SOOKE HISTORY: Whiffin Spit named after Royal Navy clerk

In 1790, the entrance to the harbour had been named Puerto de Revilla Gigedo, for the Viceroy of Mexico.

My old friend Bob Hudson from longboating days stopped me in the shopping centre a while ago and said, “Why don’t you do a column on Whiffin Spit?” so here it is:

The narrow promontory of land which almost landlocks Sooke harbour and basin was called Whiffin Spit in honour of a clerk, John George Whiffin, who served aboard HMS Herald when the Royal Navy surveyed Sooke inlet in 1846.

Years earlier, in 1790, the entrance to the harbour had been named Puerto de Revilla Gigedo, for the Viceroy of Mexico, by Spanish Sub-Lieut. Manuel Quimper when he entered the harbour aboard the Princesa Real.

This ship was originally the British vessel Princess Royal, and had been captured by Spain as these countries vied for the trade in sea otter skins and for an entrance they hoped would lead them to the Northwest Passage.

Note the contrast in the 1790 chart which was given us by the Naval Academy in Madrid, with the recent aerial view which shows the alteration done to Whiffin Spit by both the forces of nature and by the intrusions of man.

In the spit’s earlier history, legends tell that it was a lookout post for the T’Sou-ke nation before it became an industrial site, with fishtraps pilings from Sooke Harbour Fishing and Packing Company stored annually in crisscrossed stacks for a half-century. In the 1920s the spit also accommodated a fish reduction plant run by the Standfast Bible students.

Near the far end, a small fruit-tree-surrounded cabin housed a retired whaler until the 1940s; traces of the fruit trees may still be seen, in amongst the thickets of wild roses.

While museum records show that reinforcement work has been done on the spit since 1907, an exceptionally large project was undertaken to restore a breach and install a rock breakwater in 1995.  It was Bob Clark, regional director of that day and his friend Eric Butler, who took charge of carrying out the major repair.

Today dozens of walkers enjoy a stroll along the almost-mile-long Spit every day, in all kinds of weather, and it’s considered one of Sooke’s special treasures.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.

 

 

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

Just Posted

Sooke’s Amy McLaughlin holds Theodore, a bunny who will be going to a new owner in Nanaimo within the coming days if all goes will at an upcoming bunny play-date. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Sooke woman looking to hop into bigger space for bunny business

Amy McLaughlin has rescued over 400 bunnies across the Island, mainland

Port Renfrew Fire Chief Dan Kuzman, left, and Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Director Mike Hicks, separated by two fishing rods for safe pandemic physical distancing, display the village’s new snowplowing unit. (Contributed)
Port Renfrew gets new snowplow

With equipment, CRD crew can clear roads following snowfall

(Black Press Media file photo)
Court-registered sex offender arrested for breach of parole in Langford

Cameron Ratelle returned to correctional facility after female youth approached at bus stop

(Black Press Media file photo)
Youth in police custody after kitchen knife call

A knife was recovered during the arrest, no injuries reported

Marc Porpaczy said he’s glad he delayed his daily walk with his dog, Juno, after a car crashed just outside his driveway just before 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 25. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Dramatic crash highlights need for sidewalks, say Colwood residents

‘The residents have gone from frustrated to angry’

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Residents of the Cowichan Valley decorated more than 55 vehicles with anti-racist slogans for a car rally in support of Cowichan Tribes on Saturday, January 24. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Dozens join anti-racism car rally and virtual panel in Cowichan Valley

Provincial ministry and BC Green caucus issue joint statement detailing concerns

Jesse Savidant, 31, is wanted by the RCMP after failing to appear in provincial court in Nanaimo in December. Police warn Savidant should be considered violent. (Photo Submitted)
Warrant out for man accused of stolen property offences across Vancouver Island

Jesse Savidant did not appear for court date in Nanaimo last month, say RCMP

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is urging visitors to stay on designated trails after a hiker became injured in an unsanctioned area last week. (Westerly file photo)
Injured hiker rescued in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

OPINION SIG
SOOKE HISTORY: Milne’s Landing CNR station

Elide Peers | Contributed Back in the 1920s, freight was often carried… Continue reading

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

Most Read