Fisgard Island Light, Esquimalt Harbour

Fisgard Island Light, Esquimalt Harbour

by | Jun 18, 2021

Fisgard Island Light Station is located in Royal Roads off the southern shore of Vancouver Island at the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour, about 3.6 miles (5.8 km) west of Victoria and in the community of Colwood, British Columbia. In 1846, Commander James Woods surveyed Esquimalt Harbour on the brig HMS Pandora and named the outcropping of volcanic rock just outside the harbour Fisgard Island, in honor of the assistance he had received from the frigate HMS Fisgard. The island was historically situated 0.1 miles (0.15 km) offshore from Vancouver Island, separated by a channel with strong tidal currents.

In 1790, Don Manuel Quimper of the Spanish navy anchored his ship Princess Royal in the roadstead off the southern coast of Vancouver Island and claimed the territory for King Carlos IV. He called the roadstead Rada de Valdes y Bazan. In 1843, fifty years after Captain George Vancouver sailed through the Strait of Georgia, the Hudson’s Bay Company built Fort Victoria, named after Queen Victoria. In 1846, the roadstead was named Royal Bay by Captain Henry Kellett of the British survey ship HMS Herald. Royal Bay became known as Royal Roads because it was used by sailing ships as a temporary anchorage while waiting to enter Esquimalt Harbour. The Puget Sound Agricultural Company, a branch of the Hudson’s Bay Company, started developing large farms near Fort Victoria, and by the time Vancouver Island was established as a British colony in 1849, Esquimalt Harbour had become a major port and the home of the Esquimalt Royal Navy Dockyard. The lighthouse was built on Fisgard Island in 1860 to guide naval vessels to Esquimalt Harbour and merchant ships to Victoria Harbour. In 1864, guns to protect Esquimalt Harbour were first installed on Rodd Hill, adjacent to and overlooking Royal Roads. On April 1, 1883, a southeasterly gale swept the anchored ships Southern Chief, Gettysburg, Connaught, and Tiger onto the beach south of Fisgard Island.

The lightkeepers lived at the station with their families and routinely rowed across the channel, ferrying all their provisions. In 1898, lightkeeper Joseph Dare drowned during a crossing. Josiah Gosse was Fisgard’s final lightkeeper, but he lived ashore on nearby Esquimalt Lagoon and would row out to Fisgard Island every evening to tend the light. The lighthouse was automated in 1929. In 1951, a causeway between Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Island was built as a military barrier to prevent torpedo attacks on vessels anchored in Esquimalt Harbour. Today Esquimalt Harbour is the home port to the Canadian Maritime Forces Pacific and Joint Task Force Pacific Headquarters. Read more here and here. Explore more of Fisgard Lighthouse and Esquimalt Harbour here:

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