"To see a world in a grain of sand"
William Blake: Auguries of Innocence





Created: Dec. 3, 2000
Updated: Jun. 22, 2014
by Documents that Work


The Gabriola Historical and Museum Society  publishes SHALE, which is edited by Nick Doe.

This webpage lists the contents of each issue, starting with the most recent, giving brief summaries of the major articles.

    Go to:
  • the home page for information about contributing to or obtaining SHALE.
  • the authors' index page for a list of authors published in SHALE, with links to the summaries of their contributions.
  • the topics page for a list of all the topics covered in the journal to date, with links to article summaries.


No.28, June 2014

The Gabriola School District—1872-79

A fascinating account of the formation of Gabriola's school system, the contentious decisions about where Gabriola's first school should be built, and the qualifications, hiring, and firing of its earliest teachers.

The Womens' Institute

Gabriola Island's Womens' Institute (WI) was formed in the 1940s, but Canada's WIs were started in Ontario in 1897 by Adelaide Hoodless. This article traces the history of what became an international movement and describes its place in womens' lives on Gabriola.

More wharves in Silva Bay

This article describes the history of the wharf at Silva Bay Inn (previously The Boatel), which was neglected by Jenni Gehlbach's history of Gabriola's wharves published in Issue 27.

The little log church at Silva Bay

This article describes the history of "Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church", which was built near Silva Bay in 1925 on the initiative (and land) of the Crocker and Silva families.

No.27, December 2013

The history of Gabriola's wharves

The six articles in this issue of SHALE trace the history of Gabriola's wharves from the building of the first public wharf in 1878 close to today's Green Wharf, up to the building of the emergency wharf in Descanso Bay in 2004. The articles describe both privately built and publicly funded docks in Northumberland Channel, including False Narrows; at The Maples and in Degnen Bay; in Silva Bay; along the north shore, including Twin Beaches; and in Descanso Bay.

No.26, November 2011

The Brachyopoda of Gabriola Island

A lighthearted and mainly non-technical account of some Lingula species of fossils on Gabriola. These brachiopods had calcium phosphate instead of calcium carbonate shells and were noted in Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species" as enduring for hundreds of millions of years right up to the present.

Simón Gaviola's family connections—18th-century placenames in the Strait of Georgia

Gabriola Island's name (Punta de Gaviola) had its origins in the Basque country of Spain. This article identifies two other islands in the Strait of Georgia, Harwood Island (Punta de Camino) and Savary Island (Punta de Romay) that originally also had Basque family names, and these families knew each other.

Places of Power—speculations on archaeological motifs in British Columbia's rock art

In this is a little-known paper, originally presented at a conference in 1984, the author speculates on the cosmological and meteorological significance of some of the pictographs and petroglyphs on the northwest coast of America. It is a valuable reference to earlier work on this topic and is of particular interest to Gabriolans because at least two petroglyph sites on Gabriola Island undoubtedly have such previously unrecognized significance.

The geometry of honeycomb weathering of sandstone

Why the holes (tafoni and caverns) created when salt weathers sandstone have the shape, diameter, and depth that they do, and why the holes eventually form those intriguing arrays of polygons.

No.25, March 2011

Japanese-Canadians in Silva Bay, 1918-1942

In the early part of the 20th century thriving lumber and fishery businesses were run by Japanese-Canadians in Silva Bay. This article tells what we know about these early Gabriolan settlers, and speculates about what we no longer remember.

Gabriola's heritage farm machinery

An interesting collection of old farm machinery sits in the grounds of Gabriola's Agricultural Hall—"Agi Hall" to locals. This article names the farms the machines were used on, dates them, and explains what they were used for.

A small inland midden DgRw-251 at False Narrows

Small inland shell midden sites on Gabriola are often forgotten once initial surveys record them, and they are easily damaged by development. This article describes what is known about several such middens in the vicinity of the major village site at El Verano (DgRw-4).

Gabriola's coastal placenames (including Mudge)

A cumulative list of coastal placenames that have been published in SHALE at one time or another .

Non-marine weathering of sandstone and mudrock

This article explores the weathering of sandstone and mudrock by means other than salt.

No.24, June 2010

Diatoms on Gabriola

A look at the diatoms living in today's Gabriola wetlands.

Unearthing the past—the diatomaceous earth mine on Gabriola

Discovering the history of the diatomaceous earth mine that operated on James Harvey Rowan's land on Gabriola at the beginning of World War II. This article examines where the mine was located; who owned and ran the mine; the processes used to extract the diatomaceous earth; what it was used for; and the companies and immigrant families involved.

The geology of Gabriola Island's diatomaceous earth

This article describes the geology of the freshwater Holocene deposits of diatomite on Gabriola.

Clam curio—the piddock

This article describes the discovery in 1885 by William Flewett of De Courcy Island of an oddly-shaped "clam" that lived inside rocks.

A boring time at Brickyard Beach

This article is about the biology of the piddocks found today on Brickyard Beach.

No.23, March 2010

Gabriola's changing climate…and groundwater

A look at climate change on Gabriola over the last sixty years, future change, and the likely reductions in our groundwater.

Electromagnetic radiation…is it healthy?

The uncertainty surrounding this issue, and the worrying lack of balance and truthfulness in reporting it.

