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A NASA image of Vancouver Island
Cities of Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island is a large island in British Columbiamarker, Canadamarker, one of several North American regions named after George Vancouver, the British Royal Navy officer who explored the Pacificmarker coast of North America between 1791 and 1794.

The island is in length and in width at its widest point. It is the largest island on the western side of North America at and the world's 43rd largest island, Canada's 11th largest island and Canada's second most populous island after the Island of Montrealmarker, which has 1.8 million more people. The 2001 census population was 656,312. British Columbia statistics in 2008 estimated the population at 740,876. Nearly half of these (331,491) live in Greater Victoria. Other major cities on Vancouver Island include Nanaimomarker, Port Albernimarker, Parksvillemarker, Courtenaymarker, and Campbell Rivermarker.

Geography and environment

Vancouver Island is located in the southwestern corner of the province of British Columbia. It is separated from mainland Canada by the Strait of Georgiamarker, Johnstone Straitmarker, and Queen Charlotte Straitmarker, and from the United Statesmarker by the Strait of Juan de Fucamarker. To the west of the island is the Pacific Ocean.

The Vancouver Island Rangesmarker run most of the length of the island, dividing it into a wet and rugged west coast and a drier, more rolling east coast. The highest point in these ranges and on the island is the Golden Hindemarker, at . Located near the centre of Vancouver Island in Strathcona Provincial Parkmarker, it is part of a group of peaks that include the only glaciers on the island, the largest of which is the Comox Glaciermarker. The Golden Hinde is also part of the Karmutsen Formation, which is a sequence of tholeiitic pillow basalts and breccias. The west coast shoreline is rugged and in many places mountainous, characterised by its many fjords, bays, and inlets. The interior of the island has many lakes (Kennedy Lakemarker, northeast of Uclueletmarker, is the largest) and rivers. Vancouver Island formed when volcanic and sedimentary rock scraped off the ancient Kula Plate and plastered against the continental margin when it was subducting under North America 55 million years ago.

The climate is the mildest in Canada, with temperatures on the coast even in January being usually above . In summer, the warmest days usually achieve a maximum of 28-33 degrees Celsius. However, the rain shadow effect of the island's mountains, as well as the mountains of Washingtonmarker's Olympic Peninsulamarker, creates wide variation in precipitation. The west coast is considerably wetter than the east coast. Average annual precipitation ranges from 665 centimetres (260 in) at Henderson Lake on the west coast (making it the wettest place in North America) to only 64 centimetres (25 in) at the driest recording station in the provincial capital of Victoria on the southeast coast's Saanich Peninsulamarker. Precipitation is heaviest in the autumn and winter. Snow is rare at low altitudes but is common on the island's mountaintops in winter.

A notable feature of Vancouver Island is the extension of Mediterranean-type summer dryness to latitudes as high as 50°N. Only in the extreme north of the island near Port Hardymarker is the rainfall of the driest summer month as much as one fifth that of the wettest months from November to March. West coasts of other continents at similar latitudes have a practically even distribution of rainfall through the year.

Vancouver Island lies in the temperate rainforest biome. On the southern and eastern portions of the island, this is characterized by Douglas-fir, western red cedar, madrone, Garry oak, salal, Oregon-grape, and manzanita; moreover, Vancouver Island is the location where the Douglas-fir was first recorded by Archibald Menzies; Vancouver Island is also the location where the tallest Douglas fir was ever recorded. This southeastern portion of the island is the heavily populated region of Vancouver Island and a major area for recreation. The northern, western, and most of the central portions of the island are home to the coniferous "big trees" associated with British Columbia's coast — western hemlock, western red cedar, Pacific Silver Fir, yellow cedar, Douglas-fir, grand fir, Sitka spruce, and western white pine. It is also characterised by bigleaf maple, red alder, sword fern, and red huckleberry.

The fauna of Vancouver Island is similar to that found on the mainland coast, with some notable exceptions and additions. For example, grizzly bears, mountain goats, porcupines, moose, skunks, coyotes, and numerous species of small mammals, while plentiful on the mainland, are absent from Vancouver Island. The island does support most of Canada's Roosevelt elk, however, and one species — the Vancouver Island Marmot — is unique to the island. The island's rivers, lakes, and coastal regions are renowned for their fisheries of trout, salmon, and steelhead. It has the most concentrated population of cougars in North America.

Vancouver Island lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire,making it the most seismicly active region in Canada. In 1946, the Forbidden Plateaumarker in the east of the Vancouver Island Rangesmarker was the epicenter of an earthquake that registered 7.3 on the Richter scale, the strongest ever recorded on land in Canada. See 1946 Vancouver Island earthquakemarker.

Vancouver Island was the location of the observation of the episodic tremor and slip seismic phenomenon.


