There can’t be many places more forlorn the Destruction Island, and the fact that it houses one of Washingtons offshore lighthouse reads like something out of a The Hardy Boy’s mystery novel. Paddling around the island you just feel the energy of the place. Not surprising given the islands history.

Destruction Island

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Destruction Island

The first time the island make’s itself know on the European timeline is back in 1775 when Spanish explorer Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, commander of the schooner Sonora which he anchored in the lee of the island, sent seven men ashore for wood and water. The entire party was killed which prompted Bodega y Quadra to name the island “Isla de Dolores,” Isle of Sorrow. Then in 1787 Charles W. Barkley, captain of the Imperial Eagle, did much the same. His party made it up the Hoh River before being killed. Captain Barkley named the river, Destruction River, but the island soon was known by the same name.

Inside my empty bottle, I was constructing a lighthouse while all the others were making ships. – Charles Simic

Construction of the Destruction Island Lighthouse began in 1888. Due to a variety of delays, the light didn’t become operational until 1891. The Coast Guard assumed responsibility for the lighthouse in 1939. Those assigned to the station served for a period of eighteen months, alternating six weeks on the island with a two-and-a-half-week shore leave. In 1968, it was automated, and the last of the light keepers left the station.

In this photo you seen the old rail system which was used to bring provisions up from the tender. I think the swaying shows that you wouldn’t use the system for anything today; felt like it might go at any second.

I’ve had the please meeting one of the last lighthouse keepers wife, Ginger Nichols. Theresa, and I spent a wonderful day listening to her many tells of life on the island and going through her many photos. Her tales ran from the humorous to the downright frightening.

As I sit here thinking about it, perhaps I should contact her and see if she’d be agreeable to recording some of these stories for posterity. I would seem such a shame to lose them!


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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Eric Wagner

    Hi, Steve,

    I’m a writer in Seattle working on a book about seabirds in the NE Pacific. I came across this post while searching for information on Destruction Island, which I’m planning to include. I’d be interested in talking to Ginger Nichols about her time on the island and was wondering if you have contact information for her that you’d be willing to share. My email is below if you have any questions.

    Thanks very much for any help and info.

    Eric Wagner

    1. Steve Weileman


      Ginger is such an interesting lady and a wonderful person to talk to. You’ll love talking to her. Let me see if I can find her information and if I can I’ll send it to you in an email. Let me know when your book is out, I’d love to pick up a copy!

      1. Eric Wagner

        Excellent, thanks so much! And I’ll keep you posted on the book–currently slated to come out in 2022, or thereabouts.

        Thanks again!

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