John Claus Voss: First he made sausages; then he made history

This is the legendary Nuu-chah-nulth canoe in which Capt. John Claus Voss attempted to sail around the world in 1901

History never stands still; it’s happening even as you read this and it occurred to me that I should revisit and update some of my Chronicles past…

Let’s begin with last month’s ongoing shut-down of the B.C. Maritime Museum in its longtime Bastion Square bailiwick, the old courthouse. An October picture in the Times-Colonist showed workmen removing the 38-foot-long cedar dugout canoe Tilikum to a temporary display at the Ogden Point cruise ship terminal where it will be on view to visiting passengers as of May.

This is the legendary Nuu-chah-nulth canoe in which Capt. John Claus Voss attempted to sail around the world in 1901; he didn’t complete the voyage but he did make his mark in maritime history.

I told the story, four years ago, of this onetime Chemainus shopkeeper who, until his sailing exploits, was best known locally for his sausage-making.

When I wrote of the intended sinking of the former Royal Canadian Navy warship HMCS Annapolis, environmentalists were doing their best to scuttle plans to make her an artificial reef in Howe Sound.

As it happened, the court agreed with the Artificial Reef Society and to the bottom she went.

Some six months after, the ARS reported that Annapolis is fulfilling their expectations as a habitat for sea life and as an attraction for recreational divers.

To date, the ARS has sunk seven vessels, most of them former warships, in B.C. waters.

Previously, I told of a short-lived gold rush in downtown Victoria in the 1890s when a sharp-eyed prospector detected glimmerings of gold in rock outfaces near the present-day intersection of Wharf and Government streets.

Today, the strategic location is occupied by the old Canada Customs Building, an unimaginative and unattractive blockhouse of grey and black granite ca 1956.

Developer Stan Sipos has proposed to build a $40-million seven-storey structure in place of the Customs Building and to incorporate a much renovated adjoining heritage building, much to the distress of city heritage proponents.

My interest, of course, is in the site’s mineral potential. Anyone up for prospecting for gold in the heart of downtown Victoria?

Several years ago I wrote about some of the best-known, largest trees that have been recorded in B.C. Forests — behemoths of fir, spruce and cedar — when most trees in the province were what we’ve come to call old-growth.

Most of them are gone, logged off or victims of age or storm or fire, but some still remain here and there, their welfare is carefully scrutinized by environmentalists.

Almost incredibly, there’s hope for more forest giants in the future.

It has recently been reported that scientists are predicting that, thanks to climate change, monster species such as the sequoia, better known as the California redwood, may return to B.C.!

“I’m quite confident that these trees (redwoods planted along Vancouver’s Cambie and West 16th Ave.) “will be here 500 years from now,” silviculturalist Dirk Brinkman informed the Province.

I’ve also recounted Cobble Hill’s journalist B.A. “Pinky” McKelvie’s key role in a Nanaimo courtroom when former disciples of the Aquarian Foundation sued their infamous cult leader Brother XII in the 1930s.

How infamous was he?

Well, all these years later, he’s still a draw for the Nanaimo Museum which recently hosted a 45-minute walking tour around town that followed, so to speak, in Brother XII’s footsteps.

“We are going to stop at where his lawyer’s office used to be, because he was tried [in court] a few different times,” explained interpretation curator Aimee Greenaway. The tour also included artifacts such as the masthead from his yacht, Lady Rose, which he scuttled in an act of spite before fleeing (legend has it, with jars of gold coins conned from his followers) to Switzerland where he’s believed to have died years later, in considerable comfort no doubt.

And, several years ago, I referred to the “late” Ken Boyd, well-known Cowichan logger and wartime bomber pilot, who quickly informed me of my error.

This time, I’m sorry to say, it’s official: Kenneth Christopher Boyd, aged 91, died early this summer.

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