Preserving Food for the Cold Months Ahead

With harvest season on our doorstep, thoughts turn to gathering and preserving for the colder months ahead.  Our ancestors expended a great deal of time and energy keeping food in different ways.  From fish to berries, wild and domestic crops and game were prepared in different ways with the purpose of having edible food for the lean months ahead.

First Nations people smoked and dried fish, made oils, and dried berries and seaweed without the use of salt, sugar and jars and our pioneer forefathers and mothers brought with them their European ways of preserving.  Fish and meat, fruits and vegetables were canned, pickled, dried, salted, fermented, made into beverages, or where it was cold enough, frozen.

On the West Coast, one of the most proliferate and important food sources has been salmon.  As the different varieties of  salmon would make their appearance throughout the season, people found it necessary to find ways of preserving it.

“Processing the salmon harvest has been going on for hundreds of years, (William Sovde, longtime logger) Natives dried it (salmon) for their own use and for trading.  Early settlers salted it for export.”

In ‘Nootka Sound Explored’ author Laurie Jones tells us that prior to the establishment of canneries, there were several Japanese owned salteries on the west coast of the island.  “Herring and later chum salmon were dry-salted and shipped out to markets in China and Japan… the salteries were exporting fish as early as 1902.”

Smoking fish as a means of preserving has also been practised the world over for centuries.  Explorers were surprised to find the Nootka people of the west coast of Vancouver Island smoking and preparing fish right in their own dwellings.  The people of the Nimpkish area were also known to smoke large quantities of fish in their homes.

The smokehouses at U’dzo’la’s on the Nimpkish River were described to Leonard Hamm the following way:  “The smoke houses at U’dzo’la’s were the biggest I ever saw… big enough for four families, with four levels of hanging racks.  The fires were carefully tended, so that they did not burn too hot.

Salmon hung for smoking

Maybe six or seven hundred fish hanging at one time.  There was a big flat piece of metal put over the fire, so the smoke would to up around the edges, not go straight up the smoke hole.”

The process of smoking the fish is described thus: (from Raincoast Kitchens).  “Every day, over two hundred fish were brought in, cleaned, filleted and hung up to dry.  Those prepared the first day were hung closest to the ceiling of the house, those prepared the following days were hung on lower levels… my job was to turn those which were already hung up.  They would have to be turned several times each day.”

In ‘The North American Indian’,  Edward Curtis notes that “on account of its keeping qualities, dog-salmon (chum) was the principal storage food, and was used through the winter whenever the weather did not permit fishing.”  He goes on to say that the blubber and flesh of whales (that were sometimes stranded on shore or hunted) was also smoked and preserved, and the oil was stored.

Captain Cook observed that porpoise was commonly processed by the Nootka on the west coast, “the fat or rind of which, as well as the flesh, they cut in large pieces and having dried them, as they do the herrings, eat them”.  He also noted that the oil from sea animals was used “in great quantities”.

Another fish prized by the native people of the northwest were the eulachon

Making oil from eulachons

(smelt), whose nutrient rich oil was rendered into a grease that is said to have medicinal properties, and would be used to ward off colds and flu in the same manner that cod liver oil has been used by Europeans.  Eulachon oil was also an important trade item and a source of wealth. In the 1700s a vast network of eulachon “grease trails” stretched from Alaska to the Fraser River, even crossing the northern Rockies.

Eulachon have also been called ‘candle fish’, as they are so full of oil that when dried, placed upright, and lit, the fish would burn from end to end like a candle. Eulachon was often dried and smoked as well.

“The return of the eulachon meant the beginning of spring and a renewed food supply, (What’s Cooking America) literally saving lives and earning them the name “salvation fish” or “saviour fish.” They were the first fish to arrive in the river after a long cold winter when most of the stored food supplies had been depleted.

The oil or grease made from eulachon was rendered in various ways by individual tribes, but mainly the process was to fill a pit or box with the fish, allow them to decay for a week or two, then add boiling water so that the grease would rise to the top so that it could be skimmed off.  At room temperature, the grease is solid like butter and would be eaten with other fish or berries.  Bread could be dipped in the oil for eating also.

Florence Tickner, whose family were settlers in Knight Inlet, describes how when the eulachon run started, they ate the fish fresh until they couldn’t eat any more and how her family always had a stone crock containing eulachon in brine, which would be eaten later.  “Preserving food in those days often presented a challenge” she relates: “Mother used jars and put up berries, salmon, deer meat and deer stew.  Many people had a smoke house, and smoked salmon, cod, halibut, deer and eulachon.”

