There are a million stories to tell about the Olympic Peninsula and the Olympic National Park, and we here at Exotic Hikes are doing our best to telling them all. In this installment, we take a look at Destruction Island off of the coast of the Olympic National Park.
Destruction Island, most commonly known as the island with the lighthouse near Ruby Beach and Kalaloch has an interesting story that few know. While looking at it from the beach, Destruction Island looks like it is nothing more than a great place to put a lighthouse and a radical place to be if you were a seal. The island actually is home to a fascinating tale that demonstrates the history of exploration and nautical travel.
1) The Lighthouse is Awesome!
The lighthouse was completed on November 12th, 1891 and became automated in 1968. While it is pretty to look at, as of 2008, it has not been in operation. While it operated, it housed an average of four keepers, who lived in two large houses next to the lighthouse. The light was flashed every 10 seconds, and a blast of noise was sent out for 5 seconds every minute.
2) The Lens is one of the best in the World
The lens is now located in the Westport Maritime Museum and the display is incredibly rad. With 24 panes of glass being promoted as the best glass in the world, the lighthouse was an incredibly bright beacon. The coolest part about the light is that you can go and see it today, in Westport Washington.
3) The Coast Guard Tamed the Deer on the Island, then Shot One
The lighthouse staff, secluded from the rest of the world, tamed the deer on the island, keeping them as pets. The deer would come up to the windows of the keeper’s houses and “beg” for tobacco and rolled cigarettes. While most viewed them as pets, one day a coastguard member walked up to a deer and shot it in the head. While most fellow service-members were horrified, they later all agreed it was a delicious meal
4) Destruction Island was not Named after Shipwrecks
While shipwrecks have occurred off the coast of Washington, the name “Destruction Island” was not named for any of the wrecks. It was actually named for the death of British Explorers who were killed up the Hoh River. The next paragraph explains exactly what happened to have the island deserve this name.
5) Europeans Have Named the Island Twice
The first Europeans named this island, the Spanish, named the island “Sorrow Island,” after the Quinault Peoples reportedly killed numerous Spanish Soldiers. The “attack” occurred after a few days of friendly meetings between the Spanish and the Quinault. The peace was broken when Spanish soldiers were killed after performing a possession ceremony on the land. The Spanish captain tried to flee, but the Quinault came ready to attack. The Spanish open fire and claimed, with glee, that they killed the vast majority of the Quinault. This occurred in 1775.
In 1787, a British shipped dropped its anchor near the mouth of the Hoh River and sent a few small boats up the Hoh. They were attacked and killed, promoting the captain of the ship to name both the island and the river “Destruction” after the loss of life. Later, the river was renamed Hoh after the indigenous peoples, but the island name remained.
Next time you rest your eyes on this rugged section of the Washington Coast, don’t just look at the scenery. Look deeper. Remember the history and remember that people died for this land, as they felt it was sacred. The Olympic Peninsula and the Olympic National Park are special, and the history of just one island off the coast reflects that. Destruction Island has quite the history and it makes me wonder what the future holds for this region.