Indigenous people

Vancouver Island has been the homeland to many main indigenous peoples for thousands of years. These are the Kwakwaka'wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Coast Salish. Kwakwaka'wakw territory includes northern Vancouver Island, with parts of the mainland, then Nuu-chah-nulth spanning from the northern western part of the island, to the south, covering the west coast, and Coast Salish covering the lower eastern part. Their cultures are connected to the natural resources abundant in the area.

European exploration

Europeans began to explore the island in 1774, when rumours of Russianmarker fur traders caused the Spanish to send a ship, the Santiago north under the command of Juan José Pérez Hernández. In 1775, a second Spanish expedition under the Peruvian captain Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra was sent.

Vancouver Island came to the attention of the wider world after the third voyage of Captain James Cook, who landed at Nootka Soundmarker of the island's western shore on March 31, 1778, and claimed it for the United Kingdommarker. The island's rich fur trading potential led the British East India Company to set up a single-building trading post in the native village of Yuquotmarker (Friendly Cove) on Nootka Islandmarker, a small island in the sound.

The island was further explored by Spainmarker in 1789 by Esteban José Martínez, who built Fort San Miguelmarker on one of Vancouver Island's small offshore islets in the sound near Yuquot. This was to be the only Spanish settlement in what would later be Canada. The Spanish began seizing British ships, and the two nations came close to war in the ensuing Nootka Crisis, but the issues were resolved peacefully with the Nootka Convention in 1792, in which both countries recognized the other's rights to the area. Supervising the British activities was Captain George Vancouver from King's Lynnmarker in Englandmarker, who had sailed as a midshipman with Cook, and from whom the island gained its name.In 1792, the Spanish explorer Dionisio Alcalá Galiano and his crew were the first Europeans to circumnavigate Vancouver Island.On April 8, 1806 Captain John D'Wolf of Bristol, Rhode Island sailed the Juno to Newettee, a small inlet in the northwestern promontory of Vancouver's Island. The Captain described Newette as one of the southernmost harbors frequented by American fur traders at lat. 51 degrees N. and long. 128 degrees. He relates that since Captain Robert Gray of Tiverton, Rhode Island sailed the Columbia River in 1792, the trade of the Northwest coast had been almost entirely in the hands of Boston merchants, so much so that the natives called all traders "Boston Men." While we know this island today as Vancouver Island the English explorer had not intentionally meant to name such a large body of land solely after himself. In his September 1792 dispatch log report for the British Admiralty, Captain Vancouver reveals that his decision here was rather meant to honour a request by the Peruvian seafarer Juan Francisco Quadra that Vancouver:
"would name some port or island after us both in commemoration of our meeting and friendly intercourse that on that occasion had taken place (Vancouver had previously feted Quadra on his ship);....and conceiving no place more eligible than the place of our meeting, I have therefore named this land...The Island of Quadra and Vancouver."

If Vancouver had been vain as some writers had charged, he could have chosen to name the entire Island exclusively after himself instead of sharing its name with Quadra and placing the latter's name before his. The newly discovered "Quadra's and Vancouver's Island" was the most prominent name on maps of the coast, and appeared on most [contemporary] British, French and Spanish maps of the period. But as Spanish interests in the region dwindled, so did Quadra's name. The Hudson's Bay Company played a major part in the transition; by 1824 'Vancouver's Island' had become the usual designation in its correspondence for the island. A quarter of a century later, Vancouver Island had become such a well known geographical feature, that the founding of the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1849 gave this name full official status. Period references to "Vancouver" referred to Vancouver Island until the naming of the city of Vancouvermarker in 1885.

British settlement

The British colonial flag of Vancouver Island.
It is used today as a local representative flag.
Shortly thereafter, in 1846, the Oregon Treaty was signed by the British and the U.S. to settle the question of the U.S. Oregon Territory borders. It awarded all of Vancouver Island to what would be Canada, despite a portion of the island lying south of the 49th parallel. In 1849, the Colony of Vancouver Island was established. Following the brief governorship of Richard Blanshard, James Douglas, Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay post, assumed the role in 1851.

The first British settlement on the island was a Hudson's Bay Company post, Fort Camosack, founded in 1843, and later renamed Fort Victoriamarker. Fort Victoria became an important base during the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush in 1858, and the burgeoning town was incorporated as Victoria in 1862. Victoria became the capital of the colony of Vancouver Island, then retained that status when the island was amalgamated with the mainland in 1866. A British naval base, including a large shipyard and a naval hospital, was established at Esquimalt, British Columbiamarker, in 1865 and eventually taken over by the Canadian military.

The economic situation of the colony declined following the Cariboo Gold Rush of 1861-1862, and pressure grew for amalgamation of the colony with the mainland colony of British Columbia (which had been established in 1858). The colony's third and last governor, Sir Arthur Kennedy oversaw the union of the two colonies in 1866.


Scenery on Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island's economy outside Victoria is largely dominated by the forestry industry, with tourism and fishing also playing a large role. Many of the logging operations are for paper pulp, in "2nd growth" tree farms that are harvested approximately every 30 years. In recent years the government of British Columbia has engaged in an advertising program to draw more tourists to beach resorts such as Tofinomarker.