Salt-weathering of Nanaimo Group sandstone

While honeycombing of sandstone is caused when salty water dries out, it is less certain what the salt does. Understanding this is important for understanding the cause of the severe weathering of the island's petroglyphs. Crystallization pressure seems to be the cause, but experiments reported here show that the mobility of salts on their way to the evaporation surface is also an important factor.

No.22, January 2010

Withey's Shipyard at Silva Bay

Lesley A.Withey brought his family to Silva Bay in 1945 to start a shipyard on land then owned by Norm Sear. This article is a complete history of that shipyard, which became the major employer on Gabriola Island throughout the 1950s and 60s, building fishing boats, pleasure craft, and naval vessels.

The South Gabriola Public Hall, 1913–79

The present Gabriola Community Hall was built in 1983/4 and is not the original one.  This article recounts the history of the original hall as determined from the Social Club Minute book dating from 1913 to 1954, and from other local sources.

Charting Gabriola—the survey of HMS Egeria, 1904

A full report of the survey by Commander John F. Parry and his crew. The article includes an explanation of the petroglyph they carved at Green Wharf.

Research notes

The smoking economy
A report on the export of tobacco from Gabriola.

Tatshenshini-Alsek petroglyph
Similarities to a petroglyph on Gabriola.

Travel broadens the mind
Thoughts on seeing pre-Cambrian shale.

Boat building in Silva Bay
Joseph Silva's contribution to the tradition.

Holes in sandstone at great heights
A popular theory is that honeycombing in sandstone is caused by wind and waves, despite abundant evidence that it's not.  Honeycombing at 210 metres above sea level in the hills behind Nanaimo adds to the evidence.

Windy New Mexico
More honeycombing a long way from the sea.

Gabriola's nose and tail
Speculations on why there are two major strike-slip faults on Gabriola, and their connection with the Harewood coalmine on Vancouver Island.

Malcolm Lowry's stars
In October Ferry to Gabriola, Lowry describes stars seen at dusk.  Turns out, some of those stars he couldn’t have seen here—they're all better seen in Mexico.

More Gabriola ammonite fossils
…including some rare ones.

No.21, July 2009

Gabriola's ambulance service-- the first 25 years, 1969-94

The first "official" ambulance vehicle on Gabriola was bought and operated by Gabriola's volunteer firefighters. The Gabriola Island Volunteer Ambulance Corps (GVAC) was incorporated in 1969 and operated entirely on volunteer labour and donations until it was taken over by the BC Ambulance Service in 1974. The ambulance crews chose to remain unpaid until 1979, donating their pay to GVAC so that other community health-related services could be supported. This article tells the stories of the early fire service, ambulance service, first-aid arrangements, doctors, and home-care services on Gabriola up until the opening of the ambulance station on Church Street in the mid 1990s.


Spurred by a story about people seeing a mirage of Gabriola's Entrance Island lighthouse from the Sunshine Coast in the mid-1950s, Kit investigated the phenomenon of superior mirages and collected reminiscences of similar, more recent, local experiences from Gabriolans. The cover photograph shows one such mirage.

Mendaro en Canada

This Spanish article appeared in September 2006 in Mendebalde—a publication in the community of Mendaro in the Spanish Basque country. The aristocratic home of the Gabiola [sic] family—the most likely source of Gabriola Island's name—is nearby in the Kilimon valley. An English translation is included.

Gabriola's sandstone quarry-- the earliest days

An on-line database of early editions of Victoria's newspapers the British Colonist and the Victoria Times Colonist has provided some answers to the remaining questions about the very earliest days of Gabriola's building stone (dimension stone) quarry near Descanso Bay and the original owner of the land, John Canessa. This article is a supplement to the November 2008 Special Issue (No.19) of Shale about Gabriola's sandstone quarries. There is also a research note about the slightly odd connection between the Newcastle Island sandstone quarry and the San Francisco mint in the 1860s.

Additions and corrections to dates for archaeological sites around False Narrows

New developments in radiocarbon dating techniques have prompted a recalculation of previously published measurements and a discussion of some new measurements. The measurements were made on shell samples taken from the exposed faces of the eroding midden in False Narrows.

No.20, April 2009, Special Issue:
Gabriola's geology, Part 3

Gabriola's fractures--their origins

Anyone who has walked on Gabriola, whether on the beach or in the interior, will have noticed the long linear fractures in the sandstone bedrock. These are significantly remarkable to have been incorporated in the design of some of the petroglyphs (see SHALE 17). This article describes the tectonic origins of the fractures in the context of the entire Pacific Ocean.

Stress on Gabriola

A look at how stress on the bedrock creates fractures, folds, and faults, with lots of photographs of these features taken on Gabriola. A technical appendix reports on the presence of zeolite minerals on fracture planes.

Gabriola's shape, including some surmises

This article discusses why Gabriola has the shape that it does and why it is oriented the way that it is relative to the Gulf Islands to the south. Our understanding of the structural geology of Gabriola, Vancouver Island, and the Georgia Basin is far from complete.

The orientation of fractures on Gabriola

A report on hundreds of measurements of the orientation of long linear fractures on Gabriola—-a database for future research. Also, an example of the influence of the orientation of fractures on the orientation of petroglyphs is given.

Terra firma? GPS measurements around Gabriola

GPS systems are now so sensitive they can track movements of the bedrock due to the tectonic forces operating on the west coast. This article interprets some of the results of measurements of land movement around Gabriola up to 200 kilometres away. The results show that the forces that folded and fractured the island bedrock in the distant past are still operating today.

