The Strait of Juan de Fuca
How we use it and its history
by Paige S.
What body of water has the most jobs in the Pacific Northwest? In northwestern Washington State, there is a body of water about 95 miles long that extends from Washington to Canada. It is called the Strait of Juan de Fuca, also known as the Salish Sea. It is so large that it forms the outline of the Georgia Strait and Puget Sound, connecting them to the Pacific Ocean. It also forms the international boundary between the U.S and Canada. The Strait of Juan de Fuca is very busy with the many means of travel, from kayaks to ferries to boats that carry supplies. International ferries take people from Port Angeles, Washington to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The Strait is also a good way to let ships that carry supplies come into Washington and British Columbia, Canada. It is a good way to let ships in because of its great location, letting the ships right in to Canada and Washington State. Because of its large width, the ships have any easy way to get to their destination. Instead of having a tight space to get into, there will be lots of room, so multiple ships can go through it at the same time. If you didn’t know the difference between a strait and a sound, the difference is that a strait is open on both sides, but a sound is only open on one side.

It was named in 1787 by fur trader Charles William Barkley, captain of the ship Imperial Eagle. He named it after Greek navigator Juan de Fuca, who supposedly found the strait while exploring for the Spanish in 1592. It is a large channel and, because it is exposed to west winds and waves from the Pacific, the weather is rougher than the protected areas inland. This results in colder water, and the marine life is abundant. Some of the marine life in the Strait of Juan de Fuca are really big and colorful invertebrates, fish-eating anemones, huge mussels, and the world’s largest type of octopus. You can also find, deeper in the strait, varieties of whales. You just might see some of the world’s most fun animals as well, like sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, and seals. Small crafts are advised to stay away from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, except on calm days. They can tell it is a calm day because there is live and updated information on the Strait sent from the islands of Race Rocks.

The waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca were made famous in the stories of Tugboat Annie. These stories mostly published in the Saturday Evening Post in the 1940s to the 1950s. The stories came from the movie “Tugboat Annie” made in 1933. They were based on the life of Thea Foss who lived in Tacoma, Washington and were written by Norman Reilly Raine. Thea Foss was the founder of the Foss Maritime, the largest tugboat company in the western U.S. She was born on the 8th of June, 1857 and died on the 7th of June, 1927, Surprisingly, right before her birthday. She was so inspiring that they made a movie about her. The movie they made was about a middle aged couple who operated a tugboat. Years later, they made a second movie also called “Tugboat Annie.”

The Strait has also challenged people. Take Bert O. Thomas, for example. On Friday, July 8th, 1955 Bert O. Thomas, age 29, stepped into the ice cold waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. He was attempting to swim the 18.3 mile trip from Port Angeles, Washington to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Bert was born in Durango, California on July 17, 1925. He had started swimming competitively at the age of eight. He then joined the Marines, where he started his long distance swimming career. He was inspired by Florence Chadwick, another long distance swimmer, when she swam the English Channel. He decided to quit the Marines and move to Tacoma and swim the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It took him five tries and sixteen attempts until he finally made it in 11 hours 10 minutes, setting a new world record. He went on to swim from West Seattle to Tacoma, an 18.5 mile swim, setting yet another record. His last attempt was to swim the English Channel. Sadly, he never completed it and died at the age of 46, at Tacoma General Hospital on Thursday, June 10th, 1972 from a heart attack.

I learned during my research that even though the Strait of Juan de Fuca is very large and very beautiful, most of the information I found was about the weather. I wonder if anybody cares about the beautiful channel or if all they care about is the weather and when to go fishing? I think that everyone should know that we may use the Strait for purposes like shipping and tours, but the marine animals call this watery place their home.
1. McClary,Daryl."Bert Thomas becomes the first person to swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca on July 8, 1955". 4/22/9. History Link. The State of Washinton and other private and public sponsors. 2/10/11. http://www,
2. "The Striat of Juan de Fuca". 2/20/11. Wikipedia. Wikipedia the free encyclopedia. 2/7/11.
3. Carter, John. " Natural Wonders: Strait of Juan de Fuca British Columbia/Washington".1/11/10.Natural Wonders. Associated Content 2/7/11.
4. Norton,Clark. "Washington Scenic Drives: Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway". 2011. How Stuff works. How Stuff Works A Discovery Company. 2/15/11
5."Thea Foss". 11/16/10. Wikipedia. Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. 2/15/11