NOOTKA is the first comprehensive history of the mountain regions of
Vancouver Island. It recounts the tales of the early explorers, prospectors,
surveyors and mountaineers as they pushed into ever more remote regions
of Vancouver Island. In the introduction Sandy Briggs, a well known
Vancouver Island mountaineer and arctic adventurer writes: "BEYOND NOOTKA
guides its readers through a history not previously available in one volume
and reveals several surprises from interviews with the mountain pioneers."
The first two chapters cover the periods 1579 - 1892 and 1894 - 1910. It begins with the possible sighting of Vancouver Island by the famous British navigator Sir Francis Drake to contact with the First Nations People by the Spaniard Captain Juan Perez off Estevan Point and the landing by Captain James Cook at Nootka Sound to the purchasing of land by Captain John Meares from Chief Maquinna. Due to land claims on the west coast by both Spain and Britain, a war between the two almost broke out but was quelled by the signing of the Nootka Convention. Eventually the British government granted Vancouver Island to the Hudson's Bay Company on the understanding that they establish settlements on the island within five years. Thus began the age of exploration on Vancouver Island.
Explorers such as Captain Hamilton Moffat, Adam Horne, Joseph Pemberton, Dr. Robert Brown, John Buttle, Joe Drinkwater and Rev. William Bolton traversed the island in various places, some covering old native trade routes while others endured the challenges of exploring completely uncharted regions. In one of the stories it is suggested that John Buttle, the commander of the 1865 Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition and thought to be the first European to see Buttle Lake, the crown of lakes on the island, was in fact looking at Great Central Lake. Other stories deal with the meetings between the explorers and Indians. In 1856 Adam Horne's party paddled canoes to the mouth of the Qualicum River and there hid while a large party of Haida Indians approached the river. After waiting several hours the Haida finally came back into view, renting the air with shouts and yells and holding human heads by the hair. This was one of the worst massacres on the west coast.
Of course not all the explorers had to deal with such atrocities. Many hired the native people as guides and without their aid would not have been as successful as they were. In some cases it was the hardship of the weather and environment that they had to deal with. The hardships endured can only be judged by the names they gave to some of the rivers: Misery Creek, Hungry Creek, Famine River and Starvation Creek.
It was the reports from the early explorers which led the British Columbia Provincial Government to propose that a park be established in the interior of the island. In 1910 an expedition was organized to visit the area around Buttle Lake and during the course of the expedition Crown Mountain was climbed. On this expedition twenty year old Myra Ellison was the first to reach the summit. One year later Strathcona Park, British Columbia's first provincial park, was established.
The last chapter covers the topographical surveyors who surveyed the mountain regions of Vancouver Island between 1913 - 1941. Their achievements have been little acknowledged but their detailed maps that they spent years compiling information for have become objects that we take for granted. Little do we realize the effort that went into these maps, maps that we are wise to always take into the mountains.
in BEYOND NOOTKA are not all full of "pitons" and "belays."
The major themes of climbing on Vancouver Island have been covered - from
its struggles and disappointments to its sense of camaraderie, triumph
and humour. From the long warm summer climbs to the harrowing accounts
of trying to achieve first winter ascents, BEYOND NOOTKA brings
to life the true emotional feel of a successful climb. BEYOND NOOTKA
has a complete bibliography, footnotes for those interested in further
research, copies of some of the old explorers' maps dating back to 1792
and a lots of historical black and white photographs and colour photographs
of modern climbers in action on the mountains of Vancouver Island.