Differing from the native people, settlers brought with them the idea of leaving salmon in a brine before smoking it.  The brine was usually a combination of brown demerara sugar and pickling salt, with the amount of each being varied, depending on how ‘candy-like’ a person would want their fish to turn out to be. The number of days the fish stayed in the brine and the length of time for smoking the fish varied from individual to individual, as did the addition of certain other flavourings like maple syrup or whiskey.  Many people still smoke their own salmon and everyone has their own unique recipe.

Salmon and other seafood was often also ‘jarred’ or canned. It wasn’t long before the commercially minded saw the potential in processing large amounts of salmon for canning, and by 1910, there were about 80 canneries were operating along the coast.   Clams were also processed for canning.

Aside from fish, seafood and wildlife, another important indigenous food source was berries.  “There were plenty of berries: blackberries, huckleberries, salmonberries, blueberries, saskatoons and wild strawberries.  Indian women showed settlers the value of other berries such as the fruit of salal and Oregon grape.” (Women of British Columbia).  Before the advent of jars, native women were preparing berries for keeping.  ‘Currants, salal berries, raspberries, red elder berries or a mixture of them were steamed or boiled, then placed in cedar frames, spear on rack and dried slowly over a fire.’ (Raincoast Kitchen).  These would be formed into cakes for keeping and eating later.

Women settlers were often challenged in making preserves, as finding containers took some ingenuity until glass jars were available, and even when they did become available, were considered to be a luxury.

“We used whiskey bottles” recalls one woman pioneer… “we had to sterilize them [and] to make containers for jam, we tied a string around the bottom of the neck of each bottle, dipped that in coal oil and set it alight, then plunged the bottle into a pail of cold water.  Usually the neck snapped off neatly.” (Women of British Columbia)

Sealing jams and preserves was another task; settlers could use the hard, glutinous substance in which store-bought bacon was preserved.  Pieces of cloth, cheesecloth or paper could also be used.  If possible, enough jam was made to last the family through the winter.

The West Coast rainforest also abounded with edible mushrooms which came into fruit at different times of the year due to the mild climate, and these could be dried by hanging them in strings over a wood stove.

Cultivating fruits and vegetables opened up many more possibilities for variety of food and accessibility when the growing season was over.  Root vegetables could be stored in a root cellar or house.

“We had lots to eat; potatoes, carrots, parsnips turnips and beets were in the root house… we had over one hundred fruit trees in the orchard, cherries, plums and apples.” (Jean Turner, Raincoast Kitchen).  Jean recalls that her mother kept a very large garden and would put away five or six hundred jars of preserved fruits and vegetables before the winter.  Certain varieties of apples would also remain edible, if kept in a cool place, throughout the year.

Many vegetables were pickled, and cabbage could be fermented and made into sauerkraut.  Captain Cook believed that sauerkraut was a ‘cure-all’ and made it a staple aboard ship in the late 1700’s.  German and Eastern European settlers brought the tradition of sauerkraut with them to the west.  “Barrels of freshly pounded cabbage were kept for about a fortnight in a warm kitchen or stable and later transferred to a cellar or larder where they were kept for the whole winter.” (Pickled, Potted & Canned, Sue Shephard)

Today, many food preparation techniques have been continued or revived, despite the advent of refrigerators and freezers.  Numerous people today still smoke or jar fish and wild meat, pick mushrooms and berries and make jam because they enjoy the process and enjoy the taste of food that is both wild and prepared by hand.  Many of us take pleasure in giving and receiving gifts of food made from favourite recipes for preserving, and with Thanksgiving around the corner, we can be thankful that much of the wild fare our forefathers in this area enjoyed is still available to us today.

‘Raincoast Kitchens’ is a wonderful collection of old time recipes produced by the Campbell River Museum, and available in the Museum Shop.  Books like ‘The Women of British Columbia’ are available in our Archives collection.


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The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit

When Waterways Were Our Highways

This summer, the Campbell River Museum is offering historic guided boat tours to the Discovery Islands, whose fascinating history has been the subject of such books as Tidal Passages by local historian Jeanette Taylor.  Long before Campbell River became a settlement, there were three thriving centres of importance in the islands area: Rock Bay on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Shoal Bay on East Thurlow Island, (see map) and Thurston Bay on Sonora Island. Such was the importance of these settlements, that even before WW1, there was a telephone line connecting Rock Bay, Shoal Bay and Thurston Bay, several years before Campbell River had telephone service.