No.19, November 2008, Special Issue:
Gabriola's sandstone quarries

The origins of quarrying for sandstone on Gabriola

This article describes how the early colonial history of Vancouver Island led to sandstone quarrying on Newcastle and Gabriola Islands. It also traces the early quarrying connections among San Francisco, Nanaimo, and Gabriola.

Gabriola's dimension-stone quarry

This article traces the history of the building stone (dimension stone) sandstone quarry that operated on Gabriola Island during the 1890s and the first decade of the twentieth century. It names the local people who worked there and the principals of the Vancouver Granite Company, who owned the quarry. The physical arrangement, equipment, and operation methods of the quarry are also described, as are some of the prominent buildings in San Francisco, Victoria, and Vancouver that were built using Gabriola sandstone.

Gabriola's millstone quarry

This history of the millstone (pulpstone) quarry that operated in the early 1930s on Gabriola Island names the local people who worked there and gives first-hand descriptions of the processes the quarriers used and how the stones were used in BC's coastal pulp mills. It describes the involvement of the Coats family in the quarry site and traces the history of the J.A. & C.H. McDonald Company, which operated the millstone quarry.

Gabriolans and the sandstone quarries

This article explores the family histories of pioneer Gabriolans who were involved in the local sandstone quarries (and other coastal quarries) through land-ownership or their labour. It includes the family stories of Captain John Canessa, Alexander Hoggan, Mike Manly, John "Bunky" and Martha Easthom, and Bill Coats.

No.18, April 2008

Malcolm Lowry on Gabriola—the October Ferry, 1946

This article describes the cirumstances of novelist Malcolm Lowry's 1946 visit to Gabriola with his wife Margerie, and their subsequent development of his notes into a story. It also describes the critical response to October Ferry to Gabriola and a symposium held in 1994 on Gabriola in tribute to Lowry.

Stars in stone—Ursa Major, Gemini, and Orion petroglyphs at DgRw 230

Evidence indicates that the petroglyphs at the DgRw 230 site represent the familiar asterism known as the Big Dipper and that the pitted dots nearby represent bright stars in the constellation Gemini. At the site, these are also graphically linked to the constellation Orion.

Who named Saturna Island?

This article examines the evidence for José Narváez, Juan Pantoja, Francisco Eliza, Dionisio Alcalá Galiano, or Juan Francisco Bodega y Quadra being responsible for the naming of Saturna Island.

More…groundwater notes

This is the third article in a series on the hydrology of Gabriola's groundwater.

Research notes

New information has come to light clarifying a few mysteries remaining in the history of Gabriola's brickyard as published in SHALE 15. We now know the names of one American and eight Chinese men who worked at the Brickyard in 1911, and have discovered more about the roles of Thomas and Annie Morgan in the factory's history.

An introductory look at some of the less well known elements (such as scandium) found in Gabriola's groundwater.

Why does a mirror reverse your image left-to-right but not up-to down? A meditation prompted by considering how a petroglyph carver may have traced familiar asterisms.

No.17, September 2007, Special Issue:
Gabriola's petroglyphs

Visions cast on stone-- a stylistic analysis of Gabriola's petroglyphs

Petroglyphs are notoriously difficult to date. In this study, some of the stylistic characteristics of Gabriola’s petroglyphs are compared to characteristics in dated artifacts recovered from archaeological sites with a known cultural affiliation. The conclusion is that the petroglyphs' designs are in the Marpole style, which would suggest that they are more than a thousand years old, but less than two thousand.

Alignment and geometry of petroglyphs at site DgRw229

A study of the alignment of the petroglyphs in complex panels on Gabriola suggests that the designer used three right-angled grids to position the individual glyphs.  One grid was the familiar north-south, east-west grid.  The second was based on the orientation of the many linear bedding-plane perpendicular fractures in the Gabriola bedrock that date back to periods of intense folding and faulting in the Neogene and Eocene.  And a third was a grid oriented half way between the other two.

Alignment of the petroglyphs at sites DgRw224 and 234

This article is a follow-up to the previous one and shows that the same principles at work in the positioning and orientation of the petroglyphs at DgRw229 can also be clearly seen at two nearby sites (DgRw224 and 234).  In addition, preliminary investigation shows that the same principles also apply to petroglyphs at Gabriola’s Church site (DgRw192).  This greatly increases the likelihood that the observed geometric alignments of the petroglyphs were intentional and not due to happenstance.

Observing the winter solstice at DgRw228

A further study of the petroglyph suspected to have been used to observe the summer solstice (as described in Issue No. 10, January 2005).  Investigations suggest it may also have been used to observe the winter solstice and that the observations may have been the basis for a 40-day per “month” calendar.

Paleoastronomy at petroglyph site DgRw230

An article on the possibility, admittedly slight, that the petroglyphs at DgRw230 might have been inspired by changes in the position of Orion in the winter sky.

Observations for the curious at sites DgRw193, 198, and 201

Some thoughts on the possibilities of dating petroglyphs by studying lichen growth, and the weathering of the ferromagnesian minerals in the “case-hardened” surface zones of sandstone.

