Creative photos and essays from the San Juan Islands


Dinner Island

Dinner Island

The name of this, the largest island in Griffin Bay on the east shore of San Juan Island, is reportedly from the 1858 landing of a British survey vessel’s crew for an evening’s repast, thereby calling it Dinner Island. That brings to mind the question of all the island names in the archipelago. For instance, Rogers Island, or Hull Island, neither of which exist on today’s charts, but which were named in 1841 by Charles Wilkes as he passed through the islands on his four year exploratory voyage for the U.S. Government. His names for these two islands didn’t stick, but reverted back to the original Spanish names of San Juan and Orcas Island. Other islands he named, such as Spieden and Henry island, did retain the names he bestowed on them. My brother Dick lived on Spieden and I lived on Henry, so those names have personal significance.

Henry Island was named by Wilkes in honor of his nephew, Wilkes Henry, who had earlier been a midshipman aboard one of the vessels of the expedition. In 1840, while the vessels were in the Fiji Islands and young Henry was bartering with the natives for food, he and a companion were killed. I didn’t know the back-story when I lived on the island, but I always wished it had a more novelistic name such as ‘Treasure Island!’ Having the island’s namesake killed by cannibals lends a certain flair, but I’m against violence, even if for sustenance.

Dinner Island; now there’s a benign name for an island, especially as it’s tied to a pleasant event.

Photo: taken 9/6/2013 from Jackson’s Beach looking south.


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