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Bolton Expedition 1896
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Bolton and Laing Expedition 1896:
Exploring Central Vancouver Island

From the San Francisco Chronicle June 26, 1896.

Rector Bolton Goes Exploring.
Vancouver Isle His End.

J.W. [John William] Laing will back the enterprise.

One hundred miles of trackless wilderness to be thoroughly explored.

Two Englishmen and two Americans are going to try to complete the exploration of Vancouver Island. The Englishmen, who reside in San Francisco, leave to-night for two months of as hard and difficult travel as any two men could undertake.

J.W. Laing, M.A. Oxon., F.R.G.S., who was an intimate friend at college and later in life of the late Lord Randolph Churchill [Sir Winston Churchill's father], is the angel of the enterprise. He is backing it financially and furnishing the $1200 required for the trip. Rev. W.W. [William Washington] Bolton, rector of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, and an M.A. of Cambridge, is the other Englishman. The Americans come from Seattle. One is C.W. Jones, a mining expert, and the other Wells Green, who goes as packer and cook. These two men are under the salary of Laing, who is an accomplished Alpine climber and a member of the Alpine Club. He was for three years president of the Oxford Athletic Club. Oddly enough Bolton was president of the same club in the rival university of Cambridge. He has already had experience in exploring Vancouver, for two years ago he was one of the party who traveled through 200 miles of the roughest country in all that rough and tree-grown island. In order to get back in time he was obliged to leave 100 miles between Woss Lake and Alberni unpenetrated. It is this 100 miles of mountain and river that he is returning to explore.

The plan of the tour is to go by steamer to Victoria, thence to Adam's River by the English steamers that run up the eastern side of the island. Here the quartet will be landed in canoes by Indians. Then the party goes across the island to Woss Lake, where Bolton left a camp and a canoe two years ago. As there are no white men or Indians within many miles, he hopes to find his canoe intact. From Woss Lake the explorers will turn south and hope to make Alberni, 100 miles away, in two months. This seems a long time for a short distance, but the country is so exceedingly rough, the forest so thick and impenetrable, and the chaparral so dense, that, with the most strenuous exertions, five miles a day is the most they can expect to make. They intend to climb Victoria Peak if it is possible. No man has ever been even to the foot of it, but it has been seen from a distance and is supposed to be about 8000 feet high - the tallest peak on the island. It is snow-covered and Mr. Bolton expects to discover some new glaciers, as he did two years ago. From there they will proceed, still through the trackless forest, to Buttle's Lake, the largest lake on the island. This too has only been seen from a distance. Its bank will be thoroughly explored. Its size will be measured and the results given to the authorities at Victoria, who expect to correct their map by observations of this exploring party. From the lake they will proceed to Alberni, and expect to meet supplies sent up twenty-five miles into the wilderness to meet them.

From there on, travel to Victoria is comparatively easy. One reason for the slow progress is that all supplies have to be carried on the backs of the wayfarers, as no beast of burden can penetrate the wilderness. The two packers will carry 100 pounds a piece, Bolton will take 75 and Laing 35. This 310 pounds of baggage includes two small tents, blankets, underclothes, two rifles, ammunition, a camera, axes to chop chaparral, tools and provisions. Bolton found elk very plentiful, and they hope to shoot and fish as much of their living, as supplies for four men for two months make no light burden. The Englishmen do not expect to reach San Francisco until the middle of September. Laing, who is wealthy, has been for a year professor of English literature at the Mount Tamalpais Military Academy in San Rafael. He hopes to discover gold and copper in this new world, and if successful, will be backed by both English and American capital in developing Vancouver resources. Bolton goes on his vacation and because of his delight in exploration and hunting. Laing is also a sportsman of some renown.

The map makers of Victoria are anxiously awaiting the results of the trip. When it is finished, Vancouver will have been traversed from end to end, and the world will really know what lies in the interior of that vast, unknown land.

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