Increased population and ship traffic due in large part to the 1858 Fraser Canyon gold rush necessitated the building of lighthouses to prevent accidents. Fisgard Lighthouse, the first one built, was named after Royal Navy ship HMS Fisgard, and its lantern and first lightkeeper came from England.
The 1860’s were a tumultuous time on Vancouver Island. California forty-niners who hadn’t struck it rich on the Mother Lode sought riches further north. British Columbia quickly became an official colony, with Victoria, only recently incorporated as a city, its capital. A fresh find of gold on the Leech River, near Sooke on southwest Vancouver Island, attracted yet more gold-seekers. Smallpox imported by whites decimated indigenous peoples of the island and coastal mainland: Nuu-chah-nulth (formerly Nootka), Coast Salish, and Kwak’wala.
The lamps shall be kept burning bright and clear every night from sunset to sunrise. First order of duty for lightkeepers, who needed to be natural night owls or keep strong coffee at hand. And this was but one of a long list of their duties, which also included dusting, cleaning and polishing all lamps and reflectors to a proper state of brilliancy, logging all ships that pass by, and taking note of any ships unfortunate enough to wreck. Fisgard’s fourth order Fresnel lens broadcasted its focused beam 10 nautical miles out to sea.
A wrought iron spiral staircase winds gracefully to the second floor, where lenses, lanterns, reflectors, and other lighthouse equipment are displayed, along with written descriptions of the scientific principles that make them work. Downstairs you’ll find photographs of other sentinels of the Canadian coast, the HMS Fisgard in full sail, and a volunteer happy to answer any questions. Additional exhibits tell stories of storms and shipwrecks. Because we were a bit pressed for time, we didn’t watch the video.
Fisgard Lighthouse is still in use as an active aid to navigation, but has been automated since 1929. The causeway connecting Fisgard Island to mainland was built in 1951. Fisgard Lighthouse is open daily year round.
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by Barber E. Lane
Lake Forest, California
February 16, 2003
You walk out to the lighthouse via a gravel pathway and can go into it to view colorful displays of its past history of saving boats and people.
To get to the lighthouse you pass through the Fort Rodd Hill military fort that has historical significance in Victoria/Vancouver Island. You can view century old ramparts of coastal gun batteries, gun turrets, camoflauged searchlights, and underground bunkers. Deer can be seen at dusk during your visit.
For more information check their website at parkscan.harbour.com. Rates to visit are $4/$6 for annual pass, and $2 for children 6 - 12. Family rates are also available.
From journal Flowers, Flowers, Everywhere - Charming Victoria
Rodeo, New Mexico
April 20, 2006
From journal Victoria Heritage
Fort Rodd Hill was built in the late 1800’s, one of a much larger system of defensive artillery positions guarding Victoria and Esquimalt Harbours. Decommissioned in 1956, three batteries and many other very well-preserved buildings still stand on the grounds, overlooking the Juan de Fuca Strait. Handed guide and map after paying admission at the entrance station, we begin our self-guided tour of Fort Rodd.
Past ack-ack artillery and field guns, we enter the 2-story brick 1897-built warrant officer’s quarters. Inside, I’m surprised to find an extensive display about Canadian liberating forces in the Netherlands in 1945. I hadn’t realized that then Crown Princess Juliana took shelter in Canada, giving birth to daughter, Margriet, in Ottawa in 1943.
Also unknown to me was that 7600 Canadians perished during the last 9 months of World War II. I recall my mother telling me about jubilant partying following liberation, dancing till late hours with a handsome Canadian soldier named Roy. But no hanky-panky, she was already engaged to my father, who’d been immediately drafted into a temporary peace-keeping police force when it was discovered he’d fought in the Dutch Underground.
From the Battery Command Post we catch our first glimpse of a Columbia black-tailed deer. This sub-species, similar to mule deer but smaller, is native to Vancouver Island and parts of B.C. They thrive on the acorns of the endangered Garry oak, widely present on Vancouver Island before introduction of non-native plant species in the 1800’s. Later, we’ll see more does and fawns browsing and gamboling.
Passing well-signed, well-preserved barracks, kitchen complete with menu list (appears much superior to C-rations), we end up in the canteen, which now serves as store and snack bar. We learn soldiers enjoyed beer, pickled eggs and pigs’ feet here. We settle for a cinnamon roll.
Both lower and upper batteries were built between 1895-97. Belmont Battery, closer to the shoreline, was built in 1900, to defend against torpedo boats, which might slip under the guns of the two larger batteries. Bombs were stored in underground magazines excavated from solid rock. On shore, we examine remnants of anti-torpedo nets, and a cleverly camouflaged searchlight emplacement, made to look like a boathouse. Prior to radar, searchlights were used to detect enemy targets. We descend stairs to a searchlight engine room, where the soldiers were called glow-worms.
We end our tour at the upper battery, where a five-ton gun barrel (the 1897 original) sits on its emplacement in firing position. The battery also contains loop-holed gate and walls, guardhouse, electric light station, and three concrete pedestals, all that remain of the command post. Entry fee: $4CD adult, $2CD youth – fort and lighthouse