Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Point Grey Battery in Vancouver BC

Visited 2,9,10 Jun 2014 -  Point Grey Battery (1939-1948) was a World War II Canadian coastal defense gun battery that defended the Harbor of Vancouver, BC.
UBC Museum of Anthropology
UBC Museum of Anthropology

I must confess to not properly researching this Canadian gun battery before our visit because I didn't think there would much left to see. The site was reported to be partially overbuilt by the University of British Columbia (UBC) Museum of Anthropology (MOA) and I suspected that not much would remain. 
Point Grey Battery Gun Emplacement #1
Point Grey Battery Gun Emplacement #1

The site was located on Point Grey which is now part of the sprawling campus of UBC on the west side of Vancouver BC. This requires us to transverse much of Vancouver to get to the site some 50km away, traffic is horrific and expensive in Vancouver. Gas is $ 5.70 US/Gallon and there is an unseen toll $ 3.00 CAN each time you cross the bridge (they track your license plates with hidden cameras and you accumulate an on-line bill, unknown to visitors). Given all of this, one trip would have been optimal, it took us three trips.
Ready Ammunition Storage Emplacement #1
Ready Ammunition Storage Emplacement #1

On the first visit we navigated directly to the site of gun emplacement #1 and to our surprise found it well maintained and interpreted. The entrances to the ammunition storage areas and the emplacement rooms were sealed but carefully labeled, no guns or mounts but an excellent interpretive sign told the story of the battery. The emplacement was pretty much graffiti free and very well kept, how they do this in the middle of a university campus with thousands of students is amazing.
Underground Magazine Tunnel Entrance
Underground Magazine Tunnel Entrance


At emplacement #1 you can see the ammunition hoist door and the ammunition ready storage areas. On the left side are work and storage rooms. In the center is the gun platform and behind it is an emergency exit from the underground magazine. The entrance to the underground tunnel to the magazines is to the left of emplacement #1 and is also sealed. I walked the area down to the fence along the cliff and did not see anything else that I could associate with the battery so we departed.
Point Grey Battery Gun Emplacement #3
Point Grey Battery Gun Emplacement #3
As I researched the FortWiki article for the Point Grey Battery I came across a couple of references to the #3 gun emplacement still existing although most said it was destroyed in building the museum. It seemed worth a trip back to try and find any remnants of that emplacement. We returned to the battery site and located emplacement #3 semi-hidden to the side of the main museum entrance. Much of that emplacement remains intact except for the right hand side. This emplacement is not labeled or interpreted and is not as well kept as emplacement #1. Again I looked over this new area for any sign of other remains and found none so we departed.
Repurposed Gun Emplacement #2 Displaying Bill Reid’s "The Raven and the First Men"
Repurposed Gun Emplacement #2 Displaying Bill Reid’s "The Raven and the First Men"


Google Maps Satellite View of Museum Roof
Google Maps Satellite View of Museum Roof
As I again researched the FortWiki article for the Point Grey Battery I came across a single obscure article by Stevie Wilson that said the #2 gun emplacement had been repurposed and was now the "centerpiece of the museum", displaying Bill Reid’s "The Raven and the First Men" a massive red cedar carving. The accompanying picture of the piece was awesome and I knew we had to go back to see the piece and the repurposed #2 gun emplacement.

The third trip was a great success, the #2 gun emplacement had in fact been repurposed and transformed into a stunning setting for Bill Reid’s dramatic carving. It's easy to see the form of the emplacement supporting the carving on a bed of sand. Above the carving is a round skylight flooding the carving with natural light, all of this at the center of the former gun emplacement. 

The Architect of the Museum, Arthur Erickson, took pains to preserve the history of the battery and all three of the emplacements in some form. If you look at the satellite view of the museum in Google Maps you can spot the skylight over emplacement #2 and around it is outlined the shape of the emplacement on the roof.


Searchlight Shelter #10
Searchlight Shelter #10
I was determined to locate any other remnants of the battery so I took the long trip down the cliff to Wreck Beach where the battery searchlight shelters were built. Both of them still exist, covered with graffiti, but standing tall. The beach is clothing optional but I elected to remain fully clothed, not wanting to scare anyone. The trip back was tough, I estimate there were 300 or so steps back up the cliff, very steep.

This battery is an excellent example of World War II Canadian coastal defenses and well worth a visit. Do not miss going into the Museum, it is exceptional.

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