Tuesday, December 2, 2008

That's My World: The Hulks

Powell River in Coastal BC started as a company town for the Powell River Company. Brooks, Scanlon & Obrien joined forces to form the Powell River Company, western Canada's first pulp and paper mill.

Powell River was selected for the location because of the close proximity of huge timber resources and a rushing river to be harnessed for power. The mill was started in 1908 and the first roll of paper was produced in 1912.

The Hulks have been a common sight in Powell River since they were installed to form a protective floating breakwater for the mill's log pond in the late 1940's. They are all concrete ships originally built as transports for supplies in World Wars I and II. All ten are the last remaining representatives of their class of ships. The Peralta, holds the honor as THE last concrete ship remaining from World War I.

In 2002 the mill, then owned by Pacifica Papers, eliminated it's pulping operations, but decided to keep the Hulks. They were reconfigured to make the pond smaller for barges of wood chips waiting for their turn in the mill.

The waters off the Powell River coast are deep. It would be expensive, if not impossible, to build a traditional breakwater around the area. The concrete ships sit low in the water, thus providing protection from heavy wave action, even during storms. Huge concrete anchors and massive chains hold the ships in place. Occasionally, however, they must be reset due to the corrosive action of rust and the power of the sea.

Here are some resources to find more history about the hulks:

The Powell River Museum
The Hulks: The Breakwater Ships of Powell River by John A Campbell
Shotcrete Repair of WWII Concrete Hulks
Pulp, Paper and People by Karen Southern and Peggy Bird
Powell River's First 50 Years by the Powell River News

And finally, a shot of the guardian of the pond and its historic Hulks.

I invite you to put Powell River on your list of places to visit. If you are planning a trip to the 2010 Winter Olympics, we are only two ferry rides away. If you want to see more exciting places from around the world, go to the "That's My World" website. -- Margy