Discovery Island - Victoria BC Canada

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Lightkeeper's rescue of diver renews criticism of automation

Vancouver Sun Nov 22, 1995.

The rescue of a scuba diver by the lightkeeper at Discovery Island has led to renewed criticism of the federal government's plan to automate West Coast lighthouses.

In the second rescue by a B.C. lightkeeper in less than a month, a Parksville man was pulled to safety after he was swept away by strong currents while diving for sea urchins.

Three weeks ago, a coastal parish priest was saved by the lightkeeper at Nootka Island after his motorboat struck a submerged rock.

Critics of the federal plan to cut costs by removing the keepers from Canada's lighthouses said Fisheries Minister Brian Tobin should review the policy following the incidents.

``It proves the point that we need people on the lights,'' B.C. Senator Pat Carney said from Ottawa on Tuesday. ``It is a life and death issue, it isn't pretty postcards as the minister seems to believe.''

North Island MP John Duncan said the incidents are ``confirmation of all the best parts of having lightkeepers out there...I'm horrified to imagine the coast without their presence.''

Tobin announced in August the staff would be permanently removed from 18 lighthouses on both coasts. Discovery Island is among the eight B.C. lights to be automated next year.

Lightkeepers will stay at the remaining 52 staffed lights until Tobin is convinced they can be automated without endangering the lives of mariners and pilots.

The federal government says it will spend $3.8 million to automate the 18 lights but after that there will be savings to taxpayers of $1.8 million annually.

Ottawa is going ahead with the automation plan despite almost unanimous opposition from B.C. MPs, MLAs, mayors, commercial fishers, pilots, recreational boaters and the RCMP.

The lightkeeper at Discovery Island in Juan de Fuca Strait near Victoria said he began searching for two missing divers after hearing a Vancouver Coast Guard radio broadcast about the incident Monday at 4:30 p.m.

The two men had been diving from the vessel Talon, skippered by Lynn Smith. When they failed to resurface, Smith put out a distress call.

``I sent my junior up the tower immediately with a pair of binoculars and he spotted one of the divers,'' Pat Mickey said. They brought the man ashore and took him into the lighthouse.

``He was totally exhausted, he basically collapsed,'' Mickey said. ``Had we not been there, he would have spent the night on the island. I don't know what he would have done.

``It would have been very serious.''

The diver, John Hodgson, was later picked up by Smith from the lighthouse. He was believed to be in good condition but could not be reached for comment.

The second diver, Ken Klein, had crawled up on to a rock and was rescued by Smith.

Mickey said he has also rescued boaters while serving at the Race Rocks, Chrome Island and Sisters Rocks lighthouses, and he wonders who will do the job when he and his colleagues are gone.

``What is going to replace us? What is going to be able to see a person out there? You tell me that and I'll gladly leave,'' he said.

Article by Stewart Bell.

(Vancouver Sun 1995)

Despite hearings, Ottawa won't budge

Times Colonist  Feb 2, 1995

Twenty-seven communities later, after 27 crowded halls and auditoriums, the travelling Coast Guard roadshow looking into lighthouse destaffing has completed its peregrinations. "It seemed like just one community," commented committee member and lightkeeper Donald Graham as fishermen and yachties lingered d in Sanscha Hall after the final meeting last Friday night. He didn't mean because community halls, with their linoleum floors and metal chairs, all look the same after a while. It was because Graham and the rest of the committee heard the same message at every whistlestop: We need lighthouse keepers because they are vital to the safety of coastal boaters.

In fact, the public refused to play by the rules as set out by Coast Guard, which wanted to know how it should destaff, not if it should. For Canadians, it was a surprising act of defiance; when given two choices (an automated system or a solar-powered, automated system), we opted for Door No .3.

But Door No. 3 will continue to be locked, despite the petitions and letters and verbal appeals. Although the final report won't be complete until March, many of the keepers are already making plans to leave. Tom and Vera Carr, guardians of the Discovery Island light station, have already moved their belongings to their Sidney home. Carr, a registered meteorologist with 31 years in the service, asked to be transferred to a weather station when he moved south from Langara Island. "They said they didn't need that," he said. Indeed, the paper propaganda available at the hearings read: "Environment Canada has indicated that they use lighthouse observations to verify forecasts, but the observations are no longer required for the forecasts."

Apparently, 12 new automated stations (on land) will be added to replace the human weatherwatchers."Our weather can change within five minutes," contends Carr,"The machines just can't stand up to that." Fishermen at the hearings agreed with him. The automated weatherstation at Cape St. James, located at a critical point near Johnstone Strait, is down so often, boaters joke the buoy should be called "not available."

One significant development that could make the more accessible lighthouses self-sufficient is tourism. What Carr didn't expect when he came to Discovery Island in 1983 was that he and his home would be tourist attractions. "That's the trend," he said, "They're going to lose a big market." Carr said that the annual number of visitors has jumped from about 50 when he arrived to close to 700 people now.

But coast guard doesn't want suggestions. The management suffers from what Graham calls "technological determinism,"convinced that human guardians are obsolete. Most galling is the padded Ottawa bureaucracy picking off its own footsoldiers.

