Saturday, May 5, 2012
Our Saanich Newcomers Ladies Group went to the Fort Rod Hill National Historic site and Fisgard Lighthouse. What a beautiful view from Southern Vancouver Island Looking south west towards the Pacific Ocean.
We had perfect weather as the rain held off, it was windy.
We learned of the first brave souls that came from England in 1860, a man - George Davies, his wife, Rosina and three children, signed on to man the lighthouse for $150 a year. The government provided very meager rations and primitive furniture. They had to stay one year, no days off.
One year later they moved to Race Rocks Lighthouse. Here is the story of their hardships.
"The first keeper's time at the Race was a very unfortunate one. George Davies and his wife Rosina eagerly awaited the visit of her brother, sister-in-law and three friends on Christmas Day 1865. As the skiff approached with the Davies family watching and waving from the station, a tide rip only 20 feet from the jetty swept the small boat away, capsizing it and dumping the shocked passengers and their Christmas gifts into the water. The station had no boat at this time and each the unfortunate visitors perished. The new year was no better for the Davies family. During the winter of 1866 George became seriously ill. The Union Jack flew at half mast at the station as a signal of distress for nine days but to no avail. George Davies died at Race Rocks shortly before Christmas 1866"
Fisgard Lighthouse and its sister station Race Rocks Light, were constructed in 1859-60, to ease the movement of naval ships into Esquimalt harbour and merchant ships into Victoria Harbour. The light stations were also seen as a significant political and fiduciary commitment on the part of the British government to the Colony of Vancouver Island, partly in response to the American gold miners flooding into the region: some 25,000 arrived in 1858 for the Fraser gold rush.
Local legend claims that the brick and stone used in construction were sent out from Britain as ballast; in fact local brick yards and quarries supplied these materials, while the lens, lamp apparatus and lantern room were accompanied from England by the first keeper, Mr. George Davies, in 1859. The cast-iron spiral staircase in the tower was made in sections in San Francisco.
Fisgard first showed a light from the tower at sunset on 16 November 1860
Fort Rodd Hill - a National Historic Site - is a coast artillery fort built in the late 1890s to defend Victoria and the Esquimalt Naval Base. The Fort includes three gun batteries, underground magazines, command posts, guardhouses, barracks and searchlight emplacements. There are numerous interpretive signs and audio-visual stations, as well as period furnished rooms and friendly, knowledgeable staff. Visitors can explore gun batteries and underground magazines built a century ago, as well as searchlight emplacements, command posts.