Vancouver Island’s rugged, surf-washed outer coast is a wilderness that is home to bears, wolves and whales, yet visited by few humans. However, two and a half centuries ago, this region was the meeting place of four distinct cultures.
Why the “Secret Coast”?
Few Canadians know about the historic events that took place here: the important role that Spanish explorers played by making first contact with the Nuu-chah-nulth inhabitants in 1774 and founding the first European settlement at Nootka, or the tensions between American fur traders and the Nuu-chah-nulth, which culminated in the enslavement of two Americans by Chief Maquinna, then later the blowing up of the American ship the Tonquin in 1811.
And, although many Canadians have heard about, or even hiked, Vancouver Island’s famous West Coast Trail, few have heard of the wild, scenic, and even more rugged and remote coastal routes “up-island,” to the northwest.
In 2019, and with the support of the Royal Geographical Society of Canada and the Spanish Embassy in Canada and a number of other sponsors, two modern-day explorers will return to this remote coastline, spending one month in the wilderness, travelling both on foot and by ocean kayak.
Our route starts in the north. We will be dropped by float plane to Rugged Point, and hike the shores of the Tatchu Peninsula, Nootka Island, and Hesquiaht Peninsula. There we will pick up our sea kayaks and continue paddling on the ocean (just as the first Nuu-chah-nulth inhabitants did) to the village of Tofino.
During that month, we will pass through the sites where these historic encounters took place – now mostly wild and uninhabited. Our explorations and discoveries will be documented in words and in photographs: as a book, as magazine articles, through social media and blog posts, and in media interviews and presentations.