Petroglyph studies in the cemetery

Some ideas on what we can learn about our own modern culture by looking at the Gabriola Community Cemetery from the perspective of an alien archaeologist. This is similar to the task that faces us when we look at petroglyphs and the aim of the study was to see if any useful lessons might be learned. The author examines the gravestones' orientation—Do the graves really face east?—and the way that the stonework, which is accurately dated, has weathered.


No.16, July 2007

Ecological theatre on Gabriola-- managing the forests

This article is about ecosystems, in particular forestry ecosystems, and ecosystem management on the Gulf Islands. It uses the paradigm of an "ecological theatre" and explores the ecological stage (the physical environment of the ecosystem), the play (the sequence of biotic communities occupying the stage over time), and the actors (the species making up the biotic community). It then discusses the use of this theatrical metaphor to develop an ethical land use policy.

New radiocarbon dates for False Narrows

A large Coast Salish village once existed on both the Gabriola and Mudge Island shores of False Narrows (DgRw4) and it is commonly but wrongly known as Senewelets. Despite its importance, only two radiocarbon dates have hitherto been obtained for this major midden. This article reports three new datings and discusses the implications of these results.

Polygonalling (for alligator fans)

Intricate networks of cracks are familiar in our everyday worlds, whether they be in caked mud, aged paintwork, crazed pottery, or the rocks along the seashore. The networks appear to come in two styles: one where the cracks meet at right angles, forming T-junctions and reticulate patterns (alligatoring); and another where the cracks meet in Y-junctions, forming polygons, particularly hexagons. This article looks at some examples of the latter.

Stories and research notes

A lighthearted memoir of arriving to live on Gabriola in the 1970s.

An examination of the importance of coal-mining in the history of Nanaimo and Gabriola in the nineteenth century.

When electricity was brought to Gabriola in 1955 it had an immediate significant effect on islanders' living conditions and paved the way for subsequent development of the island throughout the rest of the twentieth century.

No.15, May 2007

Gabriola's industrial past: the brickyard

Today few traces are to be found of the brickyard that operated for half a century near Brickyard Beach (Percy Anchorage) on Gabriola. In its heyday it produced thousands of bricks a day, using blue and brown shales dug from its quarry on the hillside and firing its kilns with coal from Nanaimo. It provided employment for many local families as well as Chinese labourers who did not settle here. Coal was delivered to the yard on scows, which were also loaded with bricks for delivery to Vancouver and Victoria.

brickpile photo

This article explores the history of the landowners, workers, and companies involved in the brickyard's operation. It also contains information about the McGuffie and Nairn Shaw pioneer families.

A context for Gabriola's archeology

This article places Gabriola's archeology in the time context of developments and archeological records elsewhere in the world.


No.14, September 2006

George Vancouver visits Gabriola

When Captain George Vancouver surveyed the BC coast in 1792 he paid little attention to Vancouver Island because his mission was to see if there was a navigable route across the top of the North American Continent. As this article describes however, he did briefly visit Gabriola Island, albeit because he was caught out by the tide in a small boat in the Fraser River estuary. Draft Spanish and British charts of the Strait of Georgia are included.

Petroglyphs and equinoxes

Any theory that some of the many petroglyphs on Gabriola are accurately orientated astronomically has to explain how it is possible in the middle of a forest to determine which directions are north, south, east, and west. One possibility is that the carvers watched and recorded the movement of the shadows of the tops of tall trees. Some evidence that they did this is presented.

"Brown stuff" weathering and manganese in your drinking water

Iron oxides (magnetite, hematite, goethite, ferrihydrite) are common weathering products in the upper-Nanaimo Group sandstones, but minerals rich in manganese are less well known. Some nodules and weathering deposits in the sedimentary rocks have extraordinarily high concentrations of this metal.

Groundwater budgets

All of the rain and snow that falls on Gabriola eventually ends up returning to the atmosphere by evaporation or transpiration by trees and plants, or it flows into the sea either above or below sea level. This article describes measurements made on the island of how much water goes where.

No.13, June 2006

The origin of Gabriola's name

The name of Gabriola Island is an adaptation of the Spanish name Punta de Gaviola, which first appeared on the 1791 Eliza chart drawn in San Blas (Mexico). Although the naming is frequently attributed to José Narvaez, this article argues the case for it having been assigned by Juan Bodega y Quadra. It was probably named after Simon de Gaviola y Zabala. That Gaviola is a corruption of Gaviota (sea gull) is a 20th-century myth.

Spheroidal weathering

Spheroidal weathering of Nanaimo Group shale is sometimes attributed to modern weathering, but this article suggests it is due instead to weak concretions that date back to the late Cretaceous. An illustrated explanation of concretion formation in shale and sandstone is included.

Petroglyphs-- discovery and demise (editorial)

The editorial of this issue, which is a follow-up to one published in SHALE 8, discusses the rapid demise of the petroglyphs on Gabriola as a result of sandstone weathering following removal of their protective moss covering.

No.12, November 2005

Orcas at Page's 

"Page's" is Page's Resort and Marina on the south end of Gabriola, and in this refreshing article Phyllis and Ted Reeve, who run Page's, give us an eye-witness account of a visit of a pod of transient killer whales to Silva Bay, where they were caught on camera feeding on Steller sea-lions. Whales were once abundant in the Strait of Georgia until they were wiped out in the 1860s and 70s and again around 1907. It is to be hoped that reports like this will become less remarkable in the years to come.

