Illness at Sisters Island c. 1929

As told to me by – Allen Herbert Smithman (Grandson of Henry Herbert Smithman who was Senior Keeper at Sisters Island 1927 – 1929)

Sisters Island lighthouse c. 1929

Henry Herbert Smithman was a keeper of the lighthouse at Sisters Island (November 30, 1927 – February 27, 1929) until he became sick and was moved to a hospital in Victoria, B.C. where he died. I believe, although unconfirmed, that he died of rheumatic fever because my father, one of the four boys that were living at the light alone with their mother (my grandmother) Elizabeth Kate, contracted the same illness but was nursed back to health at home on the light.

My grandmother told me the story that when my grandfather died the “powers that be” would not allow her to stay on at the lighthouse as women were not strong enough to take care of a lighthouse. The cute part was that she was the one looking after the light for the past weeks as well as taking care of her four sons ranging in age from about three to ten. Continue reading

A Trip to Scarlett Point c. 1973

– as told to me by Jean (Bartle) Konkle (daughter of relief keeper Albert Bartle)

I remember going to Scarlett Point one Easter Weekend, the first time we (my husband Rodger and I) had been there. We traveled ten long dusty hours up mostly gravel road to Port Hardy . There we planned to catch a fish boat out to the island. But although the harbour at Port Hardy was glass, nobody would take us out.

Although we couldn’t afford it, we had only the long weekend, so we attempted to charter a helicopter, but they wouldn’t go out in this weather.

32 foot fishboat - photo Ray Morgan

We went back to the fish docks, where we found a 32 foot fish boat to take us out. It leaked diesel, and I lost my breakfast.

When we got to Scarlett, Ralph and Brian came out to meet us in the station boat. The waves were so high, we had to wait until the gunwhales of the fish boat were even with the 14 footer to transfer across. Continue reading

Schooling on the Sisters Lighthouse c. 1927

This story is not only about schooling! This is the whole family helping out to run the lighthouse while tending to daily living. Life on the lighthouse in the early days was anything but fun! – retlkpr

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– Elizabeth Kate (Stannard) Smithman (Wife of Henry Herbert Smithman who was Senior Keeper at Sisters Island 1927 – 1929)

Sisters Island

Children get their schooling by correspondence courses and lessons are supposed to be sent to Victoria every month if its possible. The parents have to be the teacher. I took on that job for we had to have a plan so all of us could get a certain amount of sleep.

We would work it like this: Bert would go to bed right after supper after he lit the light. I would call him about 2:30 or 3:00 a.m. and he would get up and watch from then ’till the light could be put out at daylight. Continue reading

Incidents at Sisters & Ballenas Islands c. 1920s

– Elizabeth Kate (Stannard) Smithman (Wife of Henry Herbert Smithman who was Senior Keeper at Sisters Island 1927 – 1929). Story donated by her grandson Allen Smithman. 

Sisters Island c. 1927 - photo Allen Smithman

A Near Miss at Sisters Island c. 1928 

One evening while I was taking the night watch till 2:30 a.m. I was sitting writing a letter and all at once I heard a lot of noise like a big engine and lots of music playing. I jumped up and went outside and I was struck nearly speechless for there was a big Alaska liner so close to the lighthouse, just over the highest reef in the rocks that was there. 

The music and singing sounded so close. I stood there waiting every second to hear it crash. I thought of the Titanic instantly and I was afraid to even move. My first thought was of course was that the light had gone out but just then I saw a flash go over the liner and I knew the light was OK. It gave me such a scare, I was shaking all over and I went and called Bert to look at the big liner that had just gone right over the top of the reef. He said “My God”! If those people had only known just how close they had come to disaster they wouldn’t be singing like that – of course they would have sung “Nearer My God to Thee” like the people on the Titanic did. (Strange he should think of that disaster too). It was really a pretty sight. (The liner itself I mean) for it was all lit up and it looked like a big long tall Christmas tree.  Continue reading

Book – Last Lights: The Hand-Wound Lighthouses of the Bahamian Islands

The author of this book, Annie Potts, wrote me when I first started this new format of my website. She was enquiring if I had any source for large kerosene mantles for the three remaining Bahamas lighthouses. Unfortunately I did not know of any sources. Continue reading

Minnie Patterson and the “Coloma” off Cape Beale 1906

– Reprinted  courtesy of The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Cape Beale - photo Justine Etzkorn

Cape Beale, . . . a lighthouse which later came to notice in a gallant and romantic rescue resulting from the actions of Mr. and Mrs. Paterson who kept the light from 1895 to 1908.

In December 1906, the United States barque Coloma left the Puget Sound with a cargo of lumber for Australia. There was a gale from the southeast and, cracking on to take advantage of this fair wind to clear the Straits of Juan de Fuca, the old wooden vessel sprang a leak when she encountered a heavy sea off Cape Flattery. With her decks awash, and the gear aloft carrying away as she pitched in an enormous swell, the Coloma was soon unmanageable and hoisted her ensign upside down in token of distress as she drifted down to leeward and the outlying reefs of Cape Beale.

