Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Rock and The Freighter

This serene lady sits in the Devonian Harbour Park outside Stanley Park.
As you might have gathered I am returning to my file on Stanley Park today. I was unsure of how to proceed with this entry and then,thanks to The History of Vancouver website I found something interesting.

On March 6, 1945 a 10,000 ton freighter, Greenhill Park, became the cause of the most explosive and disastrous event in our port's history when it exploded.

Eight longshoremen died in this explosion, nineteen others were injured and seven firemen ended up in hospital. As far west as Thurlow and north as Dunsmuir windows were blown out from the force; entire office blocks had barely a pane of glass left. Considering it was near the end of World War II some thought that the Japanese were bombing the city. But that's not what was happening.

According to the article I read Greenhill Park had as its main cargo, sodium chlorate as well as other merchandise. Including barrels of alcohol. Other stuff was packed in front of the booze to hide it but it didn't take long for the longshoremen to figure out it was there and then to clear a narrow passageway to the liquor. One by one the men came down to have a drink or fill a bottle to take home.

The problem arose when the last man, who had already consumed a bit of the ill gotten spirits, came down and couldn't see the passageway clearly. He lit a match. Liquor had spilled out from the barrels and the passeway was filled with fumes. The explosion was immediate and that man was killed instantly.
Four explosions tore through the Greehill Park, leaving a gaping hole in her side and killing eight men working aboard her at the time.

A two month report was conductecd at the time of the explosion in which it was concluded that "improper stowage of combustible, dangerous and explosive material ... and the ignition thereof by a lighted match." Since the true events of what happened were not known it was an educated guess.

But in 1980 a reporter at The Province newspaper received a letter from a man who had been in hospital in 1957 with a man who was on the Greenhill Park that day. In fact he was the only other person in the hold and saw what happened. For twelve years he didn't say a word but passed his story on that day and the recepient of the tale waited twenty three years to pass it on.
A tug hauled the Greenhill Park to Siwash Rock and beached it there. In June of 1946 Greenhill Park had been repaired and renamed S.S. Phaex II and sailed out of Vancouver. In 1967 it was the Lagos Michigan and sold for scrap. Imagine keeping track of the history of a freighter. Interesting.

This is Siwash Rock. According to Indian legend this fifty to sixty foot rock is a tribute to Skalsh the Unselfish. Skalsh was turned to stone by Q'UAS the Transformer as a reward for his unselfishness.

According to Wikepedia about 32 million years ago a volcanic dike formed in the sedimentary rock that forms the sandstone and mudstone foundation of the park. Through a fissure in the Earth's crust magma was forced to the surface and formed the basalt stack. This stack is more resistant to erosion than the softer sandstone that makes up a lot of the park. This is also the only such stack in Vancouver.

(Just a note. Mariners originally called it Nine Pin Rock due to its resemblence, vague though it is, to a bowling pin.)

 Not too far from Siwash Rock is a place that you can look out and see the fabulous view. That is as long as you aren't the nervous type.

This is secure. It isn't a suspension bridge - I am terrified of those - and when you make it across you will be rewarded with views like this.

Well worth the short trip I would say.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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