Alligatoring on the beach

Idle musing on a hot summer day as to what causes shale on Gabriola's beaches to weather in a reticulate pattern leads to a consideration of how tempered (toughened) glass is made, why old pottery is crazed, and how remarkably common the phenomenon is when you study the mucous trails of periwinkles; the branching of garry oaks; cracks in Gabriola's roads; fractals; ripples in the sea; sea-fans; whale vertebrae; and more....

No.11, May 2005

The four schools of Gabriola

The first school on Gabriola was opened in 1873 at the south end of the island. In this article, June traces its subsequent history, along with that of the North, East, and Gabriola Elementary Schools right through to the present.

The tabla of Toba Inlet

When Galiano and Valdés were exploring Desolation Sound in 1792, they discovered a wooden plank (tabla in Spanish) covered with curious hieroglyphics, created by the Klahoose people of Toba Inlet. The article offers an explanation of these hieroglyphics based on the idea that they form an unusual lunar-solar calendar containing information about the tides in the inlet.

Groundwater notes

Many residents of the Gulf Islands rely on groundwaterfor their water supply. This article discusses the geology of fractured rock aquifers in sandstone and shale, and is based in part on interviews with Norman Windecker who drilled wells on the island for many years.

No.10, January 2005

Malaspina's Lost Gallery

Malaspina's gallery was drawn in 1792 by José Cardero during the Galiano-Valdés voyage of exploration and his drawing was subsequently copied and inaccurately "enhanced" back in Spain by other artists who had not seen the formation. At the beginning of the 20th century the exact location of the gallery was a mystery. This article traces the efforts of Professor George Davidson and others to solve the puzzle, as reported in the Victoria Daily Colonist and the Nanaimo Free Press in 1903. Despite the solving of this puzzle, confusion continues about the name and location of the gallery.
The article includes biographical endnotes about George Davidson (1825-1911), John Devereux (1827-1906), Ethelbert Olaf Stuart Scholefield (1875-1919), William Ernest Losee (c1860-1944), Fernando Brambila (1763-1834), Manuel José Cardero (1776-?), William John Sutton (1859-1914), Peter Creeke Fernie (1830-1915), Archer Evans Stringer Martin (1865-1941), Cayetano Valdés y Flores (1767-1839), and James McLay (1837-1918).

A Most Unusual Petroglyph

The "sun" petroglyph (DgRw228) consists of a natural hollow surrounded by four circles and seven petal-like rays, with a fish petroglyph carved nearby. The author discusses the complex geometry and astronomical alignment of this petroglyph, and its possible use as a calendar by the people who carved it.

More About Runnels

This article discusses the action of freshwater runoff in the formation of runnels such as those found off Berry Point Road near its junction with Seagirt Road. It was near here that the Galiano and Valdés expedition of 1792 collected water for their ships, and the article refers to the Spanish account of this episode in Gabriola's history. It also discusses the role and possible historical significance of the lagrimados or tear-duct-shaped hollows in Lavender Bay. 
The article includes a discussion of the pH scale used to measure acidity.

No.9, August 2004, Special Issue
Gabriola's Geology--Part 2

Geology of Gabriola's roads

A lighthearted look at the cracks in Gabriola's roads, some of which seem to resemble the fractures and minor faults (that probably date back to the Eocene or earlier) that can be seen on the island's sandstone beaches.

Great balls of stone-- concretions

Concretions are most well known as those rocks with the size and shape of cannon-balls. They are very common on Gabriola, and this article describes their origin.

What makes holes in sandstone?

The Gulf Islands are famous for their honeycomb formations (cavernous weathering or tafoni) yet what causes these "holes in the sandstone" is not known. This article describes the author's ideas on how they might be formed. It includes technical reports of several chemical and petrographic analyses of honeycombed rock that support these ideas.

Curious nodules

Although Gabriola is not famous for its fossils, you can fairly easily find relics of giant clams, known as inoceramids, from the late Cretaceous period in the shale beaches. Associated with these clams are curious nodules and this article descibes their appearance, their unusual manganese chemistry, and ideas on how they were formed.

The formation of Malaspina Galleries

Contrary to popular opinion, there is no evidence that Gabriola's Malaspina Galleries were formed by the wind and waves. This article proposes an explanation for their formation that is more in keeping with what can easily be observed by visitors to this famous landmark.

No.8, June 2004

The Roberts family of Mudge Island

The Roberts family of Mudge Island is descended from David Samuel Reece Roberts who immigrated to Canada in 1871 from a farming and coal-mining area of South Wales. He later married into the Martin family of Gabriola and farmed land he had pre-empted near Dodd Narrows. This article reports what is known of the family's history

Malaspina Galleries-- what's in a name?

The famous Malaspina Galleries of Gabriola, like many other local landmarks, has an official name that is rarely used. Who has heard of the Galiano Gallery? Who but official cartographers ever calls Berry Point "Orlebar Point"? Nick muses on the tortuous history of some local placenames.

Lost Nanaimo-- taking back our past

In 2005, this article was republished by the BC Historical Federation in their journal "British Columbia History" and Dr. Barman was subsequently granted their annual Best Article Award.

We have a tendency to construct history according to our modern perspective, which may result in a loss of some aspects of the past. Because of this process, two important aspects of Nanaimo's early history may have faded from view: an excess of tradition and the erasure of diversity. Dr. Barman examines how the traditions and societal values of the families that immigrated to this area from England on the Princess Royal may have hindered them in the new world.

