The Strait of Georgia, earlier called the Gulf of Georgia and now also known as the North Salish Sea, located on British Columbia’s South Coast, is a precious, contested and vulnerable place.


I am deeply indebted to many people who have supported this book project, though none but me can be blamed for the result. Special thanks to all the ancestors around the Strait for making it possible.


The Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound are now known collectively as the Salish Sea, in recognition of the Indigenous culture that developed on their shores.

1. The Sea as Barrier, the Sea as Highway

A protected sea doesn’t present the same challenges as the vast expanses of an ocean. Yet whether any body of water is a barrier or an opportunity has to do with those who navigate it.

2. Empty Land or Stolen Land? The Colonial Strait

50,000 people, perhaps more, lived around the North Salish Sea before the onset of epidemics in the late eighteenth century, sustained by an abundance of food from the sea.

3. Resource Mining by the Sea: Mining and Forestry

Whereas Indigenous people found uses for most elements of their environment, the settlers who arrived after 1850 were mostly interested in a few raw materials with rapidly growing global markets.

4. Resource Mining in the Sea: Fish and Oysters

The first Europeans to visit the Strait of Georgia reported waters teeming with life. It was the Hudson’s Bay Company that started the international trade, shipping Fraser River salmon.

5. The Strait as Waste Dump

Mixing stories of navigation, colonisation and capitalist development with tales of health, disease and recreation complicates the history of places like the Strait of Georgia.

6. Recreation on the Restorative Strait

Recreation on and by the sea was firmly established in European culture by the time settlers began arriving on the Strait. The Strait already had a couple yacht clubs before 1900.

7. Conclusions and Reflections on the Twenty-first-Century Strait

Books like this one speak of the past, but they are firmly rooted in the present and concerned about the future. I have looked at issues that are not usually considered together in histories of BC.