Meanwhile, with lightkeepers vacating their posts, the Canadian Coast Guard has imposed new regulations on safety equipment for boats up to six metres and passenger boats up to five tons. Flares are no longer necessary. In their place, boaters should carry towing rope (three quarters of the boat's length), a waterproof flashlight and a small signal mirror. These new rules come into effect this summer.

(Times Colonist  1995)

Lit up for life

The Daily Colonist, Friday, August 8, 1980

Once a discovery Island light station beacon for mariners, seven-foot cast iron lantern is unveiled at new location Thursday morning by federal transport Minister Jean-Lue Pepin, left, during official opening ceremonies at $10-million Canadian Coast Guard depot on Dallas Road.

(The Daily Colonist. 1980)

Discovery Island Gift Now Officially a Park

Victoria Daily Colonist Jul. 29, 1972

(Victoria British Colonist 1972)

Fine Marine Park In Island Future?

The Daily Colonist, Thursday, January 26, 1967

British Columbia may be the proud professor of the may fine marine park in the near future once the fate of Discovery Island is settled. The Island off Ten Mile Point, across baynes channel from the mainland, was the home of philanthropist Capt. Ernest Godfrey Beaumont the 91-year-old benefactor to his adopted province who died Tuesday.

Captain Beaumont shared the island with the government which owns the land where the lighthouse stands any Indian reserve which occupies the northern half of the island about 90 acres.

Southern Part the Southern 70 acres of the island with its generous base clubhouse, bunkhouse, small boat jetties and the home were Captain Beaumont lived for 49 years is the area in question Capt. Beaumont was no one to have been considering leaving his island to the Queen and dust to the people of British Columbia until his will has been probated, it is too soon to conjecture on the possibility.

Precedent however the old safarer and gentlemen a venture established some precedent for this belief by his bequest within the last few years about 350 acres of Lake Forest and Beach at Lake Frazier to the Queen and his endowment of 38 acres of Bedwell Harbor on South Pender Island for use as a marine park.

in his years as a squire of discovery Island he estimated more than 20,000 people visited there many of them scouts, cadets or church groups.

Funeral Saturday the island is covered largely by lush forest green meadows and fine clamming beaches which rim the section owned by Capt. Beaumont goats and sheep owned by the Indians roam the island freely.

funeral services for Capt. Beaumont will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the lady chapel of Christ Church Cathedral.

(The Daily Colonist. 1967)

King of the Ialanders Dead

Victoria Daily Colonist, Jan 25, 1967

(Victoria British Colonist 1967)

Searchers Fail to Find Engineer of Wreck Boat

Victoria Daily Colonist, Dec. 5, 1950

(Victoria British Daily 1950)



The British Colonist October 22 1907


Discovery Island Lightkeeper Succors Old Man Almost Dead From Privation


On Thursday last , Mrs . Croft . the keeper of the  Discovery island lighthouse, observed a small boat with a single occupant , stranded on the . rocky shore line a short distance away and hastening down to the beach found an old man named Steverson . He was very weak and almost unconscious Summoning help Mrs. Croft had the old man conveyed to the lighthouse where he was given nourishment and warm clothing. When ho had recovered sufficiently to talk he said that three days previously he and another man, each in  a  small boat set out. fishing In the neighborhood, of San Juan Island. They separated In the heavy fog and had lost his bearings completely  he pulled In every direction in the hope striking and until ho became exhausted  when he was compelled to give up In despair and let the boat drift. He suffered greatly from hunger and thirst and exposure, and would not have lived much longer when he was fortunately sighted from the lighthouse Mrs. Croft kept him at the lighthousefor two days at the end of which I time he had recovered sufficiently to enable him to make the trip to his home on Lopez island. He is very I grateful to Mrs. Croft for her very timely assistance and kind treatment. During the fog another fisherman I had a trying experience and was picked  up by the steamer Oscar. He had started alone from  James bay at  o'clock Monday afternoon In a small dingy the sun at the time being shining brightly. Soon after getting be yond Brochie ledge  however , the fog shut down and after rowing for several hours the fisherman became lost. Night came on and the fog shutdown thicker at 8.2Opm he heard the sound of engines and by shouting at tractel the attention of those on board the steamer Oscar Which picked him tip and took his little boat in tow.


(Victoria British Colonist 1907) 




The British Colonist September, 25, 1896


To The EDITOR:  In your paper of the 23rd Inst. I notice a report of the steamer Sadie's visit to this station It says the alarm was not sounding until the steamer was in view from the shore. I beg to state that this is not true. The alarm was sounding all day and was sounding when the steamer came. It is possible however that they may not have caught the sound until nearing the shore on account of the blustering southwest wind which was blowing at the time , which would carry oft the sound . Be that as it may the alarm was sounding all right. and just here let me say that we sound the alarm continually both I night and day , while there is fog or smoke around.


Richard Brinn,


Discovery Island, Sept. 25, 1896.


(Victoria British Colonist 1896)