Deadman’s Island

Photo by Bernt Rostad

Welcome to the Vancouver Lexicon. Its purpose is to pin down the patois of the City of Vancouver by recording its toponyms, nicknames, slang terms, personalities, places, and other Van-centric things. Full A-Z here.

Deadman’s Island | place, historic | A small island off the southeastern shore of Stanley Park. Deadman’s Island first entered the lexicon as a burial ground for the Squamish Nation and, according to Chief Joe Capilano, as the site of an ancient massacre that claimed the lives of some 200 young warriors. The first European settlers would also use it to inter their dead (including some the unfortunate Vancouverites who perished in the Great Fire of 1886), and for quarantine purposes during the smallpox epidemic of the 1890s. It would later become a squatter settlement in the early 1900s only to be cleared to make room for a sawmill that never materialized. Deadman’s Island (often known as ‘Deadman Island’) was converted to a naval station toward the end of the Second World War. Today it is home to Vancouver’s Naval Reserve Division, HMCS Discovery. Though a short bridge provides access to it (and low tides put it temptingly within a wet foot or three), it remains gated and off-limits to all but those authorized.

Usage: “Once I heard the stories, it was easy to make peace with the fact that I would never set foot on Deadman’s Island…”

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