It has been 60 years since the Ripple Rock explosion, the first live CBC broadcast, the biggest man made explosion of the time.
Like the day it happened, the Museum at Campbell River’s presentation and celebration of the anniversary began with a 60 second countdown. The reporters counting down spoke about how nervous they were and how they would open their mouths at the time of the explosion just in case there were serious shock waves.
“You could hear the tension in that reporter’s voice that day 60 years ago, and what you didn’t hear was the sound clip that I heard where he actually says ‘I’m really anxious.’,” said Sandra Parrish, director of the museum. “For a moment it was like stepping back in time and I could imagine people all across Canada watching the live CBC broadcast of the event and collectively holding their breath.”
The anniversary celebration at the Tidemark last Thursday evening began with the original radio clip and transitioned into the museum’s heritage puppet theatre Ripple Rock Play where the main character was ‘the devil beneath the sea’ himself. The puppet with two points and angry eyebrows had a the bad habit of devouring boats and an engaging habit of singing the blues.
Following the puppet show, was the Dupont film of The Devil Beneath the Sea which followed the entire process from the planning to the mining underneath Ripple Rock to the explosion itself.
They also showed the Living History Documentary which was a collection of local people sharing their memories about the explosion.
“This presentation, Remembering Ripple Rock, is about the local story,” Parish said. “It was produced in 2008 for the 50th anniversary of the explosion and captures the memories of Campbell River residents as they share their stories of that day 60 years ago.”
For most, many of whom didn’t see the explosion in person, it was a let down. There was no tidal wave, there was no earthquake and for many the sound was like the bump of a child jumping from a chair to the floor.
“It is our view at the museum that history is an ongoing story and that an understanding of the past is essential to connecting with who we are today,” Parish said. “Productions such as this allow us to archive our memories and stories and to make them accessible for the future.”
But the footage of the blast is spectacular. The underwater mountain that sank or damaged 119 boats and claimed at least 114 lives was blown sky high, leaving “ripple chips” on the surrounding beaches.