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Race Rocks Ecological Reserve


Race Rocks Ecological Reserve


Address: One nautical mile from Rocky Point, the most southerly part of Canada on the Pacific Coast.

Race Rocks Ecological Reserve is Crown Land of the BC Government, and BC Parks administers it as a Provincial Ecological Reserve. The reserve area covers 3 square kilometres of ocean, rocks, and reefs, but does not include the small envelope of land with the foghorn and the historic Race Rocks Lighthouse itself which is leased by the Canadian Coast Guard.

Pearson College UWC has volunteered since 1997 to manage the ecological reserve and facilities on Race Rocks Islands in the eastern entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the Salish Sea, about 7 km from Pearson by boat. An Ecoguardian hired by the college lives on the island permanently and students are able to spend time there through the marine sciences course, the diving activity, volunteering during project week and helping out in other ways.

Because of the location in a high current area, there is an exceptional variety of marine life to be found, including marine mammals, sea birds, fish, marine invertebrates, and marine algae and sea grass. It is a haulout area for California and Northern sealions and a birthing rookery for Harbour seals. It is also the most northerly birthing colony on the Pacific Coast of North America for Elephant Seals.

There are also live video feeds from Race Rock, with remotely operated cameras and a fixed underwater camera, and a videocam archive available from the website.

In 2013 the documentary activity produced a documentary film showing the relationship betwen Pearson College UWC and the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve.

The urgent need for a light on Race Rocks had become obvious to the British Admiralty in the early 1850s due to the number of shipwrecks. On Boxing Day 1860 the magnificent Imperial Light on the treacherous Race Rocks Islets was lit for the first time. Since then, without interruption, a succession of dedicated light keepers have tended the light as a vital aid to navigation for ships transiting the Strait of Juan de Fuca bound for the ports of Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle and the inside passage. Soon after the light went into service in 1860 it became obvious that the tower was difficult to see by day when approaching from the west. Distinctive black and white stripes were painted on the tower by the first light keeper George Davies to improve it's visibility against the shoreline. These markings remain today maintaining Race Rock's unique appearance. Although the light was a great improvement on clear nights when it was visible for 18 miles the hazards of Race Rocks were still very real in fog.

The islets are shrouded in fog for up to 45 days a year. In 1892 the Department of Marine and Fisheries installed a steam plant and two compressed air foghorns at Race Rocks. The Department had taken over operation of lighthouses from the British Admiralty in 1871 when British Columbia joined the Dominion of Canada. Despite the addition of the powerful horns tragedies continued at Race Rocks. Many complaints were filed reporting that the horns were not always being sounded in foggy conditions. In 1927 Race Rocks was the first station on Canada's West Coast to be fitted with a radio beacon. This did a great deal to prevent further tragedy. The issue of the reliability of the light keepers and the operation of the horns at Race Rocks was finally resolved in May 1929 when the Hydrographical Survey ship Lilloet conducted an investigation of the so called silent zone the keepers and various ships masters had always claimed existed. The Lilloet expedition proved that an unusual deflection of the sound as a result of the location of the horns was in fact a serious problem. The horns were then moved to a separate tower and for the first time were truly useful.

Background image provided by Pearson College and photo by Garry Fletcher

Race Rocks lighthouse
view of Race Rocks
Race Rocks lighthouse
Bull sea lion and family at Race Rocks
Humpback fluke at Race Rocks
Sea lion catches a salmon at Race Rocks
Bald eagle at Race Rocks
Brown pelican at Race Rocks
Pigeon guillemots at Race Rocks
Race Rocks - Turbulent Sky panorama
Fog at Race Rocks
Race Rocks inspired painting
Race Rocks weather station

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