Port Augusta Bay 1863

This Hydro-graphic Map of Port Augusta Bay published in 1863 was likely the first map of  Comox Bay. The survey was undertaken by Captain George Richards of the sloop HMS Plumper based on observations made in 1861 while surveying Vancouver Island, a trip that commenced in 1857.

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The trip to Comox Bay was chronicled by Lieutenant Richard, Charles Mayne. During the 1861 visit he gives a description of the area as follows,

On the 13th April we weighed, and steamed up Baynes Sound, between Denman Island and Vancouver, anchoring in Henry Bay, at the North end of the former. From this place our party pushed on to Cape Mudge, at the South end of Discovery Passage, to prepare the way for the ship; while Dr. Wood and I went to examine the land about the Courtenay River, which empties itself into the head of Baynes Sound. This portion of the island, which is known as the Komoux, or Comax district, had been partially examined before; but although we had been informed that there was some fine land there, the extent and beauty of what we saw quite surprised us, and we both agreed this was the most promising spot for an agricultural settlement we had yet seen on the island.

The Courtenay River runs into Augusta Bay, at the head of Baynes Sound, and here we found what is of the utmost importance in prospecting for a settlement, vis., good and safe anchorage for ships of almost any size. At the rivers’ mouths are sands, which dry off to some considerable distance, and in Winter are covered with flocks of ducks, geese and other wild fowl. The stream for about a mile is perfectly navigable for large boats at high-water, or even for small stern-wheel steamers; although the land on the left bank being quite clear and level from outside the river’s mouth, it is unnecessary to have steamers, or even bateaux there. At the point where it becomes un-navigable, the Courtenay, which as far as we examined runs nearly parallel with the coast, is joined by a river, called by the natives the “Puntlach”, which flows from the South-West through a deep valley, and probably takes it’s rise in the great central lake, from which the Somass River runs down on the West side of the island into the Alberni Canal. We did not go up this stream, the Indians reporting that there was no good land upon it’s banks, and that the bush was very thick. Landing from the canoe just above the Forks of the Puntlach and Courtenay (or Tzo-o-oom, as the Indians call it) Rivers, and on the left bank of the latter, we found ourselves in the middle of a large prairie, which we discovered continued in a North-Westerly direction, or parallel with the coast, for eight or ten miles. The Courtenay flows nearly through the centre of this, and there are one or two smaller streams, which water the whole abundantly. The ground slopes upwards from the river on both sides, so as to prevent the possibility of overflow to any extent. The whole of this prairie is bounded by dense wood, forming a sheltering coast-fringe on the East, and affording plenty of timber on all sides (except towards the entrance from Baynes Sound) for building, burning, &c. It took us a day and a half to walk over this land, through which a plough might be driven from end to end. We tried to penetrate the forest at the Northern end, in the hopes of finding some more clear land beyond, but the Indians said they did not know of any in that direction; and as our time was limited, we retraced our steps. I have no doubt, however, but more good land will be found to lie between this point and the valley of the Salmon River, which is 60 miles North of it. The Indians at Salmon River told us that they could go by land from there to Komoux in a day and a half; and this, if true, proves that the bush cannot be very thick. We found the ground on the West bank of the Courtenay nearly as good as that on the East. The soil, indeed, appeared quite equal to it, but it is not so level. We estimated the clear land here altogether at 7000 or 8000 acres. The Indians told us that a great many blankets would be wanted for the purchase of this tract, as all the neighbouring tribes resorted there in the Summer-time to collect berries, shoot deer, catch fish, &c., all of which were found in large quantities. Indeed, they showed some reluctance at taking us over it, feeling sure, no doubt, that we would desire to possess it when it’s qualities became known. (Mayne, Richard C., Four Years in British Columbia and Vancouver Island, pg. 173-175)