Blown south the ‘Otter’ selects this cove to restock with fresh water and wood. Tom is first out again with Peron. Their arrival doesn’t appear to be unusual or unwelcome. They spend these 5 days in early June 1796 exploring. With no skins available for trade, they move on.
Relationship with Place
Travelling across to Vancouver Island from Port Angeles in America I thought I’d see rural Canada. I’d been expecting a mirror image of the Washington coast, but it isnt. It’s metrapolitan, it’s car-lots and flyovers, it’s suburbia and commuter towns and only when I get a few hours up the road does it become a mix of forestry and recreation. I wonder if Tom’s crew on the Otter felt similarly confused with their reception. Contact between the coastal Salish people and European crews had becomes tense with familiarity by the time Tom gets here and the local community are wanting iron pots or knifes and are unimpressed with pewter tankards and cloth that these guys brought with them. By the time I get to Port Renfrew, as the village is now called, I only have a few hours to look around. The principle visual impact are the huge driftwood deposits on the beach. These are from the steam operated logging machines brought into the forest in 1920 and shipped out in 1990. I walk across the sand and up through the town, I look around the new harbour and see the blasted rock used for the new road, logging camp houses are laid out around a village green but I think the loggers are all gone, I wonder where the Pacheedaht might be. I ask the trendy barrista in his mobile coffee house, he gestures vaguely back up the river somewhere.
What were the conversations that were happening on the ‘Otter’ for those ten days between seeing the first debris in the sea that signalled the proximity of land and coming ashore? They must have been excited, this part of the journey was where the money was going to be made. The crew had to have a lot of investment in believing they were going to be lucky. The trade in animal pelts was all about building relationships but you could arrive at someone’s camp and a representative from another ship might have bought everything last week. Tom had good people skills and was socially fluent by this stage but he wasn’t part of the crew from Boston, so he was expendable. Someone must have talked him into being first out of the boat to contact the villagers because it was a risky job, it was known amongst the sailors that captured enemies in the Pacific North West were often taken as slaves. Perhaps that insult from the last European crew to visit town might lead to a knife in the back.