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The Campbell River Tide Rippers

A Look Back Into the History of the Campbell River Area: Museum at Campbell River
Tide Rippers Club patch to be sewn onto a jacket or bag. MCR 20230209_124007

A few years ago, the Campbell River Tide Rippers Dive Club brought in their large wood-bound scrapbook and some of their historical documents to the museum’s archives.

The scrapbook is a wealth of information about a group that got its start in 1959 and still gets together to dive almost weekly. Some of the founding members are still participating! Their history is a fascinating one and speaks to the ways in which we as a community can build traditions while also changing with the times.

Initially, when the group got its start, the focus was on fishing. They met for annual spear fishing meets, hosting other coastal dive clubs as well as their own members. The club gave out annual prizes for the member who caught the most seafood over the course of the year, each diver tracking their catch and its weight. You can see photographs in the local papers from the 60s with club members proudly displaying their catch while still wearing their, now vintage, scuba gear.

The diving club also explored, and in some cases discovered, local shipwrecks. Most notably in 1962 when they raised up a large anchor they found at Shelter Point. At the time it was discovered it was a bit of a mystery as no one could remember a ship being wrecked there.

Research by Museum curator, Ed Meade, at the time indicated that it was likely from the wreck of the Thomas Woodward, a schooner which was lost on the point in 1868. The Thomas Woodward was an American schooner en route from Victoria to Fort Wrangel, Alaska, when on Nov. 25 it was caught in a bad southeaster and ran ashore on the boulder reefs of Shelter Point.

However, new information has come to light in the ensuing years that suggests the anchor actually came from the Dashing Wave, a three-masted clipper re-purposed as a cargo barge that was being towed by a tugboat when it went aground on Shelter Point in March, 1920. Although the cargo was salvaged, the ship itself was declared a total loss. Not much of interpretive value remained of the wreck when divers from the Underwater Archaeological Society of BC located the spot in 1997. Today, the two-tonne anchor can be found on display at Ken Forde Rotary Park.

In the 70s, the focus of the Tide Rippers shifted to capturing photographs of undersea life, rather than catching dinner. Initially, members were waterproofing regular 35mm cameras themselves before underwater cameras became available commercially. Regular evening slideshows were arranged so members could share the photographs they took on their dives.

Today, photos are usually shared through social media, rather than at gatherings.

Other traditions that got their start in the 1970s include the annual underwater cleanup at McIvor Lake that is still ongoing, with 30 divers participating this past summer.

Additionally, a newspaper feature in 1974 described how dive club members helped the Vancouver Aquarium by collecting local specimens for their displays. Today, they help the local Discovery Passage Aquarium to fill their tanks each summer. A big focus for the club over the years was educating the public about the local sea life and the dangers of pollution in local waters. In addition to the activities already mentioned, they did this by publishing their photographs in the local papers and participating in events like the annual Salmon Festival.

No longer just exploring old shipwrecks, the Tide Rippers were involved in the creation of an artificial reef with the sinking of the Columbia just off Maude Island in 1996. The group still goes on a few themed dives each year. In the past it was the ‘Valendive’ and the ‘Maydive,’ and trips to other exciting North Island dive spots. Annual events now include a Pumpkin Carving Competition for Halloween which typically takes place underwater down at the Tyee Spit near the Argonaut Wharf.

To uncover more fascinating stories from our community’s past, be sure to come visit the Museum’s Archives which is free to explore. We only ask that you make an appointment before you come. Appointments can be made by contacting Collections Manager, Megan Purcell or calling 250-287-3103.

A Look Back into the History of the Campbell River Area is a monthly presentation of the Museum at Campbell River and the Campbell River Mirror.