What is Whiskey 601?

In 1983, "Whiskey 601" existed as an imaginary rectangle of ocean located approximately forty miles off the west coast of Vancouver Island.  It was relatively insignificant in size, a mere 20 miles wide and 10 miles high.  It was its location, near the entrance to the strategically important Strait of Juan de Fuca, which gave it significance.

Its official name on a nautical chart was Exercise Area W-601.  However, it was more often referred to as "Whiskey Six Oh One", or as Canadian Navy sailors had shortened it, "Whiskey".  Of course, the name gives the notion that there is a connection with libation.  However, the curious title is simply due to the military's desire to use the phonetic alphabet to spell out letters.  This is why the "W" in W-601 is vocalized as "Whiskey."  As one might surmise, there is not an actual drop of whiskey to be found in the entire area.  The only exceptions may be a few stray bottles that were held in the liquor cabinets, lockers, or bars belonging to the crews of ships that might transit the area.

Ironically, a bottle of whiskey was a certain luxury that one should probably bring along if they were headed anywhere near Whiskey 601.  There was nothing romantic or luxurious about the location.  The area is neither scenic nor remarkable in any way.  No stoic landmasses rise up from the ocean depths to form islands.  Essentially, to the naked eye there is nothing to see. Actually, it's rather boring.

The only landmarks available to the eye are dozens of miles of ocean waves, occasionally broken up by an ocean going freighter or container ship that might sometimes plod past the area, on their way inbound or outbound from the west coast.

An excerpt from Whiskey 601, a novel by Mark Nelson