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.

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

A Language Problem

– story from Candy-Lea Chickite

My grandmother loved to tell this one to me. I think she may have had the wrong name of the lighthouse keeper. She said it was her father, or maybe she said her father told her the story – I was young when I heard it but I think it may have been a Mr. Grafton who was the fellow involved. I believe the story is true . . .  (a Thomas Grafton was on Point Atkinson lighthouse from 1889 – 1910 and his dates are right for this story – JC)

Back before the days of radios, when a ship entered the Vancouver Harbour they would use a megaphone and call in the name of their ship to the lighthouse at Point Atkinson

One pitch black evening a horn sounded, the keeper hailed his welcome and asked the vessel to identify itself. 

“Wat-a-matta Maru” was the echoed reply in a heavily accented Oriental voice. 

“I say again, what is the name of your vessel?” hollered the keeper enunciating each work emphatically. 

“Wat-a-matta Maru!” 

“This is the Point Atkinson lighthouse, and I DEMAND you identify your vessel before entering the harbour!” replied the keeper of the light. 

Again, “Wat-a-matta Maru!” was the return call. 

Incensed now, the lighthouse keeper yelled back, “There’s NOTHING the matter with me, WHAT the HELL’s the matter with YOU!” 


Do You Have a Photo of Me Mid-1978?

– Rand Grant (relief keeper on Triple Island June – July 1978)

Melville Island - looking NW from Triple - photo Rand Grant (Flickr)

The story is in reference to the photo at right, Rand writes: 

The large Island is Melville. Prince Rupert lies just beyond this. The tanker is on it’s way into Prince Rupert Port. One of the deepest and busiest on the west coast of British Columbia. 

One evening back in ’78 [while stationed on Triple Island], I noticed an Alaskan Cruise ship on it’s way by. I walked up to the roof; it was a beautiful summer evening; I was curious, so started waving my arms over my head, back and forth. I actually witnessed that ship light-up with so many flash-bulbs that it made me laugh.  Continue reading