The rich and abundant timber source on the west coast, combined with historic events and world market demands, set the stage for the creation of British Columbia’s coastal forest industry.

It is the tall majestic conifers that flourish in the temperate rain forests of British Columbia’s west coast that launched the coastal forest industry and made B.C. an attractive addition to Canada the nation. The mild temperatures, wet winters and dry summers of the coast are perfect growing conditions for giant trees such as the Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) and Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata).

These trees were long known and broadly used by First Nations people. They are tall and straight. Western redcedar is naturally rot resistant. These features make them ideal for many human uses and make them commercially valuable.

Market Demands
In the late 1700s, visiting Europeans discovered the superior qualities of B.C.’s timber for ship masts or "spars". (Captain Cook replaced a mast here, probably with coastal Douglas-fir!) By the late 1800s, B.C.& Read More
The rich and abundant timber source on the west coast, combined with historic events and world market demands, set the stage for the creation of British Columbia’s coastal forest industry.

It is the tall majestic conifers that flourish in the temperate rain forests of British Columbia’s west coast that launched the coastal forest industry and made B.C. an attractive addition to Canada the nation. The mild temperatures, wet winters and dry summers of the coast are perfect growing conditions for giant trees such as the Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) and Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata).

These trees were long known and broadly used by First Nations people. They are tall and straight. Western redcedar is naturally rot resistant. These features make them ideal for many human uses and make them commercially valuable.

Market Demands
In the late 1700s, visiting Europeans discovered the superior qualities of B.C.’s timber for ship masts or "spars". (Captain Cook replaced a mast here, probably with coastal Douglas-fir!) By the late 1800s, B.C.’s early forest industry began to emerge. Like today, having access to the abundant coastal timber supply was important, but the cost and labour required to extract the timber and market conditions for forest products was a significant consideration for potential logging operators or mill owners.

Early mills on Vancouver Island established British Columbia’s reputation world wide as an excellent source for quality timber. International markets included Chile, Shanghai (China), Australia and Hawaii. Throughout the 1850s and 1860s, timber was sold from B.C. worldwide for shipbuilding, and locally for steamboats and buildings associated with the B.C. gold rush. In the 1880s, huge quantities of timber were needed to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. By this time, significant commercial use of the coastal forests was marked by the operation of sawmills in the Lower Mainland’s Burrard Inlet and Vancouver Island’s Port Alberni.
When B.C. entered confederation with Canada in 1871, it was already recognized globally as a superior source of timber. The reputation of B.C.’s timber and its active, growing forest industry was a boost to Canada as a nation.

© 2006, British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre. All Rights Reserved.

The donkey puncher

Ken McKinnon: They didn’t have trucks or that kind of thing. They just came with their ingenuity and in this particular situation there was a donkey three drum wench that has got three spools of wire on it on skids on top of a big log rack. On this rack is a giant A-frame maybe 80 feet tall they’ve built themselves and raised out of logs. There was two lines going out into the woods. The heavy main line would be pulled out on a endless line when a haul back which would go up through two pulleys, they call them block, and go back down and hook onto the main line. When it gets started they’d pull that main line up with chokers on it which are looses so to speak. And then the crew in the bush they were ditch slingers, all kinds of nicknames for what they were. And they would hook up the logs for the ringed slinger that was in charge of that little group wanted picked up. Give a signal, a whistle signal, and the donkey would hear it and start hauling according to what they said. If it hung-up they’d blow a whistle, he’d stop and things would go back and forth until it was clear. He was brought right down into the water, the chasers on the raft to unhook him, and away they’d go after another bunch of logs, and they could log a whole hillside by moving along a little bit at a time. Interviewer: Right and then you are saying that logs would get dragged down into the water and they’d be in a barge or something. And who would hear the whistle? Was that someone’s job? Person: The donkey puncher was the operator of the donkey and the nickname of the donkey puncher. In this particular spot there were 3 separate donkey’s working at any given time. And up on the hill there was a donkey over to the left about 500 ft. he was logging around him and creating a pile called a codec and then there was 500ft further over was another codec pile with a donkey and then the swing of the logs from the first one into his spot and from there they go into the water. So it was quite a sequential event to get them into the water with no trucks.

British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre
British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre, Ken McKinnon
c. 2000
British Columbia, CANADA
© 2006, British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Danger in the Woods

Ken McKinnon: Dad was working for one of the huge big companies on the southwest coast here. A rigging let go and fell and cut this man in two, it dragged him behind a stump. He never even missed a beat and logged until quitting time. So dad packed his gear and quit. He got damaged once and one of the reasons he quit is because he got caught between two logs and his leg was hurt. He got over it and was a milk man for all those years, but as he got older his hip gave up. Interviewer:And then you hear about 45 deaths in forestry last year. I'm not an expert but, that's too many because what's happened is guys are up there all by themselves, and that should never happen. In the old days one of the fallers would be watching and one would be doing the finishing cuts, and if that tree went the wrong way they would start yelling.

British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre
British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre
c. 2000
British Columbia, CANADA
© 2006, British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Families in the Forest

Raising a spar tree close to camp brings out the family. Cathels and Sorensen Camp at Port Refrew. 1935.

British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre
British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre, Ken McKinnon
c. 2000
British Columbia, CANADA
From the collection of Ken McKinnon
© 2006, British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Cathel's and Sorenson Log Company Camp

Cathel's and Sorenson Log Company Camp

British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre
British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre, Ken McKinnon
c. 2000
British Columbia, CANADA
From the collection of Ken McKinnon
© 2006, British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

After using this object students will be able to:
- evaluate the significance of coastal B.C.’s rich timber supply on the forest industry
- evaluate the historical significance of coastal B.C.’s forest industry to Canada as a nation

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