Bill started us off by giving an overview of the history of Indian Island, including that George Vancouver “discovered” the island and because of two poles with indian head on them as no trespassing signs named it Indian Island. The island, originally purchased from the Native Americans living there was again purchased in 1939 from the then 64 separate landowners who farmed, worked orchards and raised cattle for the purpose of establishing an ordnance and weapons handling facility. The base was commissioned in 1941 and work done there during WW II also included assembly of mines and submarine nets.
Indian Island is culturally significant in that it contains a number of historic Native American sites and significant pioneer homestead sites. There are also still a number of WW II era buildings which are still in use, although old military housing was removed years ago and no one presently lives on Indian Island.
There is much wildlife there and we got a close look at a huge eagle’s nest, one of several, which is near the fire house. There are many deer and a couple of coyote too.
During our travels around the base we drove out on the munitions handling pier which was built in 1977, is the largest ammunition wharf on the West coast, is the only such deep water facility and contains the Navy’s largest crane. Ships from submarines to aircraft carriers can be accommodated at the 650′ long pier. Munitions arrive on Indian Island by truck and are offloaded at one of 8 staging areas. Although many of the magazines (a/k/a bunkers in the Army) are of WW II vintage more recently larger buildings have been constructed to Tomahawk missile storage. Only conventional ordnance is handled and stored at Indian Island and none is armed. There are no nuclear weapons. Conventional ordnance requirements of all US and Allied military forces requirements are met here and there is a close working relationship with Canada.
Indian Island is well known for the successful remediation of significant landfill pollution that was once one of 19 Superfund Sites.
We concluded the tour with a peaceful visit to the serene and beautiful site of the Anderson homestead where there are still remnants of their apple orchard. Some notable glacial erratic boulders are evident as well.
Indian Island has an interesting past, important presence and a necessary future and we were most fortunate to have been able to visit this very secure facility. And thanks, of course, to Byron Faber for the tour arrangements. – Norman Marten