Frozen harbours

Our mild Gulf Islands surprisingly frequently experience strikingly low temperatures-- cold enough to freeze the harbours and prevent sea traffic.

Surf Lodge

Surf Lodge has been a major player in Gabriola's social life for over 60 years, beloved of locals and visitors alike. From its beginning in 1940 under the Andersons to its current life under the Mules, it has had a varied and fascinating history in the ownership of several families.

Short stories & tall tales:

Flow but one way-- a legend of the Coast Salish people
Coyote-- a legend of the Shushwap people
Earth, Great Flood, and Sky-- a legend of the Tsimshian people
The World-- a legend of the Tlinglit people

Research notes:

Come and gone yet again

Barrie Humphrey's previous research on Robert Dombrain(e) (also Dombrane; Dumblane) has been reported in SHALE Nos. 2, 5, and 6. It seemed unlikely that much more could be discovered, but a bonus prize has emerged from a file in the BC Archives that contained seven letters of introduction for Robert Dombraine addressed to Governor James Douglas.


Nick Doe's ruminations about tree rings and paleoclimatology


    Phyllis Reeve reviews:
  • First Nations,  first dogs-- Canadian Aboriginal ethnocynology by Bryan D. Cummins,
    published by Detselig Enterprises Ltd., Calgary, 2002

No.7, January 2004, Special Issue
Gabriola's Geology--Part I

How Gabriola came to be

This article describes the processes pertinent to the development of the Gulf Islands and includes a discussion of the formation of the Nanaimo Basin, a remnant of which is currently occupied by the Strait of Georgia.

Gabriola's submarine-fan formations

The sand, mud, and gravel from which Gabriola's sedimentary rocks were made once formed a submarine fan in the delta of a large river whose depositional rates and sites varied. This article includes a description of Gabriola's stratigraphy, identifying the five uppermost formations of the Nanaimo Group that are present in the area: Gabriola, Spray, Geoffrey, Northumberland, and De Courcy Formations.

It's about pointy rocks

The author ruminates upon the existence of particular patterns in our surroundings (such as pointy and cuboid rocks) and our ability to perceive them easily once we start to look with a particular focus. He also does some applied mathematics to explain how compression stress and conjugate fractures are involved in the formation of these shapes.

Steinpilze--rock mushrooms

This article examines the way sandstone near the high-tide mark is sometimes weathered into shapes resembling mushrooms. It discusses the way sea salt is involved in a process of moisture evaporation from within the rock, washing out flakes of clay and loosening grains of sand to form the familiar "honeycombed" tafoni.

Geochemistry of Gabriola's groundwater

The Geology and Chemistry Departments at Malaspina University-College are studying the geochemistry of the groundwater used by residents of eastern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. This article describes the hydrogeology of Gabriola and presents the findings of the researchers' geochemical survey of private water wells on Gabriola Island.

What Gabriola is made of

An analysis of the chemical elements present in the rocks of Gabriola. The techniques used included spectral analysis using an inductively-coupled plasma ion generator and a mass spectrometer, plus LECO analysis for carbon and sulphur.

Research note:

So...is this where the dinosaurs went?

No.6, April 2003

Two islands-- Gabriola and Manhattan

Gabriola and Manhattan are remarkably similar in size. This article takes a light hearted approach in making other comparisons between these two communities, from wildlife to ethnicity and bridges with detours through the traffic, and much besides.

Beryl Cryer and the stories she collected

In the mid-1930s, a series of stories told by Coast Salish Elders on Vancouver Island was published in the Victoria newspaper, the Daily Colonist. They had been gathered and edited by Beryl Cryer, a part-time journalist living then in Chemainus. This article tells what we know of her life and how she came to collect these stories. It also tells about the Elders who shared their stories with her.

Page's Marina-- sixty years ago

Since 1987, Phyllis and Ted Reeve have run a marina and resort with cottages, campground, bookstore, and art studio at the south end of Gabriola Island in Silva Bay. They happily assumed responsibility for a place that had been known, visited, and loved since 1943, when two young brothers, Jack and Les Page, bought the Japanese fish camp at Silva Bay. This article tells the story of the early years of Page's Marina, as told by members of the Page family to the Reeves.

Two tides a day?

This article explains why there are two tidal cycles each day, not just one. What with gravitational pulls from sun, moon, and Venus, centripetal and centrifugal forces, moving observers, and barycentres-- it's not as simple as you might think.

Short stories & tall tales:

Hy-Altz, the Sun God-- as told by Tzea Mntenaht (Mary Rice) through Beryl Cryer

Research notes:

An ammonite for SHALE

Nick Doe ruminates about museums and fossils

Come and gone again-- this time for good?

While pursuing other research, Barrie Humphrey has made a serendipitous discovery in the Anglican Archives about the demise of Robert Dombrain (Dombrane; Dumblane), whose brief history on Gabriola was written about in SHALE Nos. 2 and 5.

Reviews and reports:

    This book was reviewed in November 1862 by The Daily British Colonist newspaper in Victoria. That review is reproduced here, followed by Nick Doe's review.
  • British Columbia and Vancouver's Island by Duncan George Forbes MacDonald, CE.
    Published by Longman &c., London, 1862

No.5, December 2002

Captain B. A. Wake and his family

Captain Wake was a naval man from Northamptonshire, England, who pre-empted land on Valdes Island in 1876, homesteading there for several years before his mysterious demise in 1880. He also briefly taught at the Gabriola School. This article describes what is known of his life and death and the lives of his family.

