Chrome Island

Chrome Island Light Station, BC
Chrome Island Light Station, BC, photo by Bud Logan

Chrome Island with its light station can be found in the northwest corner of the straight of Georgia, its light station protects the waters at the entrance to Baynes Sound, between Vancouver Island and Denman Island. In early maps, Chrome Island was known as Yellow Island. This was due to the color of the sandstone along the shoreline, it would glow yellow in the evening sun. The Pentlatch people have carved many petroglyphs in this sandstone, this is the best display on the west coast. You can see quite a variety including Puffins and other animals, plus many mythical creatures. During the construction of the light station in 1890, many of these carvings were destroyed. One must wonder what they looked like.

The light station was built to guide in coal ships and the contract to build it was awarded to Bittencourt of Nanaimo, but they failed to get it built and the department of marine had to complete the project. It was finished, and the light was lit on New Year’s Day, 1891. The light would flash three times over and over and could be seen for up to 17 miles. The first keeper was Tom H. Piercy.

Tom stayed on the island up till 1898 at which time a William Mcdonagh took over as keeper. William was the only keeper for a few years but was there when the Alpha wrecked herself on the rock. She had a hold full of salted dog salmon that was bound for Japan and was on her way to Union Bay to pick up coal for the journey. Captain Yorke, a crew of 31, and the ship’s owner, Sam Barber were on board, Sam planned on selling the old girl for scrap after delivering her load of fish. Although a Japanese crew member twice warned that the ship was headed straight towards yellow rock island, the captain was one of those who never trusted his crew and ignored the warnings. The Alpha ran into Yellow Rock just after midnight, December 16, 1900.

Killer Whales, Chrome Island, BC
Killer Whales, Chrome Island, Baynes Sound, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

After the crash, the ship’s quartermaster, Mister Anderson, swam to the island towing a rope and attached it to the shore, then 25 of the crew used this rope to climb to the island. Sam Barber, Captain Yorke, and 5 other crew members stayed on board to wait for rescue, they climbed into the rigging on the mainmast, the other crew members begged them to come ashore to no avail.  The sea was rough and after a short while, the mast snapped off and the 7 men lost their lives to the cold and rough seas. The ones who went ashore were cared for by the lightkeeper until they were picked up.

Yellow Rock was renamed Chrome Island in 1940. The light station still is in use today, protecting mariners as they enter or leave Baynes Sound.

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