Chrome Island

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Chrome Island, BC coastal region

Chrome Island Light Station, Pacific Northwest
Chrome Island Light Station, 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 sand stone, 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 build to guide in coal ships and the contract to built 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 lite on new years 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 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 ships 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, Banes Sound, Pacific Northwest
Killer Whales, Baynes Sound, Photo By Bud Logan

After the crash, the ships quartermaster, a Mister Anderson, swam to the island towing a rope and attached it to the shore, then 25 of the crew used this rope to shinny onto 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 light keeper till 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.

The waters around Chrome Island are full of sea life, there are many tour operators in the area that can take you out whale watching.