Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Coming Ashore

It was just after midday on that July day in 1792 when the explorers anchored the Discovery at the southwestern tip of Quadra Island, off Cape Mudge. They were in sight of a village on a sandy cliff and eighteen canoes surrounded Captain Vancouver and several officers as they rowed ashore.

"On landing at the village...we were received by a man who appeared to the chief of the party. He approached us alone, seemingly with a degree of formality though with the utmost confidence in his own security, whilst the rest of the society, apparently numerous, were arranged and seated in the most peaceable manner before their houses. I made him such presents as seemed not only to please him excessively, but to confirm him in the good opinion with which he was prepossessed; and he immediately conducted us up to the village by a very narrow path winding diagonally up the cliff, estimated by us to be about an hundred feet in height. Close to the edge of this precipice stood the village, the houses of which were built after the fashion of Nootka, though smaller, not exceeding ten or twelve feet in height, nearly close together in rows, separated by a narrow passage sufficiently wide only for one person. On the beach, at the foot of the cliff, were about seventy canoes of small dimensions, though amongst them were some that would carry at least fifteen persons with great convenience."

Sir Joseph Banks commissioned Archibald Menzies, a botanist and physician, to travel with Vancouver and collect ethnographic data. Menzies described the people at Cape Mudge in detail:

"They were slender-bodied and of middling height. The women were "decently" covered with wool or cedar bark garments but many of the men went entirely naked without giving the least offence to the other Sex or shewing any apparent shame at their situation" Menzies wrote.

"Some people were adored with copper and shell ornaments pierced through their ears and the septa of their noses. Others had their hair puffed over with eagle down and their faces painted with red ochre and black glimmer that helped not a little to heighten their ferocious appearance."

There were about twelve houses at Cape Mudge, according to Menzies' count, and all were made from large planks and decorated with painted designs. Some of these abodes were big enough to accommodate several families. Menzies counted the canoes on the beach and estimated the village to have around 350 inhabitants.

The British explorers ended their visit with a walk along the flat benchland to the north of the village. Here they saw several grave houses, which were built from two-meter (seven-foot) planks.

"A few of the Indians attended us in our walk," wrote Vancouver, "picking berries from the trees as we passed, and with much civility presenting them to us on green leaves."

It was at 3:00 a.m. the next morning when the Discovery and the Chatham set sail again, taking advantage of an ebb tide and the continuing westerly breeze. They planned to anchor next at Menzies Bay where they would rendezvous with men Vancouver had sent ahead in the ships' boats so they could explore areas to the north. Vancouver watched the tide race through Seymour Narrows.

"The tide... rushes with such immense impetuosity as to produce the appearance of falls considerably high," Captain Vancouver wrote.

Thanks to the book, The Quadra Story, A History of Quadra Island by Jeanette Taylor for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill


  1. Wow. I am getting to really love history. Great job. I almost felt like I was there.

    1. Thank you Lee. That is a great compliment.