Tuesday, 24 March 2009


This follows on from yesterday's post and it is about this man, Lord Melville, Baron Dunira. He was a very, very powerful man: a Scottish lawyer who rose to many high political posts during his life (1745 - 1811).

Because he was Treasurer of the Navy and then, later, First Lord of the Admiralty (1804) his name and his geographic associations (Dunira, Perthshire) have come to be used as place names around the world. All this was done in the early days of exploration when the British Admiralty were sending ships to navigate and chart the seas and coastline in far flung places on the globe.

None was more far away than the west coast of British Columbia! Yes, I know it now the centre of the universe, but in the late 17th and early 18th century these chaps went out - willingly! - to drop lead lines overboard and put little marks on large pieces of paper spread out on chart tables. (I note in passing that these marks were very accurate - like, I mean, the rocks don't move! - and remain in use today.)

Anyhow ... what interested me was not that there are Melville Islands in various parts of the world named after this fellow (e.g. Arctic, Australia), but that there is an interesting group of islands off the north-west coast of British Columbia with place names associated with Lord Melville.

These islands are 4 in number and are related to yesterday's post (see above or go back one day).

I guess unless you are a fisherman (see here) you wouldn't normally visit this part of the world.

Be that as it may, here is the story of how they got their name:

The island and its archipelago were named in 1792 by Captain George Vancouver in honour of the Rt. Hon. Henry Dundas (1742-1811), Treasurer of the Navy, 1783-1801, who was created Viscount Melville in 1802 and also Baron Dunira. The Dundas islands were originally perceived by Vancouver to be one island, named by him Dundas's Island.

Among the smaller islands of the group (south of Dundas Island) are Baron Island, Dunira Island, Melville Island and other small islands and islets on the west side of Chatham Sound.

Dundas Island is lat. 54°33'47" and long. 130°52'22" (W side of Chatham Sound just NW of Prince Rupert).

1 comment:

Vagabonde said...

It is very interesting and informative to read about Lord Melville, Baron Dunira and his connection to British Columbia - well connection in a way. Visiting all the islands named after him would make my traveling heart very happy. As it is, the first time we took the ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island, we would have liked to explore all the inlets and islands in the area along the way, but we could not at that time. Vancouver Island is so beautiful - the scenery stays within you long after you are gone, and becomes part of you. A few places are like that - the Pacific Rim National Park near the other Long Beach on Vancouver Island, and another remote place which somehow you keep in your hear is wild Newfoundland. Something of these places invades you and stay within, like the fog over the rain forest or the mist over the meadows. Considering the overcrowding of so much of our planet, these places are still unspoiled. Wouldn’t it have been even more memorable to visit them in Lord Melville's time?