SS Cardena Union Steamship

In an era when waterways were the highways, and settlement was moving west from Vancouver, these centres had natural good harbours and the natural resources that expanding companies and settlers were looking for.  The easily accessible timber and mineral finds lured loggers and prospectors to the area, and after WW1, the government was granting 160 acre parcels of homesteading land  to entice settlers as well.  Soon afterward, the Union Steamships made their way up the coast from Vancouver and stopped at all the important settlements.

As early as 1880, logging operations like Hastings Saw Mill out of Langley, BC were looking to expand west of the mainland.  They first made Bickley Bay on East Thurlow Island their regional headquarters, then moved their operation to Rock Bay, on the east Vancouver Island, about 40km north of Campbell River.  In ‘Upcoast’ , Richard Rajala explains how “Rock Bay became the first upcoast site of mass production logging – tugboats moved logs from this site to Lower Mainland mills. [Rock Bay offered] accessibility, high-quality timber, efficient logging with oxen and horse teams.”

Horse and oxen were soon replaced with railroads starting about 1910.  These rail lines were never used to connect Rock Bay with other communities on the island however, and even today, the only way to get to Rock Bay by land is to follow a rough logging road from Highway 19.  At one period, Rock Bay had more loggers employed than at any other location on the coast, (about 1500).  A hospital was built there in 1904, further increasing its importance, but was closed in the early 1940’s when logging activity ceased.

Shoal Bay on nearby East Thurlow Island was a boom town in its own right, owing its growth to mineral finds.  The first stake was claimed 1884 and the gold rush followed in 1890. (Jeanette Taylor, Tidal Passages).

Old store at Shoal Bay, now torn down

This caused a great deal of excitement and drew large numbers of prospectors there.  By 1897, there were two stores and two hotels, and Shoal Bay was the distribution point for other mines in the area.  That same year Shoal Bay became incorporated as a town and the Union Steamships were stopping by four times a week.

The steamships were a vital link to people and supplies, in an era when it was rare for individuals to have their own motorized boat. When it was time to go to civilization, loggers with their paycheques and settlers would take the Union Steamship to Vancouver, enduring the 30 hour trip there and back.

Even as recently as the 1940’s, people in the islands used row boats for getting around in.  In fact, they rowed astonishing distances – from as far away as Cortes and Quadra Islands to reach destinations like Shoal Bay.  In ’Guide to Blind Channel’, Phil Richter tells us how a mother who lived at the Green Points settlement on the mainland would row from there to Blind Channel (on West Thurlow Island), a distance of about one mile, to get her children to school.   Len Crawford, who wrote ‘The Way It Was’,  remembers rowing as being the main means of getting around.  It could be dangerous, as most people didn’t wear life jackets—the only available style was too bulky.  Len himself never learned to swim, even though he spent his whole life on the water.  The water was too cold to enjoy, and as he says “the main thing was to stay out of the water.”

Thurston Bay

Thurston Bay on Sonora Island was unique from other coastal communities.  Instead of developing as a result of pioneering or exploitation of its natural resources, it was established in 1914 as a BC Forest Marine Service station and according to John Parminter, who for many years was editor of the Forest Marine Service newsletter, it was also a ship building centre for the Marine Service starting in 1917.    During its busy years, Thurston Bay had several boat building sheds, floats and bunkhouses and its own electricity, created by a Peltham wheel, and homes were built to house the families that came with the Forest Service Rangers, engineers and boat builders.  While rangers were out on patrol or fighting fires, their wives would man the station and keep up radio contact, and homeschool the children. As many families homesteaded in the area, eventually they had a school in Thurston Bay.  The community thrived until1941, and kept its status as a Ranger District until 1969, when that was transferred to Campbell River.

By the 1950’s, times were changing drastically in the islands.  The Union Steamship Company went out of business, and new provincial legislation meant that small logging concerns could no longer get forest licences. Schools were closing due to lack of enrolment and families moved to where the work and amenities were. The era of waterways as highways was over, giving way to recreational boating and floatplanes.

