The Estevan Lens is at the Sooke Region Museum.

The Estevan Lens is at the Sooke Region Museum.

How our first order Estevan Lens got chipped

Elida Peers writes about the history of the Sooke Region

Chipped it is, indeed, but it’s ours. The only known item that shows the effect of Japanese forces shelling B.C.’s coast in World War II is now part of Sooke’s landscape.

It was just a few months after Pearl Harbour, in June of 1942, that submarine I-26, commanded by Minoru Yakota, shelled Canadian shores at Estevan Point. While the DOT meteorological station was likely the main target, the lighthouse was in the line of fire as well. Wireless operator E.T. Redford wired, “We are being shelled” while lightkeeper Robert Lally ran up the tower staircase to close down the light.

A 17-year-old lighthouse assistant in 1942, Clifford Martin, now of Nanaimo, recalls the event and the hysteria clearly.  At the time of the shelling, he had just been transferred from his lens polishing job at Estevan to the lighthouse at Lennard Island.

For a period during the 1980s it seemed that this significant article of Canadian history would end up in an American museum, but due to the determination of Lanny Seaton and other crew members of the Canadian Coast Guard Station on Huron Street in Victoria, this was not to be.

Fortunately for Canada’s own historical records, it seems that Lanny, currently a councillor in Langford, took a stand, along with the rest of the Coast Guard crew, when faced with an impending visit from representatives of the Smithsonian Institution.  Though the group planned to take the incredibly valuable First Order Fresnel Lens back to Washington with them, the men at the base objected, protesting that such a significant part of Canada’s history should remain in Canada.

Soon after the 1906 wreck of the iron steamship Valencia at Pachena Point, with great loss of life, a series of navigational aids including more lighthouses had been established on our coast. A First Order Lens is the largest ever constructed for lighthouse use and at the time both Estevan and Triangle Island (off the north Island) were equipped with these immense many-faceted glass structures.  At that time, the lenses rotated in a bed of mercury, but decades later, when the hazard of mercury use was better understood, these lenses were retired and other lighting installed.

Sooke had many friends at the Coast Guard base, and with the help of foreman Donny Clark, who had grown up in Sooke, the hierarchy was persuaded to allow the Sooke Region Museum to acquire ownership of the long-retired Triangle Island Lighthouse dome.

By then it was 2004, and Triangle Island’s original First Order Fresnel Lens was long gone. After the 14-ton dome was transported to the museum in an ingenious feat of engineering, it was mounted on a tower and fitted with the sister First Order Lens that had been retired from Estevan Light when it was refurbished.

Today this historic chipped lens from Estevan Point is seen each day by motorists who drive by the Sooke Region Museum. The second photo shows Pete Fletcher, retired from the Coast Guard, back in 2005, when he was re-assembling the lens sections for mounting at our museum.

Elida Peers,

Historian, Sooke Region Museum

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sidney’s Haunted Bookshop is changing owners with longtime owner Odean Long transferring ownership Dec. 1 to William Matthews. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Longtime owner of Sidney’s Haunted Bookshop closes chapter with sale

Odean Long and her late husband moved the business to Sidney in 1996

Goldstream Food Bank volunteers at work. Light Up the City will be offering various options for the public to drop off non-perishable food items to support this food bank and others in Greater Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria residents can show their charity through Light Up the City

Drive-thru food bank and toy donation dropoff sites open up this Saturday around region

Police will be out in force to target drunk drivers this weekend as part of ICBC’s annual CounterAttack campaign. (Contributed - ICBC)
Police launch Christmas CounterAttack this weekend

On average, 11 people are killed in crashes involving impaired driving on the Island every year

Victoria police arrested a man in a Yates Street grocery store Nov. 27 after he refused to wear a mask. (Black Press Media File photo)
Belligerent man arrested in Victoria grocery store after refusing to wear mask

Officers fined the man $230 under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act

A 43-year-old woman is facing charges for impaired driving and leaving the scene of a crash after attempting to flee from police by driving down the beach in front of the Oak Bay Marina on Nov. 23. (Oak Bay Police/Twitter)
Victoria woman drives over seawall onto beach near Oak Bay Marina

Driver faces charges for fleeing crash, refusing breathalyzer test

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Most Read