Ports & Harbors, Pacific Northwest
Departure Bay Harbor has been occupied for many years by the first peoples, one of the earliest in the region were a first nations group known as the Snuneymuxw and it has been shown that for at least 2000 years they had lived by the harbor.
The area was first explored by the Spanish from 1770 to about 1790. The area was known as Stil’ilup then. The bay was renamed Departure Bay Harbor, but in 1855, it was shortened to just departure bay. Not long after this, the first known settlers, William Joseph Hughes, Samuel Harris, John and Barbara Christie arrived, it was 1860.
In the late 1860s, coal was discovered in the Wellington area, and Departure Bay became the shipping port for this coal. In the 1870s, coal was discovered closer to the bay itself, and the Vancouver Coal Company set up further operations in the area.
The harbor was a very busy place, did you know the first telephone to operate in British Columbia was set up connecting the coal wharf in the Harbor with the mine operations at Wellington. Departure Bay had many mining companies who shipped from the harbor, these included The Harewood Coal Company, The Departure Bay Mining Company, and the Vancouver Coal Company.
The Hamilton Powder Company had an explosives plant in the harbor. The manufacturing of black powder was a dangerous operation and in 1903, two huge explosions destroyed the plant with 12 men losing their lives.
When ferries first began to use the harbor, they were for short local runs. The first ferries to connect to Vancouver were operated by the C. P. N. Company, these ferries ran until the 1950s, that was when the province started its ferry service, it still operates today.