Catch a glimpse of a bygone era and imagine the coastal communities as the vital and thriving settlements they once were this summer.  Take a trip on Discovery Marine Safaris comfortable boats and learn about your desination from knowledgeable local guides.  Follow this link to the schedule.

Volunteer of the Year – Marjorie Beer

This past week, April 17 to 24th celebrates National Volunteer Week.  On Wednesday, April 21, the Volunteer Centre held their annual Awards night at the Campbell River Museum, with nominees for ‘Volunteer of the Year’ attending.  The Museum’s own Marjorie Beer, who has been volunteering at the Museum for 17 years, was this year’s recipient of the award.  Congratulations Marj!  The Museum values your contributions and all the help we receive from our other volunteers throughout the year.


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The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit

A Piece of Campbell River History Closes Its Doors

A piece of Campbell River history has closed its doors.  The Super Valu grocery store (see last building at end of row) was one of the first businesses to open in the Tyee Plaza in August of 1962, and served the community for 47 years, until the end of December 2009. Due to its seaside location, the store used to service boaters who were tied up at the Quadra ferry dock in the early years, and in later years supplied many of the logging camps.  A small business with a community focus, it offered years of friendly service and the convenience of shopping in the downtown core.  It is sure to be missed by many!



Grouse Mask by Campbell River artist Raymond Shaw of Kwakiutl heritage. This stunning mask is carved in yellow cedar with cedar bark decoration. Total dimensions including cedar accents, 20” by 12”…buy it now just in time for Christmas!

Find a great selection Museum Gift Shop Products online at…Click Here

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The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit

Ship Mishap Creates Christmas Bounty

On December 15th, 1927, an Alaskan bound steamer, the Northwestern, with 187 passengers and crew, ran aground onto the rocks at Cape Mudge during blinding a snowstorm with fierce gale-force winds.  The ship left from Seattle and had been following the Union Steamship ‘Chilosan’ in the snowstorm, guided by its whistle.  When the ‘Chilosan’ turned east heading for Cortes Island, the Northwestern failed to negotiate the turn, and as the visibility was extremely poor and they couldn’t see the light of the lighthouse, the ship crashed onto the rocks at Cape Mudge.

All passengers and crew were safely rescued and taken to the Willows Hotel, after a wait in heavy seas of about eight hours.  The Northwestern had been laden with Christmas supplies intended for Alaska and these were ferried ashore to Quadra Island.  As it happened, it had been a particularly tough year in the area, and the goods from the ship, including turkeys, chickens, oranges, apples and grocery supplies, as well as a full cargo of general goods, quickly and mysteriously disappeared. It has been said that a bountiful Christmas was enjoyed by Quadra Island and Campbell River residents that year!


p8260179_loggers_legacyLegacy Goldsmiths – These unique pieces are created by local Campbell River goldsmith David Nickel. What better gift to give than a memento of the logging and mining industries that shaped our Vancouver Island culture. Pictured here is a Logger Legacy piece – sterling silver haulback block miniature (the wheel rotates) in the form of a pendant that can be converted to a key chain…buy it now just in time for Christmas!

Find a great selection Museum Gift Shop Products online at…Click Here

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The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit

Harry Thurston, Haig-Brown House writer in res

Welcome to our new Haig-Brown House writer in residence who arrived on Monday, with his wife Cathy and elderly cat Elsa. Harry is self described as a dedicated fly fisher, conservationist and natural historian, and a long admirer of Roderick Haig-Brown’s writings. For the last 25 years Harry has been a full time writer, an author of 9 non-fiction books, 3 books of poetry, a feature writer for more than 30 leading magazines, including Audubon, National Geographic, a contributing editor to Equinox and Harrowsmith and has won several national awards.

What a privilege it is to have a writer of this caliber, live in our community until the end of March. In addition to living in the Haig-Brown House along our Heritage River as a muse to his writings, he will will be giving a talk at the Museum in the new year, and he will be available for consultations with local writers, who can make appointments through the HBH phone # 286-6646 or email:

We would like to thank the Rotary Club of Cambell River, the Haig-Brown Institute, and of course the City of Campbell River in it’s support of the HBH which enabled us to continue with the program. Check out Stillwater Books and Art for some of Mr. Thurson’s books and watch for upcoming Museum programs with Harry Thurston at the Museum.


Check out a number of Museum video productions at the Campbell River Museum YouTube Channel.

