The Pacific Station, often referred to as the Pacific Squadron, was one of the geographical divisions into which the Royal Navy divided its worldwide responsibilities. Before 1837 it was called the South America Station.
It was established in the early nineteenth century to support British interests along the eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean at Valparaiso, Chile. In 1834 the Station hosted a visit by the survey ship on her second voyage. In 1837 the South America Station was renamed the Pacific Station. In 1843 George Paulet, captain of the , took her out from Valparaiso to Honolulu to demand the islands of the Kingdom of Hawaii for Britain. King Kamehameha III capitulated and signed the islands over to Paulet. In the summer of that year Rear Admiral Richard Darton Thomas set out from Valparaiso in the to rein Paulet in. On 31 July 1843 Thomas assured the King that the occupation was over and that there was no British claim over the islands.
In 1842 the was sent north to survey the coast of Vancouver Island and what would become the Esquimalt Royal Navy Dockyard. During the survey trip the crew of the Pandora found that Esquimalt Harbour had a size and depth suited for use as a Royal Navy harbour. As tensions between Britain and America rose during the Oregon boundary dispute a base at the southern end of Vancouver Island would help strengthen the British claim to all of the island. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 ceded control over all of the island to Britain. In 1848 the was sent to Esquimalt and was the first vessel to be stationed there. In the summer of 1854 several ships, including , , ,, and set out from Valparaiso and sailed across the Pacific Ocean stopping at the Marquesas Islands then they went on to Honolulu where they met a French fleet of warships. In late August the combined fleets sailed to Russia to engage in the Siege of Petropavlovsk at which Commander-in-Chief David Price died.
Captain of the Pique Frederick William Erskine Nicolson was brevetted and took command of the British naval forces from 31 August 1854 until the arrival of the next Commander-in-Chief. In 1855 three Crimean huts were built at Esquimalt to serve as a hospital intended to receive wounded from the Crimean War. The huts were the first shore establishment at Esquimalt.
The presence of forests full of straight grained conifers such as the Coast Douglas-fir meant that Vancouver Island could provide shipbuilding material suitable for spar making in the age of sail. The later discovery of coal on the island and at Vancouver's Coal Harbour, meant that the area could also serve as a useful resource in the age of steam as well. Rear Admiral Robert Lambert Baynes, aware of the political importance of maintaining British sovereignty amidst the San Juan Boundary Dispute and the British Columbia gold rushes recommended to the Admiralty a move of the station headquarters from Valparaiso to Esquimalt in November 1859.
By 1865 Esquimalt was recognized as the base headquarters of the Pacific Station. The move from Valparaiso to Esquimalt helped the Pacific Station avoid involvement in the the Chincha Islands War between Spain, Chile, and Peru. Rear Admiral de Horsey ordered the commanded by Frederick Bedford, against the Nicolas de Pierola led Huascar in the Battle of Pacocha on 29 May 1877. In that battle two Whitehead torpedoes were fired from the Shah at the Huascar but they missed their mark and the Huascar got away.
A graving dock large enough to accommodate the largest ships in the Pacific fleet was commissioned at Esquimalt in 1887. After a period of relaxing tensions meant that British interests in British Columbia were secured, the Station was maintained to counter Russian ambitions in the Pacific. The Station was also crucial in defending British Columbia from United States aggression during the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the contemporaneous Alaska Boundary Dispute, when the US threatened to forcibly invade and annex British Columbia if its demands over Alaska were not met.
By the end of the nineteenth century, improved communications, the signing of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and the need to concentrate warships in British waters to counter the developing German High Seas Fleet, meant that the station was closed down at sunset on 1 March 1905. The facilities and base of operations at Esquimalt, British Columbia were transferred to the Canadian Department of Marine and Fisheries. The Pacific Station's responsibilities were divided between the China, Australia and the North America and West Indies Stations.
After passage of the Naval Service Bill in 1910 there was a Canadian Naval Service that controlled the base at Esquimalt and that service became the Royal Canadian Navy in 1911. In the 1960s a consolidation of defence forces in Canada led to its reformation as the Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt.
Most Commanders-in-chief of the station held the rank of Rear Admiral, with the exceptions of Hamond and Hastings who were each promoted to Vice Admiral before being reassigned to other duties, and Goodrich who was a Commodore.
Legacy[[File:Arco Britanico.jpg|thumb|[[:es:Arco Britanico|Arco Britanico]] erected 1910 at Eleuteno Ramirez and Avenue Brasil in Valparaiso commemorates Lord Cochrane, Robert Simpson, and other founders of Chile]]
The largest remnant of the Pacific Station is the CFB Esquimalt naval base in western Canada. Many geographical features of Vancouver Island and British Columbia are named after captains, commanders, and ships assigned to the Pacific Station. The Arco Britanica triumphal arch in Valparaiso was constructed to commemorate the British presence in the city, including several Naval commanders. Thomas Square in Honolulu is named after Admiral Richard Darton Thomas. Although Union Flags were flown over Hawaii as early as 1816 the current state flag of Hawaii design dates from the close of the Paulet Affair and features a British Union Flag in its canton to commemorate the help that Thomas rendered the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Charles Darwin's visits to Valparaiso, Cerro La Campana, and the Galapagos Islands led to publication of The Voyage of the Beagle which, along with later works such as On the Origin of Species, helped to establish the field of evolutionary biology.
British Pacific Fleet - a World War II era fleet assembled to fight Japan
CFB Esquimalt - the contemporary Canadian Forces Base
Esquimalt Royal Navy Dockyard - the shore establishment used by the Pacific Station until 1905
Maritime Forces Pacific - the contemporary Canadian command
Pacific Squadron - a division of the United States Navy between 1821 and 1907
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Pacific Station