthusiasm 19
gave way to despair the next day, when it became clear that what they
had taken to be the entrance to a bay was really the open sea between
two islands. They were still lost. Worse, the mainstays had parted
during the night. As nobody was well enough to repair them, the main
topsail had to bo dropped and the main yard lowered to avoid losing the
With almost no food left, and six barrels of bad water, Bering
roused himself sufficiently to consult with his officers once more.
His lieutenants wanted to go ashore in the hope of somehow being able
to survive the winter. Bering agreed that they had suffered terribly,
but pleaded for the men to try for the mainland.
Although the officers said it was impossible - the rigging was
breaking, virtually all the men were off their feet, and the winter
-was setting in - the men voted to follow Bering. According to Steller,
Waxell and Khitrov then began to threaten the crew behind Bering's back
until the decision was reversed.
Once again - disaster!  That night the sea came up suddenly and
broke the anchor cable. The St, Peter was driven toward a reef between
it and the shore, was smashed down twice upon it and then was lifted
over by a huge wave, coming to rest beyond the rocks.
After terrible exertions, they managed to get ashore, although some
of them died as soon as they reached the fresh air on deck. Immediately,
crowds of fearless tame foxes began to torment them, stealing everything
'fchey could carry away, gnawing the soles off boots and mauling the
corpses of the dead. Stellar and another man killed sixty of them in
one day.
: The men dug themselves into enlarged fox dens for shelter. Those
still on their feet were kept busy nursing the sick, and killing foxes,
birds and sea otters to feed the invalids, most of whom found it
almost impossible to eat because their mouths were so sore. For days,
the work of carrying the. sick from the ship to the dugouts went on
whenever the water was calm.
On the 28th of September', a violent storm drove the St. Peter up
on to the beach and stove in her port side below the water line. In a
despairing frame of mind, without timber or hope of rescue, parties
were sent out which confirmed Steller's suspicion that the survivors
were on an uninhabited island, out cf sight of the mainland.
Morale sank even lower, and discipline broke down. Nevertheless,
the dugouts were finally covered with canvas. Bering was too far gone
to recover, despite the better food and the attention that now could be
given to him, and on December 8th, he died.
Thus ended the life of the man chosen by Peter the Great to discover
America, a man who had carried on with fortitude even though he had been driven
more by a sense of duty than a spirit of curiosity and love of adventure.
We are told that he had always been considerate of those under him.
Steller says that he was too lenient with his officers and crews, but at 20
the same time admits that a harsher man would have allowed heartless
exploitation of the natives and ruined all Siberia. Bering himself had
complained that a younger man should have led the Second Expedition.
However, his organizational skill is probably all that kept the expedition together at all.
After Bering's death, things gradually improved for his men. Early
in February, they discovered a dead whale washed ashore several miles
away, which provided them with blubber to supplement their meagre diet
of flour, a few plants to counteract scurvy which Steller was able to
find under the snow, and the occasional meat. Spring brought green plants
which hastened the improvement in the men's health and, in the summer they
managed to capture a sea cow. Meanwhile, Steller was able to carry out
extensive investigations of the island's flora and fauna.
From time to time discussions were held as to how they might refloat
the ship. Finally the new commander, Sven Waxell, suggested that the
St. Peter be broken up so that a smaller vessel could be constructed from
her timbers. This work was undertaken, but progressed very slowly, as
all three ship's carpenters had died of scurvy, leaving only one man
with any experience to offer.
Eventually, on August 8th, 1.742, the crew gathered for the launching
of a new ship, a one-masted thirty-six foot hooker'christened, the St.
Petqr after her predecessor. When the men tried to launch her, the platform upon which she was to slide down the ways broke down under her weight
and the ship stuck. They worked furiously all through the night, giving
up finally in despair when the falling tide left them. The next day they
succeeded at last, Waxell gave a party at Which he served a drink made
by pouring boiling water over a paste of roasted flour and sea-cow f^t.
Even now, the tribulations of the brave men were not over. Part
way to Kamchatka a strong head wind gave them so much trouble that they
had to cut loose the heavy boat they were towing. Then the hooker
sprang a leak and before long the water was rising so fast in the hold
that both pumps could not hold it. It appeared that the crew was about
to drown almost in sight of the mainland. Quickly the men formed two
bucket brigades to bail out water from the hatchways, and sent the
carpenter into the hold to find the leak. After a frantic search, the
hole wa's found and sealed, ending their last brush with disaster..
On August 26th, 1742, the St. Peter dropped anchor in Avacha Bay,
fifteen months after the departure of its namesake, and the Second
Expedition was over, although Sven Waxell and the surviving crew members
did not get back to St. Petersburg until 1749« It took the government
six years to get around to ordering them home!
