The Galleries proper are sculpted limestone, so eroded by wave action that they overhang, looking like waves themselves. They were observed by the very first Spanish explorers to visit these islands. Their expedition in 1792 was led by Galiano and Valdez. The Galleries were named after Malaspina, the commander who had ordered their journey. Jose Cardero, who was the ship's artist, sketched the rock formation. Later, back in Spain, his sketches were reworked and much exaggerated for a report on the expedition, hence the black and white image above.
In the 1920's E.J. Hughes, a young local artist, won a commission to paint murals for a new resort in Nanaimo called the Malaspina Hotel. The scene of the Spanish viewing and sketching the Galleries was one of the subjects chosen. That mural has recently been heroically restored and installed at the Nanaimo convention center. Last evening at sunset it was easy to understand how these rock galleries, in their wild and beautiful location, continue to capture the imagination.