Ups and downs of Gabriola-- sea-level changes

This article discusses the effect on Gabriola's coastline of changes in local land and sea levels (isostatic and eustatic adjustments) over the last twenty thousand years.

The Martin family of Gabriola

Jonathan Martin was born in Kent, England and started work for the Hudson's Bay Company in BC when he was 18 years old. He lived in various parts of Vancouver Island before settling on Gabriola Island, where he and his son William applied to pre-empt land in 1874. His grandson Donald describes what he has learned of his family's history from his own research and that of members of the Museum's History Committee.

An old fence-- how Indian reserves came to Gabriola

There are two small reserves on Gabriola Island at Degnen Bay: IR5 (Indian Point) and IR6 (Burial Island). An interesting letter written in Nanaimo in 1876 by Mr. Gilbert Sproat of the Joint Indian Reserve Commission to Mr. Elliot, the BC Provincial Secretary, describes how these reserves came into being.

Gabriola warming-- a changing climate?

This article examines some of the implications for Gabriola of global warming. The possible impacts upon natural resources, human health, flooding, and storms are discussed. Nick Doe adds an analysis of current carbon generation by Gabriolans.

Short stories & tall tales:

Memories of a one-room schoolhouse, by Hazel Windecker (née Cox)

Research notes:

Why does water in the sink drain away counter-clockwise-- and why should we care?

Questions and answers generated by Nick Doe while investigating the weather (who needs the Coriolis force?).

The wild gardens of Ruxton Island

Anne Gartshore from De Courcy Island describes the beautiful array of wild flowers to be found on deer-free Ruxton Island in the Spring.

Aboriginal burials on Gabriola Island

Dr. Brian Chisholm summarizes the findings of A. Joanne Curtin in her revised Ph.D. thesis, "Prehistoric Mortuary Variability on Gabriola Island", in which she compared Aboriginal burials in rock shelters and middens.

Summer tides

Nick Doe discusses why the tide is usually low during the day in summer locally.

No.4, June 2002

Last fight of the Cly-Altw

This story was first published in the 1930s in the Victoria, BC newspaper, The Daily Colonist. It tells of a battle between the Snunéymuxw who lived on Gabriola Island at False Narrows and the Lekwiltok. The battle probably took place in the 1830s.

Inoceramus vancouverensis-- big clams

An account of one of the species of inoceramid that are commonly found in the shales of the Northumberland Formation of the Nanaimo Group. The fossils date from late-Cretaceous times, and are one of the many species that did not survive beyond the K-T boundary. Recent research has given some clues as to their way of life and their demise.

Scotch broom-- the golden gangster

First introduced to Vancouver Island by Captain Grant in the 1850s, this plant is becoming a serious pest in the Gulf Islands. This article describes something of the life cycle of this plant, and some of the measures being taken on the island to control its spread

Newcastle Island's turbulent past

This is an overview of the eventful history (First Nations, Kanakas, mining, quarrying, ship-building, canning, murders, and mayhem) of Newcastle Island, which is now a provincial park.

The art of voting scientifically

Mathematicians have long known that there is no perfect voting system (Arrow's theorem). This article looks at some of the alternative voting systems currently in use or under consideration, and discusses the pros and cons. The results of the Canadian federal election in 2000 and the BC provincial elections of 1996 and 2001 are used as examples of how the choice of voting system can influence the outcome of an election.

Short stories & tall tales:

Bruhn moments, by Aileen Adam

Reviews and reports:

  • Nick Doe reviews:
    "Spirit Images, Medicine Rocks--The Rock Art of Alberta", a lecture by Michael Klassen given to the Nanaimo Branch of the BC Archaeological Society.
  • Jenni Gehlbach reviews:
    "Passage to Juneau--A Sea and its Meanings" by Jonathan Raban
  • Phyllis Reeve reviews:
    "My Brother's Keeper" by Marion Woodson

No.3, January 2002

Researching pioneer family history

This article records the results to date of the Gabriola Historical and Museum Society's efforts to enhance research of the island's history using the Internet.Web pages were set up describing what is known about pioneer families, and their descendants were invited to contact the museum and exchange information. After a slow start, the experiment is proving to be very successful.

A Russian map of Gabriola-- 1849

Surprisingly, the earliest known nineteenth century map of Gabriola Island was published by the Russians in 1852. This article tells the story behind the map. Several early charts of the area compiled by the Spanish navy, the British navy, and the Hudson's Bay Company are included in this article.

The Chapple family

The Chapple family lived on the south side of Gabriola in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This article describes what is known about this interesting family.

Hul'qumi'num-- Gabriola's first language

A not-too-technical article about the nature and development of language, the aboriginal language families of British Columbia, and the languages of the Coast Salish. (The journal also includes a brief aid to interpreting phonetic alphabets.)

