Queen Charlotte Islands
island north south
QUEEN CHARLOTTE ISLANDS, a group of islands lying off the west coast of British Columbia, to which they belong. They were so called by Captain Dixon, who visited them in the " Queen Charlotte" in 1787, and spent more than a month on their coasts. They are composed of two chief islands, Graham Island to the north and Moresby Island to the south, separated by a very narrow channel; but around these, especially in the south, are innumerable smaller islands. The whole group has the form of a wedge with the point towards the south. The extreme length is about 180 miles, and the greatest breadth 60 miles. The total area cannot be determined, as the longitude of the west coast has not yet been definitely ascertained. See vol. iv. Pl. XXXV.
The islands are mountainous, and appear to be a partially submerged continuation of the mountain chain traversing Vancouver's Island, which lies to the south, separated from the group by Queen Charlotte Sound. The mountains are situated more particularly in the southern island, which is little more than a skeleton of mountains washed at their base by the waters of numerous inlets. Many summits here rise above 5000 feet in height. The larger island to the north, which has a length of about 77 miles and a breadth equal to the maximum breadth of the group, is in general lower, though here also there are hills rising to between 2000 and 3000 feet. Both the mountains and lowlands are well wooded, but in general the timber is not found in accessible spots in sufficient quantity to encourage attempts to develop the lumber trade. At present the principal commercial resources of the islands are derived from the fish that frequent these shores. Immense shoals of dog-fish visit the north and north-east, and they are utilized for their oil by a company established on Skidegate Inlet on the east side of Moresby Island. Holibut, herring, salmon, cod, and coal-fish or "skil " (this last also rich in oil and a valuable food-fish) are likewise abundant. The climate is extremely moist, especially on the west side of the watershed.
Geologically the group appears to be composed mainly of Triassic, Cretaceous, and Tertiary strata, with intrusive masses here and there of granite and other igneous rocks. The Triassic deposits occupy almost the whole of the southern part of the group, and it is uncertain whether some Palaeozoic rocks may not be exposed at certain points, as they are in corresponding situations on the mainland of British Columbia. The Cretaceous deposits lie unconformably on those of Triassic age on both sides of Skidegate Inlet and Channel (in the south of Graham Island and north-east of Moresby Island), and are interesting geologically from containing a bed of anthracitic coal. These deposits are again unconformably overlaid by those of Tertiary age extending over the greater part of Graham Island ; and the unconformity in this case is accompanied by evidence of great disturbance, indicating that this was the chief period of mountain-making in the group.
The islands are inhabited by an interesting race of Indians called the Haidas, who are chiefly found on the coasts, where they support themselves by fishing, partly also by the cultivation of the potato, which was probably introduced among them by some of the early voyagers. They tattoo their bodies, sometimes paint their faces, and have many singular customs • but their greatest peculi- arity consists in their habit of erecting great numbers of carved posts as ornaments in front of their dwellings. Their number is rapidly decreasing, and in the last official report on the exploration of this group (Victoria, 1884), it is estimated at only eight hundred.
The fullest account of the Queen Charlotte Islands and their inhabitants is to be found in the report of George M. Dawson in the Report of Progress for 1878-79 of the Geological Survey of Canada.