Today Cole Island is inhabited by only the whispers of those who came before.  It now stands as a very important link to our heritage here on Vancouver Island under the watchful eye of the Provincial Government’s Heritage Branch and a local group of local people who have formed a community called the “Friends of Cole Island“.  We’ve seen it time and time again, only the ongoing work of dedicated volunteers can make a difference for a place like this, creating a lasting legacy that will remain for generations to come.  And it’s through this legacy that we can maintain these important links to our heritage that can be shared with future generations to come.  Today’s post marks the end of this photoblog series “The Toads At Cole Island“, if you’re just joining us now we really encourage you to check out the previous posts to learn all about the incredibly interesting history that comprises the site.

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

I have to admit, we love photographing places like this.  The ability to become fully immersed in a site and it’s surroundings helps us to connect the now with the past and always leaves us with a profound sense.  They day we spent on Cole Island was a hot one, in the middle of summer, and the air felt heavy and rather humid.  Once we landed on the shores and began the session, it took no time before we were discovering artifacts, features and architecture; all things we love to photograph and share with our audience here.

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Every turn of our adventure found us in a process of discovery.  Artifacts are found everywhere and if you pay attention they will tell you a story.  As we’ve mentioned in our previous posts, this site was constructed in the mid 1800’s during the earliest time of colonization of the island.  It’s really amazing to consider the efforts that would have had to have happened to build a facility like this, especially at this time.  There were no power tools, no super stores to visit for building supplies…  you either found it here, had it shipped here from far away, or you made it yourself.  It’s this very tenacity that speaks to the community we have since built on Vancouver Island, a community of resilient and determined people who love and appreciate the treasures we have.  Even if sites like Cole Island remain on the periphery of our collective experience.

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Of all the remaining structures on Cole Island, this one was the most personally profound for us.  This is widely considered to be one of the first homes to be constructed here in the Victoria area during the period.  Today it remains standing only through the efforts of those who strive to preserve it.  Facing a constant onslaught of wicked weather coming in from the Pacific Ocean, the slow process of decay is combated and the home remains an important symbol of those earliest days of active colonization.  Years of salt water continue to erode the bricks, stone and roof in an environment that is somewhat relentless.  Life would have been beyond difficult at the time, and we can’t help but wonder if some of the new arrivals weren’t really prepared for what they’d find here in terms of raw and rugged landscapes.

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

As we enter the building, we find that only the light from the open doorway illuminates the interior.  This made for an incredibly difficult shooting environment.  Since our visit we have bought some great lighting equipment for our practice and we would love a chance to return for a more detailed photographic exploration of the house.  Even with the challenges found in the technical aspects of the interior shoot, we still find incredible history and artistic tension within these walls.  All these bricks and stones were laid by hand, by men who were convinced that life in the new land held opportunity for those brave enough to come.  We can honestly say all these years later that they were right.

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

These are the remains of the wooden piers at this site.  We don’t know for certain when this was built, but it’s very, very old.  It may even be a remnant of the original piers constructed at site during the times the island was an active facility.  All the activities conducted here were centric to protecting the lower island and the new settlers who came to the lands with hopeful hearts.  You can almost feel the spirit of the men who landed here and set out to build something special, something new.

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

Cole Island - Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada

Cole Island – Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria, BC, Canada –

As we make our way back to shore by boat we turn to take a final look at the grand structures left standing sentry on Cole Island.  The day was beyond exciting, a day full of discovery and wonder and one we will never forget.  Through the act of kindness we find that Cole Island remains an important site in terms of our history, and a place that is actively and lovingly maintained to remain a constant reminder of the efforts of those who came before us.  For that we remain eternally grateful to the fabulous group of people “Friends of Cole Island” who monitor and maintain this site.

Thank you once again for visiting us here at The Hollow today.  We appreciate each and every visitor we receive here, and we encourage you to leave us any comments or thoughts you may have below as we love to hear from all our visitors.




  1. Wonderful glimpse into a time when the history of Cole Island! Beautiful photography!

  2. avatar Bev Oliver says:

    Gorgeously haunting. Love it, Toad. Hope you are well!

    • Thank you so, so much Bev! Definitely feeling better as the week progresses here, the forest fires are diminished in BC finally. Really, really sorry I missed you guys this weekend. Hope your week goes well and looking forward to being in touch real soon here!

  3. What an awesome place!! Great job sharing its story.

  4. avatar Lisa Gordon says:

    This most surely must have been a wonderful place to explore.
    So many things to be seen, and what I notice most are so many little details, I am sure with so much meaning.
    Thank you for sharing this place, and these wonderful photographs here!

  5. avatar Edith Levy says:

    This is fantastic Toad. I’ve never heard of Cole Island. Thanks for introducing us to it and the images are just fabulous. Very inviting…I want to visit 🙂

  6. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    What a great opportunity to shoot such a target rich subject Toad. You really knocked this one out my friend.

  7. avatar Rick Louie says:

    That looks like an amazing place to shoot. Lots on cool details that you don’t see in modern architecture. It’s nice that it is being preserved. Lots of history here. Thanks for sharing.

  8. avatar LensScaper says:

    A great series, Toad. I don’t think we can have any conception of how hard it was for those early colonists to work in isolated places like this. By comparison we have life so easy.

    • We completely agree here, Andy, and this is one of the things that spurs us on with the work we do here. Many thanks for your kind kind visit and comments today, you made our whole day!

  9. as this is your final episode dealing with cole island, i say “last but not least”. it is so close to where i live and yet i’ve never been there. I enjoyed perusing these photographs so much that a definite thank you is in order. incredible structures and building materials. and yes one cannot help but wonder about the life that took place in it.