Destruction Island

Posted by Ken Campbell June 12, 2008 0 Comment 5005 views
Destruction Island is about a half-mile long but very narrow, seldom wider than a hundred yards. It lies about three miles off the Olympic coast, not far from Ruby Beach.

The island is the place where two ships under the command of Spanish explorer Capt. Bodega y Quadra anchored on July 14, 1775. Seven men from the schooner Sonora were sent ashore to procure wood and water but met with an immediate and distinctly hostile reception from the natives near the mouth of the Hoh River. The party was killed in short order and their boat was subsequently stolen. Bodega y Quadra sailed away, after entering the island in his log and giving it the name, Island of Sorrows.

In 1787, Captain Barkley, skipper of the Austrian East India Company’s ship Imperial Eagle, also sent a party ashore from the island for the same reason, to collect water and wood to replenish the ship. Again, the shore party never made it off the beach. Barkley named the river where the killings took place the Destruction River.

Eventually, the river came to be known once again by its native name, the Hoh, and the island inherited the name of Destruction. A lighthouse was constructed in 1888, its walls four feet thick at their base and completely shrouded in iron to protect it from the incessant winds and winter storms.

When the work was completed, the lighthouse was the most expensive to ever be built along the west coast. Total cost: $85,000. The light was automated and the keepers withdrawn in 1968.

The island is a wildlife sanctuary today. Seals and sea lions crowd the beaches and otter are often seen in the extensive kelp beds that grow in the cold, clear water. Sea birds and eagles wheel in the sky, while the ground is home to thousands of rabbits, distant descendents of an old lighthouse keeper’s daughters.

There is also a species of shrew mole living here that is endemic to the tiny island. I have never seen one, but I am told they are still around.

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