In today’s world, we can fly from London to Vancouver in less than 9 ½ hours, then hop on a quick flight of less than 1 ½ hours to arrive in Northern British Columbia. A long day, granted, but we can reach the west coast of Canada from England in less than a full day.
In 1867, however, the trip was much longer and arduous. Robert Tomlinson was to become a medical missionary in northern BC. The first nations were dying of Tuberculosis and Robert wanted to help. He had graduated from Trinity College in the summer of 1866 with a bachelor of Divinity and was interning to become a doctor when he heard the Church needed medical missionaries in the Nass. So eager was he to help out that he left his schooling without completing his degree.
He left Liverpool on the City of Boston on Wednesday 16 January 1867. The City of Boston was a screw steamship that first sailed in 1864 and sank in 1870.
The arrival in New York was recorded in the custom documents.
The customs agent incorrectly recorded Robert’a age as 35 rather than the actual 25. Perhaps he seemed older.
The voyage from England to NewYork took a little over 10 days and Robert recorded in his diary that he had 5 days to remain in New York before the next part of his voyage.
Robert left New York heading to Panama on Friday 01 February on the Rising Star. The Rising Star was owned by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company at that time.
On arrival in Panama, the passengers were put on a train to Aspinwall.
Robert noted that the crossing of the Isthmus “occupied but a few hours”.
From there, they boarded the SS Montana sailing for San Francisco. That sailing lasted about 13 days and included two Sundays.
On arrival in San Francisco, Robert rested there two weeks with other members of the Church Mission Society before heading on to the next part of his journey.
Robert sailed from San Francisco to Victoria on the CSN Steamer the Active, the same ship that Active Pass is named after. They left on 09 March.
They encountered heavy winds and the run was nearly double the usual time. They had to put in at Crescent City and again at Port Oxford. Robert did not arrive until 10:45 on the night of 13 March.
The SS Otter, the Hudson Bay Company’s Steamship running between Puget Sound and Alaska had left Victoria on 28 February and was not due back until May 23. So Robert had potentially another 2 ½ months to wait.
Luckily, Robert did not have wait for the next trip of the Otter, but was able to sail north on a Schooner called Kate on 23 April.
If you’re counting, Robert’s trip took more than three months, definitely longer than our current one day.
It should be noted that Robert’s time in Victoria was not wasted as he met his future bride during that time, but that’s another story. You can read some of it on the history pages for Robert and Alice.