Home > CCS in Canada, September, 2014

20 April, 1771

 
Uchuck tied up at Friendly Cove

Marker on the rock of the Cook landing to the entrance to Friendly Cove

 

On an unusually hot and sunny September 6, 2014, twenty-nine fervent admirers of Captain Cook went on a pilgrimage to see the site where Cook landed on Canada’s west coast.  The trip was inspired by Randy Komar, who in March of 2014, held the first meeting of the West Coast chapter of the Captain Cook Society in Parksville.    

 

Cook arrived on the west coast at Nootka Sound in Resolution, accompanied by Discovery.  George Vancouver was serving under Cook as a midshipman, and 14 years later he was to command another Discovery and return to Nootka to negotiate a treaty with the Spanish.  As a captain in the Royal Navy, Cook’s orders were to voyage up the Pacific coast for the purpose of locating the fabled Northwest Passage that, it was believed, would facilitate easier trade between Europe and the Orient.  He found Nootka Sound quite unintentionally; he needed a sheltered cove where Resolution could be repaired.  This unplanned stop was to have implications far beyond any he might have imagined.  While there, he met Chief Maquinna, and is credited with being the first European to make contact with Maquinna’s people, the Mowachaht.  As the Mowachaht were eager to trade with the sailors, this resulted in Cook being given a number of sea otter pelts which, unbeknown to him, would precipitate an avalanche of trade over the next 25 years, effectively wiping out the northwest coast sea otter population. 

 

Graeme and Avis Browne, with Maggie Komar behind

 

It was a diverse group of enthusiasts that gathered in Gold River on the evening before the trip to honour Cook’s achievements.  Although many had come from Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland, a few came from as far away as California.  One couple, Graeme and Avis Brown, had even travelled from New Zealand to share in the adventure.  Brown is a numismatist, who brought with him a rare artifact connected with Cook—a medal depicting the ships Resolution and Adventure.  Two thousand of these medals were struck by Joseph Banks.  They were meant to be distributed anywhere that Cook landed and today a number have been located throughout the world, including one that was found on Nootka Island. 

 

Randy Komar and Captain Cook

 

There was another surprise awaiting everyone Saturday morning—a fellow bearing an uncanny resemblance to the explorer was waiting at the Gold River dock for the group to arrive.  The surprise had been planned by Get West to welcome the Cook retinue, who would be taking their working coastal freighter, Uchuck III, west through the Muchalaht Inlet to historic Yuquot / Friendly Cove. 

Uchuck departed under clear skies.  Local historic interpreter Chuck Syme was on board and available to answer questions.  Also on board was Margarita James, President of the Land of Maquinna Cultural Society, Mowachaht / Muchalaht First Nation.  Once we reached the head of the Inlet, the freighter rounded Bligh Island, entering Nootka Sound, and the iconic lighthouse came into view.  Up the hill at the little white
church visitors to Yuquot were formally welcomed by James, who recounted the history that the Mowachaht Nation, many of whom resided on Nootka until the early 1960s, shared with the early visitors from British, Spanish, American and French ships.  Some had come to trade and others wished to claim the land as their own. 

 

The small church is an apt representation of that shared history; adorned with aboriginal totems and stained glass windows donated by the government of Spain.  It had been built in 1954, after the original church constructed in the late 1890s had burned down.  In the early 1950s, the Mowachaht Nation of the Nootka region amalgamated with the Muchalaht Nation, and most people were relocated to reserve lands in Gold River.  Only Ray and Terri Williams remained on Nootka Island, and still live there today, guardians of the sacred landscape, their centre of the world.  Their son Sanford, a master carver, resides with them there in summer where he produces outstanding wood carvings that are becoming world renowned.

 

Chuck Syme offered to take the group up to the lighthouse where it was possible to view the Cook Memorial.  That memorial had been placed at the southern-most tip of Nootka Island in 1924 in honour of Captain Cook’s visit.  On the return trip up Muchalaht Inlet, Uchuck slowed down at Bligh Island so that passengers could view the plaques that had been put into place in the 1970s to commemorate Cook’s month long stay in the bay where Resolution had undergone a refit.

 

Catherine Gilbert

Group photo outside the church.  The two people on the right side of the photo were on the boat at the time and not part of the group, but decided to sit in on the photo shoot !


Originally published in Cook's Log, page 12, volume 38, number 1 (2015).

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