We also have a growing photo album on Flickr…worth the visit.

The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit

Leaving To Serve In The War

This photo has been identified as men being sent to train for the Signal Corps during World War II.  If you have any information about this photo, we would be interested in hearing from you.  On Remembrance Day, November 11, Campbell River honours those who were killed in action during both wars by placing wreaths on the cenotaph that bears their names, now located in Spirit Square. The war years were, incidentally, a boom time for the logging industry in Campbell River and as a number of men left to join the forces, there was a shortage of manpower.  Those who were working in the logging industry were exempt from serving in the military.


Check out a number of Museum video productions at the Campbell River Museum YouTube Channel.

We also have a growing photo album on Flickr…worth the visit.

The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit

Steam Donkey A Community Treasure

Volunteers Bring Steam Donkey Back to Life!

There were smiles all around when our steam donkey’s refurbished boiler was hoisted back into place on the Museum’s historic logging machine. With innumerable hours of volunteer labour, the boiler has been sandblasted, fitted with new crown sheet and tubes, staybolts, rivets, inspection covers, cowling, studs and fittings; welded, painted, tested, bringing us further along in achieving the donkey’s operational status.

This “volunteer spotlight” shines collectively on the people who are helping make the donkey’s restoration possible. The project has called for a huge investment of services and skills, and it is being achieved through hours of donated labour and expertise.

We gratefully acknowledge the following, for their contributions to restoring the boiler and bringing the donkey closer to operation. Thank you to Harry Bellrose, Alfie Boudreau, Bob Brind’amour, Ron Cooke, Peter Davies, Russ Davies, Beatty Davis, John Dykes, Ken Eck, Norm Fair, Maureen Gautier, Norm Grant, Al Bjorn Horst, “J.R.”, Les McCann, Bryan McCrae, Wayne Nolan, Dieter Pellman, Bob Purkiss, Steve Roberts, Eric Robertson, Steve Seidel, Bill Smith, John Smith, Paul Suarhoff, Mike Thompson, Boyd Van Ingen, Ed Visser, Bruce Visser, Ken Visser, Ron Whitlow, George Williamson, Pat Williamson, Jodie Woodland, Jim Young.

Some helpers have been anonymous in the ongoing course of this project, and our appreciation goes to them as well.
May you all feel rewarded by every whistle and puff of steam!


Check out all our Steam Donkey photos on Flickr…Click Here

Steamin’ Days Are Born…

On Labour Day, September 6, our steam donkey celebration drew a crowd of all ages. Arriving from every direction, local residents and visitors from across the island filled the Museum grounds, enjoying west coast music, hot dogs, pop and Lucky Lager as they watched our restored donkey “getting up steam.” When the donkey’s shrill whistle blew, it seemed a fitting salute to the last holiday of the summer and a return to workday routines.

Among the onlookers, many had logging memories and stories flowed as they inspected the donkey and met with old friends. The donkey was especially familiar for 85 year old Doug Boardman, who operated it when it was owned by his father’s company Dot Logging in the 1930s and 40s. “I could run it when I was 15 years old,” he said. Mr. Boardman’s sound knowledge of the machine was appreciated by those who restored the donkey, and they enjoyed his visits while the project was underway.

picture-001Check out all our Steam Donkey photos on Flickr…Click Here

The steam donkey, manufactured in Vancouver about 1916, now resides not far from where it began its career. It was first owned by logger P.B.Anderson who used it at Knox Bay on West Thurlow Island, just north of Campbell River, and then sold it to Clarence Boardman. Like many similar machines in use all over the coast, the donkey was frequently moved from one stand of timber to another. Mounted on log skids, it could be pulled onto a float and towed to another location.

Steam donkeys, which had replaced the use of horses and oxen in the logging industry, were themselves replaced by diesel machinery. In 1948 our donkey met retirement when it was abandoned at the head of Knight Inlet. It lay there for nearly 40 years, until it was brought to Campbell River by a forest company at the urging of the Rotary Club. A few years later, it was brought to the grounds of the new museum building.

Not used for more than 50 years, rusting and missing many parts, the donkey was only a relic until a dedicated effort to restore it began four and a half years ago. Spearheaded by Museum president Norm Fair and exhibit technical manager George Murdoch, the project drew amazing support and generous contributions of time, service, knowledge and skill. At the Labour Day celebration, a thank you sign was posted naming 50 individuals and 30 companies that had a part in the steam donkey’s restoration.

