Mystery skull found on island near Tofino
Grapeshot-like holes have experts baffled
The Canadian Press
Thursday, March 01, 2007
CREDIT: Tonquin Foundation; Canadian Press
The section of skull that washed ashore on Wickaninnish Island clearly shows holes that some believe were caused by grapeshot, possibly connecting it to the infamous Tonquin incident of 1811.
TOFINO -- A portion of a skull peppered with five grapeshot-like holes and embedded with metal has washed ashore on an area island, leaving RCMP, First Nations and local historians stumped.
Some are wondering if it may be connected to the Tonquin, an American fur-trading vessel that was scuttled in an 1811 explosion after a battle with members of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation.
Answers won't come until after RCMP forensic examiners in Vancouver get a chance to determine the skull's age and what caused the holes, and that could take at least three months, said Tofino RCMP Sgt. Dave Lucas.
"There's a bunch of holes -- I wouldn't say drilled --I'd almost say punctured into the skull," Lucas said. "Honestly, I don't think it's murder, or a recent murder."
Measuring about 14 centimetres across, the section of skull was found a week ago by Steve Lawson just above the tide line on the south end of Wickaninnish Island where he lives.
Located in Templar Channel, Wickaninnish Island is just west of Tofino, within a kilometre of where a crab fisherman found what's now known as the Templar Channel Anchor in 2003.
Some historians believe the anchor came from the Tonquin.
Lawson said he gave the skull to Joe Martin, a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, who then gave the skull to the RCMP earlier this week.
Martin said he, too, wonders what caused the holes.
"It could have been one of the people on the Tonquin when it exploded."
But he also said the skull may have washed ashore after recent storms blew over trees and destroyed the graves of local natives.
Traditionally, said Martin, area aboriginals hung the bodies of the deceased in cedar boxes five to six metres off the ground, facing the ocean.
If the skull does prove to have been an aboriginal person, Martin said it should be returned to Echachist, located south of Wickaninnish Island.
David Griffiths, executive director of Tofino's Tonquin Foundation, said the skull was found in an area rich with maritime history. Just last year, a corroded and iron-oxide-encrusted metal band from an old sailing ship was found on Echachist.
Griffiths said the wounds on the skull are about eight millimetres in diameter.
"It's about the right size for grapeshot."
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