1860: The Debut of a Trailblazing Lighthouse in Canada

November 16, 1860

The first permanent lighthouse on the western coast of Canada made its debut just off Vancouver Island, which was a separate British colony at the time and not yet integrated with British Columbia as a single government unit. Fisgard Lighthouse, located at the narrow entrance to Esquimalt Harbor on the island’s southern tip and only about seven miles (11.3 kilometers) from what was then the town and colony capital of Victoria (the present-day capital city of the Canadian province of British Columbia), was first officially lit by its inaugural keeper George Davies at sunset.   

This lighthouse was specifically built on an outcropping of volcanic rock that had been named Fisgard Island in honor of the British frigate HMS Fisgard; the source of inspiration for that ship’s appellation was the Welsh town of Fishguard.

The need for a formal and fixed navigational aid for vessels in and near the often perilous waters of Esquimalt Harbor had become all the more urgent starting in the late 1850s after gold was discovered in British Columbia. Vancouver Island and in particular Victoria developed into a heavily visited way station for the large number of people sailing to British Columbia in search of wealth. The construction of Fisgard Lighthouse to help make the region safer for that ever-increasing maritime traffic became a top priority.

That cone-shaped tower, which was automated in the late 1920s, also serves a key military purpose; originally a beacon for the Pacific Squadron of the British Royal Navy, it is now home base for the Royal Canadian Navy’s Maritime Forces Pacific. Fisgard Lighthouse was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1958 and remains a popular tourist attraction for those visiting that part of the Pacific Northwest.

Photo Credit: Gulielmus at English Wikipedia (licensed under the Creative Commmons Attribution 2.5 Generic license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/deed.en)

For more information on Fisgard Lighthouse, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fisgard_Lighthouse_National_Historic_Site

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