In this position, and doubtless having let go her anchors to the bitter end, the barque was sighted from the lighthouse. The only chance of help lay in alerting the Quadra, then under the command of Captain Charles Hackett, which Paterson knew was lying at anchor in Bamfield Inlet, six miles away. The lifeboat, it will be recalled, was not on station at Bamfield until the following year. Telephone lines were down and the light keeper was unable to leave his foghorn which required constant attention. Although the trail was blocked by fallen trees and lay for much of the distance along a rocky shore. Mrs. Paterson at once insisted on making the journey herself. It was then night, and in darkness and dreadful weather she set off with a lantern and her dog, hoping against hope to be in time.

The plan was to get the news to James Mackay at Bamfield who would row off to the Quadra and raise the alarm. Arriving at the house physically exhausted, drenched to the skin and with her shoes and clothing ripped to pieces, it was found that Mackay was away from home repairing the telephone wires. Nothing daunted, Minnie Paterson and Mrs. Mackay themselves launched the boat and came alongside the Quadra as daylight came. Captain Hackett weighed anchor at once and the Quadra punched her way out of the Inlet against a heavy swell rolling in from the Pacific. Off Cape Beale the wreck was sighted, a boat was lowered under the command of the second officer Mr. James E. McDonald, and the distressed crew were recovered. No sooner had the boat returned to the Quadra than the derelict parted her cables and drove ashore to destruction. Mr. McDonald was promoted to chief officer shortly afterwards.

Immediately after her courageous action, and before the return of the Quadra with the shipwrecked men, Mrs. Paterson walked all the way back to the lighthouse. She had five children to look after and her husband was constantly at work in a period of rain and bad visibility. It was another week before communications were restored, and only then did the Paterson’s learn of the triumphal rescue which had resulted. Unfortunately, the results of Mrs. Paterson’s tremendous exertion soon made themselves apparent and she never entirely recovered, dying five years later.

More information and photos here on the Tofino History website.

Illness at Boat Bluff Lighthouse 1970s

The following memory was passed on to me by Margit Losel. It happened during their time at Boat Bluff in the years 1977 – 1980. They were lucky! They were able to get off and on the lighthouse. Some stations were too isolated for this method to work. – retlkpr

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Boat Bluff c.1970s - photo Ray McKenzie

We were living on Boat Bluff Light and my oldest son Simon was an infant. He developed a very bad case of Croup. One stormy night he all but stopped breathing and we tried frantically to get some help.

We finally managed to get a radio patch through Bull Harbour Coast Guard Radio with a doctor in Bella Bella. The radio reception was so poor that the connection with the doctor broke up all the time, but we did understand that Simon needed medical attention as soon as possible.

Book Review – The Light Between Oceans

A new book has been released about the adventures of a lighthouse family on an Australian lighthouse. The title is The Light Between Oceans. The lighthouse is fictitious as  the story is a fictional and moral adventure, but the reviews show that the author, Ms. M. L. Stedman has a masterpiece here. Read some of the reviews below and see what you think. If anyone has read the book, please comment.

When Tom decides to become a lighthouse keeper, he’s given a placement at Janus Rock. It’s a tough posting on a square mile of green, accessible only by boat, that ”dangled off the edge of the cloth like a loose button that might easily plummet to Antarctica”. The closest community is Point Partageuse, a town long neglected by the outside world until the outside world found use for its young men in 1914. http://www.smh.com.au  Continue reading

Mother’s Day Brunch in Canada 2012

Many Canadians celebrate Mother’s Day by showing their appreciation for Mothers or Mother figures. The Mother’s Day date in Canada is on the second Sunday of May each year and it will be on Sunday, May 13, 2012 this year.

Lighthouse Bistro and Pub, Nanaimo, BC

For all of you living on southern Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada (or in Vancouver) there is a special Mother’s Day Brunch at the Lighthouse Bistro and Pub in Nanaimo, BC (Vancouver island). Continue reading

Triangle Island Light and the HMCS Galiano

Back side of Triangle Island - Jack Bowerman photo from http://www.roughradio.ca

On the morning of October 30, 1918 in the vicinity of Triangle Island lighthouse, the HMCS Galiano foundered and sank.

Not much is known about the sinking, but the story is associated with the Triangle Island lighthouse because that was their last port of call. Triangle Island is remembered as the most remote, isolated, lonely and wind-swept piece of rock in which the government placed a lighthouse.

A friend of mine, John MacFarlane, created a website about all things nautical. In an email notification I learned about an excellent historical record of the HMCS Galiano written by Stephen Rybak.

Here is a taste from the article:

Miss Emily Brunton had been hired by the six bachelors staffing the radio station as a housekeeper. The 35 year–old Miss Brunton arrived on Triangle Island in 1916 and had introduced a little civility and good cooking to the station. It was to be her first trip off the wind-swept and treeless rock in 18 months.

Rybak, Stephen (2012) The Wreck of HMCS Galiano 1918. Nauticapedia.ca2012. 

 

Continue reading by clicking on the Nauticapedia link in blue just above.

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Triangle Island lighthouse was discontinued only a few years later, but an interesting sidelight to the story is that the main light is now on display at the Sooke Regional Museum just outside Victoria, BC. See the photo below:

Triangle Island light - © Alec Provan