One of the most important results of Bering's voyage could not
have been foreseen. That was, the discovery of vast numbers of sea otters
during that terrible winter on Bering Island. The rich pelts of this
animal soon became even more avidly hunted than sable fur. Within two
years of the St. Peter's return, a fur-hunting expedition set out toward
the Aleutians, and soon hunting parties were sailing ever further along
the Aleutian chain. From 1743 to 1800, eighty-six Russian fur
expeditions sailed to America. The century of Russian exploration and 21
attempts to settle Alaska which followed Bering's voyage owed much to
the prodigious and tragic efforts of Vitus Bering and his men, which
merit a special place In the history of exploration.
Chukovskii, Nikolai. Bering. Moscow, Molodaia Gvardiia, 196l (in Russian)
Golder, F.A. Bering's Voyages. Vol. I: The Log Books and Official
Reports of the First and Second Expeditions 1725-1730 and 1733-1742.
New York, American Geographical Society, 1.922.
Murphy, Robert. The Haunted Journeyman Account of Vitus Bering's Voyages
•of Discovery. London, Cassell, 1.962.
Waxell, Sven. The American Expedition. London, Hodge, 1.952.
Note: As I have been sparing with footnotes in this written version,
I should additionally acknowledge substantial reliance on Murphy's
description of the Second Expedition.
1972 1972 1972
Those of you planning to visit Port Alberni for the Convention,
which has a well planned and interesting programme might like to know
what lies behind the name 'Alberni'. E. Lesli© Hammer has supplied
us with a background glimpse. Mr Hammer as well as being postmaster
for the West Coast area is also ex Mayor of Port Alberni, a ham radio
operator, an ardent Navy League man involved with sea cadets, and a
member of the Board of Directors of the Alberni Museum and Historical
The name "Alberni", well-known on Vancouver Island, is uncommon
in its homeland, Spain, and almost unknown in former Spanish colonial
areas of North America, such as Mexico and Southern California. Even
Canadians have difficulty in mentally locating geographical features
bearing this distinguished name, confusing Alberni with Albion and even
Alberta; Port Alberni with Port Albion, Port Allison and Port Alfred.
Not so the West Coast people of Vancouver Island, where Alberni is
a household word mentioned with pride, especially by those residing at
the head of the 25 mile long, narrow, twisting Alberni Canal, an
extension of Bark ley Sound. These particular West Coasters are the
25,000 residents of the Alberni Valley including the city of Port
Alberni, British Columbia's third largest seaport, foremost wood-
products centre and gateway to Pacific Rim National Park, Canada's
newest rugged marine wonderland of sand, surf and forest. 22
But what of this name, Alberni? It'is proudly borne by the Navy
League's Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps "Alberni", whose barracks, high
on a headland, dominate Port Alberni Harbour. But the Corps' name,
RCSCC "Alberni" is in recognition of and perpetuates the name of World
War II corvette, HMCS "Alberni", a scrappy short-lived anti-submarine vessel,
which served with distinction in the Battle of the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and Operation Torch before being torpedoed with great loss of life.
Until a few years ago there were two.toWns - twin'.cities - Alberni
and Port Alberni, with a common boundary, so that strangers going from
one to the other were unaware where one ended and the other commenced.
Great rivalry existed with terrific pride in the common name, Alberni,
until they amalgamated in 1967.. A main stipulation of union was that
this name would be retained by the combined city. And so it is today,
Port Alberni.
Where did the name of a scenic "canal", a beautiful prosperous valley,
a thriving, industrial metropolis, and a fighting Canadian warship, come
from? It is an honoured and honourable name of many years ago - not with
a maritime background, nor Canadian, but of an army officer and a Spaniard.
In various archives dealing "with the early history of British Columbia
are to be found copies of Spanish correspondence concerning the arrival of
Don Pedro Alberni and his company of soldiers to Nootka on the West Coast
of Vancouver Island in 1790. Alberni was sent with his troop to Nootka,
as a disciplinary measure for having insulted a high Spanish official in
the Mexican service. The incident arose from Don Pedro's insistence
that the men under his command be treated with fairness and impartiality.
The establishment which the Spanish Empire had at Friendly Cove,
Nootka Sound, between 1.789 and 1795 was the earliest foreign settlement
in the area iww constituting British Columbia, and Spain's northernmost
outpost. Situated on a tiny island it included a small fort consisting
of a parapet with a number of cannon, a small rectangular barracks for
about 40 men, a kitchen, a powder magazine, sentry boxes, surmounted over
all by a tall flagpole flying the colours of Spain.
It was garrisoned by a detachment of volunteers from the Spanish
province of Catalonia commanded by Captain Don Pedro Alberni. His duty,
along with Lieutenant Francisco Eliza who headed the marine portion of the
expedition, was to make the fort secure. The manner in which Alberni
overcame the hostility of the natives and their Chief Maquinna is one of
the outstanding incidents of the history of British Columbia.