The fully restored donkey is currently the only one known to be operational, and it will be fired up and steaming at the Museum at Campbell River every Canada Day and Labour Day.


The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit

April 5, 1958 – Ripple Rock Explosion

In the late 1700s, Captain George Vancouver called the channel at British Columbia’s Seymour Narrows, “one of the vilest stretches of water in the world.” Its deadliest feature: the twin peaks of Ripple Rock, lurking just below the surface of the swirling water. “Old Rip” had menaced shipping for centuries, sinking or damaging 119 vessels and claiming almost as many lives. But on April 5, 1958, the world’s largest non-nuclear peacetime explosion pulled Ripple Rock’s teeth forever.

Watch a segment of the original filmed event…


Visit our Flickr page for sequential photo’s of the blast!

Ripple Rock was an underwater, twin-peaked mountain in the Seymour Narrows of the Discovery Passage in British Columbia, Canada, a part of the marine trade route from Vancouver and coastal points north. The nearest town was Campbell River. Only 2.7 meters (9 feet) underwater at low tide, it was a marine hazard, described by the explorer George Vancouver as “one of vilest stretches of water in the world.” It was destroyed by a planned explosion on April 5, 1958. This is a National Historic Event in Canada. The Ripple Rock explosion was seen throughout Canada, live on CBC Television. It was one of the first live coast to coast television coverages of an event in Canada.

The first known large ship to fall prey to Ripple Rock was the sidewheel steamer Saranac in 1875, as it was heading north to Alaska. At least 20 large and 100 smaller vessels were badly damaged or sunk between then and 1958. At least 110 people drowned in these accidents.

As early as 1931, a Marine Commission recommended removing Ripple Rock, but it was not until 1942 that the government authorized attempts to remove it. There was political opposition to the destruction of Ripple Rock, as some felt it would serve well as a bridge support to connect Vancouver Island to the mainland.

The first attempts at planting explosive charges on Ripple Rock were made with floating drilling barges with the goal of blasting away the rock in pieces. The first, in 1943, was secured with six 3.8 cm steel cables attached to anchors that altogether weighed 998 metric tons. This approach was abandoned when one cable broke on average every 48 hours. Another attempt in 1945, involving two large overhead steel lines was similarly abandoned after only 93 (out of 1500 planned) controlled explosions were successful.

In 1953, the National Research Council of Canada commissioned a feasibility study on the idea of planting a large explosive charge underneath the peaks by drilling vertical and horizontal shafts from Maud Island in the sound. Based on the study, this approach was recommended. Dolmage and Mason Consulting Engineers were retained to plan the project, and three firms, Northern Construction Company, J.W. Stewart Limited, and Boyles Brothers Drilling Company, were granted the contract, which ended up costing in excess of 3 million Canadian dollars.

Between November 1955, and April 1958, a three-shift operation involving an average of 75 men worked to build a 174 meter vertical shaft from Maud Island, a 762 meter horizontal shaft to the base of Ripple Rock, and two main 91 meter vertical shafts into the twin peaks, from which “coyote” shafts were drilled for the explosives. 1,270 metric tons of Nitramex 2H explosives were placed in these shafts, estimated at ten times the amount needed for a similar explosion above water.

The explosion took place at 9:31:02 am on April 5, 1958. 635,000 metric tons of rock and water was displaced by the explosion, resulting in debris at least 300 meters in the air, falling on land on either side of the narrows. The blast increased the clearing at low tide to about 14 meters (45 feet).

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police cleared the area of within 3 miles of the explosion, and the engineers and TV crew that witnessed the explosion were housed in a bunker.

The explosion was noted as one of the largest non-nuclear planned explosions on record, though Soviet authorities reported a larger explosion in the Ural Mountains to carve a new channel for the Kolonga River and in China to open a copper mine.

Vancouver based punk rock band the Evaporators’ 2004 album was named after Ripple Rock and includes a song that details its history and destruction.

The first song recorded about the taming of Ripple Rock was named “Ripple Rock” and recorded by Canadian folk/country singer Stu Davis.

In 2008 Campbell River celebrated the 50th anniversary of the blast with another commemorative blast done by a Vancouver special effects company. It took place at 9:31:02 AM, April 5, 2008.

Article Sources: Wikipedia, CBC Archives, Campbell River Museum


The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit