What’s in a Name?
- Vic Turkington
The Ghosts of D'Arcy Island
A frequent destination for SISKA paddlers, D'Arcy Island and Little D'Arcy lie just south of Sidney Island and about 3 nm east of Island View Beach. The west shore houses a navigation beacon with a red flashing light (chart symbol Fl R).
The island was named after Sub-Lt D'Arcy (1831-84), an officer aboard the HMS Herald. D'Arcy was subsequently promoted to captain in 1869. D'Arcy Island became part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve in 2003; the adjacent Little D'Arcy Island is privately owned.
The island's proximity to the US border was exploited by American bootlegger Roy Olmstead, who smuggled Canadian liquor, mostly whisky, to Washington State during the prohibition era. He brought liquor from Victoria to D'Arcy Island, transferred it to smaller boats to evade the Coast Guard and transported it to the U.S.
D'Arcy island was used as a leper colony from 1891-1924. Forty nine Chinese lepers were quarantined and left with minimal resources. Existence was severe on this remote island and the colony was eventually abandoned and transferred to Bentinck Island in 1924. Thirteen lepers are buried on D'Arcy Island and the ruins of some buildings can still be seen. Today, the island makes an attractive kayak and camping destination with seven campsites, picnic tables, good landing beaches and the quiet reflective aura of a former leper colony.
This island is well worth a visit - but beware: those wretched sad ghosts of D’Arcy Island are watching and listening … and perhaps waiting...!