A Spanish scientist attached to the establishment. Don Joseph de
Figueroa, in 1792 reported that the industrial genius of Don Pedro Alberni
produced houses, offices and gardens, together with excavated walls and even
aqueducts. Numbers of birds were raised to augment the food supply as a
defence against hunger. Both Eliza and Alberni used considerable diplomacy
and sagacity in re-establishing the goodwill of the Indian people and their
chief, Maquinna. Alberni's efforts were duly recognized and this resourceful and humane Spanish captain eventually returned to Monterey, Mexico,
where he received the high praises of his superiors and promotion to a
One of Alberni's men, exploring the coast south of Nootka Sound, 23
entered what was later called Barkley Sound and finding a channel leading
inward from there named it "Alberni Canal" in honour of his commanding
officer. "Canal" in Spanish means "channel" and the word did not have
the connotation then of an artificial watercourse.
About seven decades later - on June 29, i860, the schooner "Meg
Merrilees" landed nine workmen at the head of Alberni Canal to start
establishment of a settlement and sawmill. On May 22, 1.86l, the new mill
raised steam for the first time. The Victoria "Colonist" of May 23
recorded that "Captain Stamp's place has been named Alberni by the
survey "
In recent years some attempts have been made in both the Old World
and the New, to locate recognized descendants of Don Pedro but without
success to date. However, the Port Alberni Sea Cadets, through the good
offices of the Spanish Ambassador Juan de las Barcenas in Ottawa, sent
a request to Madrid for permission to incorporate the family coat-of-
arms of Don Pedro Alberni into the official naval crest of the Corps.
This request was graciously granted by the Spanish Government and the
Naval Museum in Madrid provided a hand-painted replica of the coat-of-
arms. This formed the basis for the final design of the Sea Cadet crest.
Were the historical figure of Don Pedro alive today he undoubtedly
would be delighted and honoured that his name was being borne by various
geographical features, including a rapidly growing city, and as
recently as April 1972, by a large newly-launched cargo ship in Britain,
the "City of Port Alberni". He would also no doubt, highly approve of
his name and badge being proudly worn by a top-ranking youth training
organization, the Port Alberni Royal Canadian Sea Cadets.
The Saturday trip on the M.V. Lady Rose promises to be a memorable
outing. For those of you who would like some information about this
boat the Alberni Historical Society has thoughtfully supplied the
following information in a Daily Colonist clipping.
The 100-foot long ship which can carry 100 passengers was built in
• 1.937 in Scotland and came to B.C. under her own power. For many years
she served with the Harbor Navigation Company ^steamed all over the
west coast and linked Vancouver Island and-'.the Gulf Islands with the
mainland. In I960 Captains John Mbrirufet arid Hichard McMinn, then working for another coastal shipping line, bought her and the Lady Rose
became a happy.sight on the Alberni Inlet -at small settlements nestled
in-still coves, logging camps and the somewhat larger centres at Bamfield and Ucluelet in Barkley Sound. Her sailing schedule is divided
into two major routes. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays she links Port
Alberni with Ucluelet, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays she sails between
the Alberni Valley and Bamfield. The three hour journey to Bamfield is
occasionally broken as the ship noses into a few points of call to unload
freight or to discharge passengers. There is little excitement on a journey
to the west in the Lady Rose, but somehow very much can be gained in terms
of peace and quiet enjoyment. The passengers are as-varied as the Lady's
past and some of them return again and again to make her a retreat for a
day. 24
Annual Convention, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 25th, 26th, 27th
May 1972 for members and guests to be held in Port Alberni, B.C.
THURSDAY, MAY 25th 1972
7,30 p.m. Informal get-together at Echo 67 Centre, 1.0th Avenue
North and Wallace Street, Port Alberni.
FRIDAY, MAY 26th 1972
9.00 a.m. Meeting of Old Council, Echo 67 Centre.
9.00 a.m. Coffee
1.0.00 a.m. Annual Meeting - Echo 67 Centre.
1.00 p.m. Tour of logging operation, courtesy of MacMillan
Bloedel Limited. Box lunch,
5.00 p.m. Meeting of New. Council, Echo 67 Centre.
8.00 p.m. Echo 67 Centre.
President's Address.
Talk by Margaret Trebett, Port Alberni.
"Folk within Sound of Big Ole"
SATURDAY MAY 27th 1.972
8.00 a.m. Trip down Alberni Canal on M.V. "Lady Rose"
to     Box lunch
4.00 p.m.
6.00 p.m. Reception - Echo 67 Centre
7,00 p.m. Banquet - Speaker, E.G. Stroyan, Nanaimo, B.C
"Romantic Rails", A commentary on the Early History
of Vancouver Island.
Tyee Village Motel - 6/iO mile, from Echo 67.
1.1th Avenue and Redford. Double and Twin rooms $1.4.70, Single $9.50,
Redford Motel - 8/1.0 mile from Echo-67 Centre -
1607 Redford St. Single $9.45, Double $13-65, Twin $14.70.
Barclay Hotel - 1 mile from Echo 67  Centre
729 North 3rd Avenue. Single $8.95. Twin $1.2,60.
Greenwood Motor Hotel - 1.6 miles from Echo 67 Centre.
300 Beaver Creek Road. New Part - Single $10.50, Double $1.2.60.
Old Part - Single $ 4.00, Twin $8.00.
Please, make your own arrangements for travel and accommodation..


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