Logging operations involving old-growth forests such as those found on Clayoquot Soundmarker are controversial and have gained international attention through the efforts of activists and environmental organizations.

Between Vancouver Island and the Canadian mainland there are several high voltage power cables (HVDC Vancouver-Island).

There is also a developing IT field on Vancouver Island. High Speed Internet is delivered to the island from Shaw, Telus and CRTV. Wireless Internet connections can be found all over the island, many free for public use. Many coffee shops provide free wireless Internet access and charge an average of five cents a minute for using their computers.



Marine transport is very important to Vancouver Island for access to the mainland of British Columbia and Washington. There are no bridges connecting the island to the mainland, although the idea of building one has been brought up many times. The only vehicle access to Vancouver Island is via ferries operated by BC Ferries, Washington State Ferries and Black Ball Transportmarker Inc. There are six vehicle ferry routes:

A BC Ferries vessel.

BC Ferries
Crossing time: 1 hour 35 minutes; 8 sailings per day in the fall, winter, and spring and more in summer)
Crossing time: 2 hours; 8 round trips daily.
Crossing time: 1 hour 35 minutes; Sailings every 2 hours with extra sailings during the summer and holidays.
Crossing time: 1 hour 20 minutes; 4 round trips daily.

Washington State Ferries
Crossing time: 3 hours (not counting stops in the San Juan Islandsmarker)

Black Ball Transport
Crossing time: 1 hour 30 minutes; 1 or 2 round trips daily

Passenger-only service
In addition, there are three passenger-only ferry services from the mainland to Vancouver Island:
Crossing time: 2 hour 45 minutes; 1 to 3 round trips daily
  • Victoria Express (Port Angeles, Washington - Victoria)
Crossing time: 1 hour (operates May through September)
Crossing time: 3 hours (operates one trip per day May through October)


There are two remaining major railways on Vancouver Island.The Southern Railway of Vancouver Island, which assumed control of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway from RailAmerica in July 2006 offers general freight service on the Victoria–Courtenay main line (called the Victoria Subdivision by the railroad). The Port Alberni branch line (called the Port Alberni Subdivision by the railroad) has been out of service since late 2001.

SVI also runs passenger service under contract with VIA Rail. Western Forest Products operates the Englewood Railway which is Canada's last logging railway, running from Woss to Beaver Cove on the northern end of the island. The former Canadian National Railway out of Victoria to the Cowichan Valley was abandoned in the late 1980s/early 1990s, and the former grade between Victoria and Sooke, and Shawnigan lakemarker and Lake Cowichan is now a multi-use trail. The BC Forest Museum has a narrow gauge railway winding around the park, and the Alberni Pacific Railway operates during the summer from the restored E&N Railway station in Port Alberni to the McLean's Mill on former E&N Railway trackage.


There is one major north-south highway system on the island, which runs along the eastern side. It begins as Highway 1 in Victoria, merging with Highway 19 in Nanaimo, which terminates at Port Hardymarker. East-west routes are: In addition, Highway 17 connects Victoria with the Saanich Peninsula, terminating the Vancouver Island portion of its route at the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminalmarker.

Vancouver Island is well served by secondary routes, and a numerous active and decommissioned logging and forest service roads provide access into the back country.

Many communities are served by public transit. Greater Victoria is one of the few places in North America where double-deck buses are used in the regular public transit system.

Proposals have been made for a "fixed link" to the mainland for over a century. Because of the extreme depth of the Georgia Strait and potential seismic activity, a bridge or tunnel would face monumental engineering, safety, and environmental challenges at a prohibitive cost.


Victoria International Airportmarker is the major airport on Vancouver Island. In 2005, it was the 9th busiest airport in Canada in terms of passenger movements (1,280,420). Five major carriers (Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz, Horizon Air, Pacific Coastal Airlines, and WestJet) offer a variety of flights of short and medium distance including to and from Seattlemarker, Calgarymarker, Vancouvermarker, and Torontomarker. The only other international airport on the island, CFB Comoxmarker, offers direct flights to Puerto Vallartamarker, Mexicomarker, on a weekly basis.

Other smaller airports on Vancouver Island include Nanaimomarker harbour and Campbell Rivermarker. In 2008, WestJet started direct flight three times per week to Las Vegasmarker, and United Airlines will begin direct flights to the San Francisco Bay Areamarker; these will be seasonal flights.

Floatplane and helicopter traffic to and from Victoria's inner harbour accounts for approximately 300,000 additional passengers per year, making it the second busiest airport on Vancouver Island. Much of the floatplane traffic is downtown-to-downtown services from Victoria harbour to Vancouver harbour or Nanaimo harbour, most of which is carried by the operations Harbour Air, West Coast Air, and Baxter Aviation. Harbour Air also flies to other areas around Vancouver. These carriers make several daily scheduled flights, weather permitting.

See also



External links

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