Short stories & tall tales:

A journal entry, by Mary Rose Lam

Research notes:

Old growth?-- a fossil on Whalebone Beach, by Nick Doe
Old dogs-- dogs in Coast Salish communities, by Nick Doe

Reviews and reports:

    Nick Doe reviews selected books about treaty talks and aboriginal self-government:
  • "Treaty Talks in British Columbia-- Negotiating a Mutually Beneficial Future" by Christopher McKee
  • "Aboriginal Self-Government in Canada" edited by John Hylton
  • "First Nations? Second Thoughts" by Tom Flanagan
    Phyllis Reeve reviews:
  • "The Laughing One-- a Journey to Emily Carr" by Gabriola's Susan Crean
    Douglas Todd reviews two books about aboriginal attitudes to the environment:
  • "Animals and Nature-- Cultural Myths, Cultural Realities" by Rod Preece
  • "The Ecological Indian-- Myth and History" by Shephard Krech III
    Ruth Loomis reports on an interview:
  • "Reflections with Ellen White, Medicine Woman of the Snunéymuxw."

No.2, March 2001

Island Sanctuaries-- early mixed-race settlement on Gabriola and nearby coastal islands

After European contact Gabriola and other Gulf Islands were settled by European men who often lived with and married Aboriginal women. This article explores how the character of the islands may have influenced these families by offering a refuge from racial intolerance and giving both parents and children a strong sense of autonomy.

The Gabriola ferry Eena, 1955-64

Eena (a Chinook word meaning "beaver") was the second ferry to see service on the run between Gabriola and Nanaimo. The author served as one of the engineers assigned to the service and this is an account of some of his experiences.

Coast Salish placenames on Gabriola

All of the placenames now used on Gabriola and surrounding islands were assigned by newcomers in the last hundred years or so. Yet these places once had names that had been passed from generation to generation by the Snunéymuxw. Most of these names have now been lost. This article lists and gives the meaning of the few that Elders have been able to remember during interviews held at various times over the past ten years.

Gabriola's trees-- a brief history

This article discusses trees that have grown on the island since the end of the last ice age. The past may give us a clue to the future as global warming progresses, encouraging drought-tolerant species like the Douglas Fir and Garry Oak, and leading to the possible demise of others like the Western Hemlock and Red Cedar.

Short stories & tall tales:

The Haida myth-- an investigation by Nick Doe

Research notes:

Sand, firewood, and the stars at night-- some interesting facts
The net shed at Page's
Come and gone-- the brief appearance on Gabriola of Robert P. Dombrain(e)
A French note-- the significant French Canadian presence on the BC coast in the early nineteenth century
Just tell them it's Tafoni

The mystery of the familiar "honeycomb" appearance of sandstone at the tideline.

Reviews and reports:

    Nick Doe reviews books about the role of disease, particularly smallpox, in the history of the BC coast:
  • "Decimating Disease" contained in Panati's Extraordinary Endings of Practically Everything and Everybody by Charles Panati
  • "First Contact: Smallpox" contained in You Are Asked to Witness - The Stó:lo in Canada's Pacific Coast History by Keith Thor Carlson
  • "The Great Pox" contained in Raincoast Chronicles 17 - Stories & History of the British Columbia Coast by Douglas Hamilton
  • "Voices of Smallpox Around the Strait of Georgia", contained in The Resettlement of British Columbia - Essays on Colonialism and Geographic Change by Cole Harris
  • "Guns, Germs, and Steel--The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
  • "The Coming of the Spirit of Pestilence-- Introduced Infectious Diseases and Population Decline Among the Northwest Coast Indians, 1774 -1874 by Robert Boyd

No.1, November 2000

The Snunéymuxw (Nanaimo) village at False Narrows

The False Narrows archaelogical site (DgRw4), now El Verano Drive, was once a large village belonging to the Snunéymuxw First Nation (SFN). This article records the memories of SFN Elders of their visits to the village site and discusses the ethnographical and archaeological importance of the site to understanding Coast Salish culture.

Alcalá Galiano's sketchmaps of Gabriola

Maps drawn by the Spanish naval officer Galiano on his visit to Gabriola in 1792. These maps show that the location of Cala del Descanso was Pilot Bay-- not the present-day Descanso Bay.

The LeBoeuf family

The LeBoeufs, like many of the earliest settlers on Gabriola Island, have left no descendants here. This article describes what is known of the family from archival records of the nineteenth century.

Sandstone and shale-- Gabriola's origins

An introduction to the geology of Gabriola Island. The island consists of formations of the Nanaimo group dating back to the late Cretaceous.

Around the island in 1853

An account of a circumnavigation of Gabriola Island by William Ebrington Gordon of HMS Virago in April 1853.

Short stories & tall tales:

When the ferry went duck hunting
The sad tale of Jankowski's horse

Research notes:

Seagull Island?

Reviews and reports:

    Phyllis Reeve reviews books about petroglyphs:
  • "Gabriola: Petroglyph Island" by Mary and Ted Bentley
  • "Senewélets-- Culture History of the Nanaimo Coast Salish and the False Narrows Midden" by David V. Burley
  • "Indian Petroglyphs of the Pacific Northwest" by Beth Hill
  • "Guide to Indian Rock Carving of the Pacific Northwest Coast" by Beth Hill
  • "Seven-knot Summers" by Beth Hill
  • "Moonrakers" by Beth Hill
  • "Spirit in the Stone" by Joy Inglis
  • "On Island Time" by Hilary Stewart
  • "Glyphs and Gallows" by Peter Johnson
  • "The Amazon Influence" by Marion Woodson
  • "Moving Water" by Joan Skogan