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Monday, June 30, 2008

Chinese Cemetery

This is the gate to the old Chinese Cemetery. Prior to 1903 Chinese were buried in a low-lying section of the Ross Bay Cemetery. After seven years the remains were exhumed and cleaned and stored for shipment to China where they were reburied after appropriate ceremonials. The Ross Bay location proved inadequate due to wave and water damage to graves during storms and in 1903 the Chinese community purchased this nearby site for temporary interments.The two towers on the right of this photo flank an altar where burial services were conducted. This plot of land was chosen in accordance with the principals of feng shui and it is interesting that the site (Harling Point) is also the meeting place of two large sections of the earth's crust.

This site was used for temporary burials until the war between China and Japan in the 1930's made it impossible for the practice to be continued. Burials at this site were permanent from then until the 1950's when the site was closed.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Actually, this is a crow, not a raven as might be suggested by the quote above, but I think it makes a suitable introduction to the Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria's oldest graveyard. Many of the province's most famous historical figures are interred here and we will be visiting their graves from time to time. Today I just want to share with you a lovely sculpture I discovered there, commemorating three members of the Wood family. As long as this poignant sculpture stands we will know that someone cared deeply for them.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

OMG, it's NOT Johnny Depp....

Well, when the Tall Ships are in port you can expect pirates and maidens should beware. As well as pirates, there is a pirate school for kids, face painting, lessons in knots and other activities.But the festival is really all about these splendid ships. In a time when we are becoming more painfully aware of our gasoline powered abuse of the environment and its high costs, these wonderful wind-powered machines serve as a reminder that environmentally harmless devices can be beautiful as well as functional. Below is the Adventuress, a schooner from our neighbors in Port Townsend, Washington, with the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula in the background. This photo was taken last night when the ships came out of the harbor into the Strait of Juan de Fuca to engage in a mock cannon battle.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Bounty

The Tall Ships have arrived in Victoria. Here in the Inner Harbour is the replica of the HMS Bounty that became infamous under the command of William Bligh when his crew mutinied and cast him adrift in a small boat. The crew, under the command of Fletcher Christian, went on to settle on Pitcairn Island, where many of their descendants still live. Bligh, then only a lieutenant, was set adrift with 18 of his loyal crew members in a 23 foot launch. Without charts or a compass he then sailed over 6,000 km of open ocean in 47 days to reach Timor, a "remarkable act of seamanship." He went on to become a Vice-Admiral in the Royal Navy.Above is another shot of the Bounty approaching the Inner Harbour with the condominiums of Vic West in the background.

This Bounty was built especially for the film, "Mutiny on the Bounty," with Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Hug and Three Kisses

Today is the opening day of the Tall Ships Festival here in Victoria. It will start in a few hours when the 25 sailing ships enter the Inner Harbour and tie up along the Causeway, Ship Point and Wharf Street piers.

One of the most fascinating aspects of sailing ships is the intricate web of ropes that forms the rigging. These enable the sails to be raised and lowered in various combinations to best take advantage of the wind that is available. For a ship to be quickly maneuverable these ropes have to be secured so that they don't all just get tangled up and yet can be easily loosened when needed. The upright wooden pegs above are called belaying pins and are used to secure rope ends on square rigged sailing ships. In the photo above they are plugged into a pinboard and the ropes wound around them are in a pattern called "One hug and three kisses."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hatley Park

Overlooking Esquimalt Lagoon is Hatley Castle, built by James Dunsmuir as a residence about 100 years ago. James was the son of Robert Dunsmuir, who earlier built the city of Victoria landmark,Craigdarroch Castle. After James died, Hatley Castle became the home of Royal Roads Military College and in its most recent incarnation, it has become Royal Roads University.I actually went out there to see some of the province's largest trees, Douglas Firs that are over 250 years old. However, I got sidetracked by the castle's formal Italian, Rose and Japanese Gardens and between the heat and the floral overload I never made it to the forest. Next time! Below are a couple of shots from the Japanese Garden.

Below is a flower that was blooming in another Hatley Park Garden called the "Bog Garden." If anyone knows what this spectacularly colored flower is, kindly let me know.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gulls N' Roses

Famed supergroup caught relaxing by the pool recently at the Coast Harbourside Hotel on Kingston Street. That's Axl on the right....

