The original photo caption read “Men of drilling crew: brave men who rode a continually active “sea-earth-quake” in the heart of perhaps the most dangerous tide race in the world. Their courageous effort was frustrated by swift tidal water.” The Museum does not know who any of these men were. In conversation with Bill Davis, who worked on one of the tugs, he explained that the drilling crew came from the United States with the barge, and were not known to the locals. If anyone has more information about any of these men the Museum would like to add more information to the files in the archives. Photo MCR16682, Courtesy of the Museum at Campbell River.

Ripple Rock: The disastrous earlier attempt at its destruction

A Look Back intot the History of the Campbell River Area

By Erika Anderson,

Museum at Campbell River

The destruction of Ripple Rock is one of Campbell River’s most celebrated historical events.

It’s a tale of human ingenuity, and well, it is fun to watch something that big blow up. We love to celebrate this success, but we should also reflect on its true cost. The successful detonation of Ripple Rock wasn’t the first attempt to destroy this marine hazard.

In early 1945, a crew working for Vancouver’s B.C. Bridge and Dredging Company was attempting to reduce the danger of Ripple Rock. They planned to drill into the rock from the surface and plant explosives and then, after detonation, the rubble would be removed by dredges and scows. Huge anchors would hold the boat in place as it drilled. The cost of the project was estimated to be $375,000. A special scow (flat-bottomed boat used for dredging) was built for the project. It was 150 feet long and 42 feet wide. Holes would be drilled six feet apart and then explosives would be inserted.

Trouble started early on in the project. Bill Davis worked on one of the tug boats when he was in his teens. It was war-time, so finding labourers for the project was difficult. Bill was only 14 at the time, but told them he was 16 to get the job as a tugboat engineer. He remembers clearly five attempts at using large concrete anchors, and at each attempt a new combination of cables, chains and swivels being used.

Bill describes the first attempt, when they did not yet realize how much they had underestimated the strength of the tides. “The tug boats got into place, in the four corners with the concrete blocks attached to the four corners of the barge with thick cables. They blew the whistle and we all dropped the cement blocks in the sea. We did this at slack tide. Then we all started to head back to Maude Island, and it was probably a half hour later that the barge started heading down Seymour Narrows. All of the big cables had broken.”

When the large anchors could not hold the scow in place, they tried to anchor the boat to the Vancouver Island side of Seymour Narrows. The cables became weakened by the vibrations caused by the rushing tides so then the cables were extended above the water. This caused challenges for mariners trying to navigate the area, and temporary restrictions were placed on marine traffic. A dam was being built near Maude Island to divert some flows to allow for drilling. With all the setbacks came huge cost over-runs.

On Friday, March 16, 1945, disaster struck. A crew that had been working on the Maude Island diversion project were being ferried across the passage to Menzies Bay during a fast-running rip tide. They had barely left Maude Island when their 28-foot boat overturned and 11 men were thrown into the water. Nine of the men disappeared into a whirlpool while the other two men clung to the boat. A search party was organized, but it was too late for the nine men that drowned. In the wake of the tragedy, the project was abandoned.

Ottawa decided at that point, that the million-dollar price tag and loss of life that had come with no progress on reducing the risk of Ripple Rock, was too steep and no more attempts would be made to blow up the underwater peaks. It would be 13 years before a new plan was enacted and the marine hazard was successfully reduced.

A short film about the destruction of Ripple Rock can be viewed at the Museum at Campbell River’s Van Isle Theatre.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

The SRD is looking for volunteers for three Public Safety Lifeline Teams in the area. File photo
SRD looking for Public Safety Lifeline Volunteers

Emergency Support Services, Radio Communications and Animal Response volunteers all sought

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Fisheries and Oceans Canada fish-health audit at a farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The BC Salmon Farmers Association is asking Ottawa for renewed discussions with stakeholders and First Nations to allow for an equitable agreement on the government-ordered departure from the Discovery Islands. (Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward photo)
B.C. salmon farmers request more time to leave Discovery Islands

DFO’s current deadline will lead to the cull of 10.7-million young fish

BC Hydro is replacing streetlights across the province, with Strathcona Regional District communities this week. (Submitted photo)
Streetlights to be replaced in SRD commuities

LEDs chosen for energy efficiency and to reduce glare

Economist Doug Blair who prepared the report for RIAS Inc., said that he found significant concern with the lack of consultation by Minister Bernadette Jordan, leading her to make a rushed decision without understanding the implications and seemingly no plan to manage impacts. (Supplied photo)
B.C. salmon farmers ask feds to reconsider decision based on new economic analysis

The independent report by RIAS Inc. estimates an annual loss of $390 million dollar cost to B.C.’s economy

B.C. health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and health minister Adrian Dix wore pink shirts to showcase this year’s motto: “Lift each other up.” (Twitter/PinkShirtDay)
PHOTOS: B.C. celebs take a stand against bullying on Pink Shirt Day

‘We need to let young people know they are not alone and they can reach out to others for help’

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Justin Morissette is still recovering from the injuries sustained in the altercation. He is not yet able to walk without assistance. (Justin Morissette, Twitter)
B.C. man suing city and police over violent altercation with anti-LGBTQ preacher

Justin Morissette argues police knew the threat the preacher posed, and failed to keep the peace

Mowi Canada West salmon farm in B.C. waters. Conservative MPs have backed an industry call for further discussions on the timeline for closing Discovery Island farms. (Photo supplied by Mowi Canada)
Conservative MPs back B.C. salmon farmers’ call for transparent discussions

Farm owners requested consultations, more time to leave Discovery Islands

Jack Barnes, who was Cowichan Valley Capitals property from May 2020 until last week, scores a goal for the Penticton Vees during the 2019-20 BCHL season. (Brennan Phillips/Black Press)
COVID-crunched BCHL facing trade deadline dilemma with its 20-year-olds

Hard decisions loom when BCHL may or may not resume play

UBC Okanagan students are among the most food insecure in Canada, according to a new study by UBC.
(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
UBC Okanagan students among most food insecure in Canada

42.3 per cent either can’t properly feed themselves, or are worried they will soon run out of money

A Nanaimo RCMP vehicle in the Woodgrove Centre parking lot. (News Bulletin file photo)
Woman groped by stranger in mall parking lot in Nanaimo

Incident happened near bus loop Saturday, Feb. 20, at about 4:45 p.m.

A 19-year-old man is in police custody following a recent violent robbery and assault in Comox . (File photo)
Arrest made in violent robbery and assault of Comox gas station employee

19-year-old man in police custody after incident where woman was putting things in her car

Most Read