Monday, June 23, 2008

Captain George Vancouver

We've looked at Captains Cook and Quadra and here is a third but possibly the most important early sailor to visit these shores, Captain George Vancouver. In addition to this island where I write, the metropolis across the Strait of Juan de Fuca has been named after him, probably because he was the first ever to sail into Burrard Inlet, on which shores the City of Vancouver has grown.

Captain Vancouver had an interesting career as a British naval officer. His first naval experiences were with Captain Cook, who explored this area on two voyages between 1772 and 1779. Next Vancouver served in a 74 gun ship of the line in a war with France. These were the glory days of the British Navy when their naval superiority spread the British Empire over the globe. After stints in the West Indies and South Pacific, Vancouver returned to this area on an expedition that lasted from 1791 to 1795, charting the BC coastline with such accuracy that his charts were still in use in the early 20th century. Wisely he spent his winters during this extended voyage in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) but presumably with better diplomacy than Captain Cook, who managed to get himself fatally speared while visiting those generally hospitable islands.

Captain Vancouver was accompanied on this last lengthy voyage by Archibald Menzies, a surgeon and naturalist. Those of you familiar with the works of Patrick O'Brian and his Aubrey/Maturin series of nautical novels will find many interesting parallels with the voyages and work of Vancouver and Menzies and those of O'Brian's main characters. These characters were brought to life on the big screen a few years ago under the title, "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," with Russell Crowe. Menzies gave his name to one of the West Coast's most beautiful trees, the Arbutus or Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii).

Unlike O'Brian's literary captain and surgeon/naturalist, however, Vancouver and Menzies did not get along and when the voyage was completed Menzies' and others' complaints effectively ended Vancouver's career. He died in obscurity at the age of 40 only a few years after completing his circumnavigation of the globe. His statue, pictured above, is in need of a little maintenance but its location makes that difficult. It is, as can be seen below, on the top of the tallest dome of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly buildings here in Victoria, a fitting, if belated, honour.The magnificent figurehead above, apparently gazing at Vancouver's stature, is that of the Pacific Swift, one of the Tall Ships that is resident here when it is not away on a voyage. Below is an additional shot of this beautiful wood sculpture. Notice the BC floral emblem of the dogwood flowers.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

National Aboriginal Day

Yesterday (June 21) was National Aboriginal Day in Canada and some of the local native people provided some great entertainment at Ship Point on the Inner Harbour. Scroll down to see the dancer that the young fellow below was watching.
The splendidly costumed young dancer below, member of a group called the "Little Ravens," kindly agreed to be photographed between performances. I think that's his proud papa in the background there.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Juan Francisco Bodega y Quadra

On Belleville Street overlooking the Inner Harbour just west of the Legislative Assembly Buildings is a small park called Quadra Park. It commemorates the Spanish-American explorer and administrator whose bust is pictured above, Juan Francicsco Bodega y Quadra. The park and bust are a recognition that this island when first named by Europeans (Vancouver and Quadra, in agreement) was called Quadra's and Vancouver's Island. As British power and presence in the area increased and Spanish influence lessened the name became shortened to Vancouver Island. The Nuu-chah-nulth, long-time inhabitants of the area of greatest concern to Europeans at the time, Nootka Sound, don't appear to have been consulted.

Quadra is pictured above because he explored the western coastline of Vancouver Island in 1775, several years before the voyages of Captains Cook and Vancouver. He is thus one of the earliest captains of a tall-masted sailing ship to visit these shores and brings us one step closer to the Tall Ships Festival, coming to Victoria and this blog during the next week.

UPDATE: Jean Bedard
Yesterday when I was down at Fisherman's Wharf searching for some nautical subjects I met again Jean Bedard, who was featured earlier this year on this blog when he was auditioning for a license to busk in Victoria. He now performs regularly on Fisherman's Wharf. With his sound system set up he is now even more of a pleasure to listen to than when he was auditioning. He tells me that there is a CD in preparation so I may soon be able to share a little more of his song stylings with visitors to this blog.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Swallowed Anchor

For those of you who are thinking I am going "overboard" on houses, I say, "Avast there, maties!" because the house above, if you look closely, has a distinct nautical flavor. (And I've left out the one-legged pirate on the roof, standing near the stork's nest.) And while it is a house, it provides a cunning segue into the coming week's naval offerings as Victoria hosts the Tall Ships.

This little jewel of a house, "The Swallowed Anchor," is to be found in Esquimalt across the road from the West Bay Marina. And for those of you who might be wondering, it is an actual house, not a part of some theme park. Rumor has it that it was formerly the home of a retired sea captain who willed it to his heirs with the proviso that nothing could be changed.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Huntingdon Cottage - 1889

Here's another of Victoria's heritage houses. This one is described as "folk Victorian" with Queen Anne cosmetic features. This house was twice slated for demolition to make way for high-rises but was moved instead and restored in the early 1980's. In 1983, Norman Pearson received a Hallmark Society Award for his restoration work.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pacific Dogwood - Floral Emblem of British Columbia

Yesterday I posted a photo of an unofficial symbol of the city of Victoria, our hanging flower baskets. Victoria is the provincial capital so today, to continue the theme of floral symbols I am posting these photos of the Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nuttallii), the official floral emblem of The Province of British Columbia. British Columbia has about a billion huge trees and the dogwood is not the most impressive but as a flower, at ten to twenty-five meters tall it's suitably monumental. British Columbia's tree emblem is the Western Redcedar, and we'll have a look at that one day too.

The dogwood flower itself is a bit tricky or botanically picky; those big white petals are not petals, like any normal person would have thought. They're technically known as bracts, and are more akin to leaves than to petals. The true flowers are those little greenish things in the middle. Now you know.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Victoria's Hanging Baskets

About this time of year Victoria's downtown core blossoms with these beautiful hanging flower baskets, about a thousand of them. While not unique to Victoria, these baskets are a symbol of the city for many visitors, and have been a summertime tradition since 1937 when they were introduced to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the city's incorporation.

In the background to the baskets above is the roof of the Empress Hotel. This hotel as well as the adjacent Legislative Assembly Buildings and the nearby Crystal Gardens, the three most impressive buildings in the downtown core, were all designed by Francis Rattenbury. You can read a little about Rattenbury's tragic life by clicking here. In succeeding posts I hope to look a little more closely at these prominent buildings.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Montview - 1020 Catherine Street, Victoria West

I've just discovered that there is an excellent resource for information about heritage homes here in Victoria. It's called "This Old House" and is produced by the Victoria Heritage Foundation. It lists heritage homes in the city, giving a short history and description of each, a photo and an address, so suddenly I am able to find out a little about some houses I admire and pass often.

This one, for instance, is only a few blocks from where I live and is called "Montview." It was built around 1890.

This late Victorian Queen Anne landmark residence dominates a corner lot and has been meticulously restored.

The original owner was John W. Cherry, an upholsterer with Weiler Brothers and later with David Spencer Ltd.
Not as much information as some but this is a house I particularly like - "meticulously restored" is nearly an understatement. Click to enlarge this photo and look at some of the details like the diamond pattern on the steps and gently curved bannisters. For those of you who want to find out a little more about the architectural style called "Queen Anne," click here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Esquimalt Buccaneer Days - The Super Shot

The Victoria community called Esquimalt holds a special celebration every year called Buccaneer Days. Like the Oak Bay Tea Party, it is designed to foster community spirit and to support local charitable causes. There are number of traditional events such as pancake breakfasts, etc., and there is also this photographer's special delight, a carnival midway. This particular one had a ride called the Super Shot. It's very simple: Strap people in, haul them way up in the air, and then let go. To the objective bystander, the passengers appear to experience extreme distress as they plummet towards earth and it is a joy to watch the most macho young men and coolest young women dissolve into terror when the catch is released. In the photo immediately below a group is just nearing the top of the tower.In the next photo below, the group has just been released and are free fall. Click these photos for an enlarged view.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Beacon Drive-In

What are all these people lining up for? Is the food really that good? Anyone who grew up here will recognize this Victorian institution, the Beacon Drive-in, and today is the 50th anniversary of their opening. Food vendors are not allowed in Beacon Hill Park across the road and this place is the nearest fast food available. And yes, if you like burgers, fries, shakes and cones, it's good. I often stop here for a quick snack when I'm cycling around Victoria. Great chips! And you can't beat today's special anniversary prices. I had fries and a small shake today for $2. I had to take a picture of this menu since I haven't seen prices like these for about 50 years.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Government Street

Above, the sky is a serene blue with a light dusting of peacefully drifting clouds, while below... ...Government Street is buzzing with summer activity. This view is looking down Government Street towards the Inner Harbour. Car traffic is allowed but this part of Government Street really belongs to pedestrians and, as soon as school is out and families begin to travel, this street will be even busier and more full of life.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Well, I know it's only Thursday today but I noticed this event one Friday afternoon recently. I'm guessing it's a pre-weekend office break-up of one of these hip new corporations that recognizes that not much gets done Friday afternoons anyway so might as well use the time to generate some solidarity. Seems like a nice idea and I hope they enjoyed themselves.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Maltby Trompe l'Oeil Mural

Victoria's Chinatown continues to offer some splendid street scenes. This one, a mural by Victoria artist, Jeff Maltby, is on Fisgard Street very near the Chinese Public School and the Lee's Benevolent Society Building, both of which are pictured in earlier posts on this blog. I love the way this mural is so beautifully integrated into its environment. It's actually on two walls, at right angles to each other and I have included a wider angle shot below that shows the mural in context.This mural is not only remarkable for its visual slight-of-hand but for its historical contribution to our appreciation of Chinatown and for its many charming details, one of which is below.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


A classic feature of any parade or fair is a clown. In this part of the world, clowns are most often provided by the Shrine Temple, a voluntary organization that supports children's charities. The clown above, who appeared in the Oak Bay Tea Party parade was, according to the International Shrine Clown Association, an "Auguste" type of clown:

His is the most comic face. His make-up is a flesh color (pink or reddish or tan) instead of white. His features (usually red or black) are exaggerated in size. The mouth is usually thickly outlined with white, which is often also used around the eyes. Outlining is very important. Gradual shading of colors is often used. He will usually have a ball nose, but there are many exceptions.
Clowns have been around for a long time. According to the International Clown Hall of Fame:
First known clown was a pygmy presiding as a court fool at the court of Pharaoh Dadkeri-Assi, Egypt’s Fifth Dynasty. In 1818 BC, one of China’s rulers, neglecting ancient religious rites, filled the court with clowns. His successors restored the rites, but also kept the clowns. One of China’s jesters, Yu Sze, is remembered as a national hero because he saved the lives of thousands of laborers when he kidded the Emperor Shih Huang–Ti out of having the enemy side of the Great Wall whitewashed in 300 BC.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Midway

On the midway you will find thrills......and maybe that special someone...Oak Bay Tea Party, Willows Beach.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Norman Rockwell Moment - Oak Bay Tea Party

I captured this intent photographer while watching the Oak Bay Tea Party parade. This is an annual event that takes place in the Victoria community called Oak Bay. In a city that prides itself on being British, Oak Bay is the supreme bastion of the jolly olde tea-drinking set. The Oak Bay Tea Party has events over this entire weekend, including an air show and bathtub race today, so I'll be posting more photos soon. In the meantime, I trust all you photographers out there will enjoy this Norman Rockwell moment.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Esquimalt Lagoon - Canada Geese

Last time I was out at Esquimalt Lagoon a flock of about 100 Canada Geese was foraging along the shore. I approached very warily so as not to frighten them but found them quite unafraid, as evidenced by this photo of a father and daughter offering them some bread.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Abkhazi Garden 2

I'm being a little self-indulgent here just because I like these Calla Lilies too much. This group is also in the Abkhazi Garden, subject of an earlier post. However, the most stunning group of plants in the garden has to be the Rhododendrons and the photo below hints at the amazing range of colors - pale pink on the left and orange and magenta in the background. You'll have to imagine the yellows and the reds and even one blue.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Rainy Day

This is what our weather has been like lately and not just wet but cold too. Victoria doesn't have much of a downtown/business area but here is a fairly representative slice of it. This is a photo of the city's main thoroughfare, Douglas Street.