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The History of the CHS Pacific Region

The Pacific Coast Division of the Canadian Hydrographic Service was established at Victoria in 1907. It inherited a fine tradition of service from outstanding hydrograpghers of the British Admiralty. Charting of the B.C. Coast began with Captain Cook in 1778, and was continued by ships of the Royal Navy based at Esquimalt. Names of many of the early hydrographers have a permanent place on Canadian Charts, in such geographical features as Vancouver Island, Pender Harbour, and Broughton Strait.

In 1907 the survey of the B.C. Coast was transferred to Canadian control under the able direction of Captain Musgrave. With a survey staff of 2 or 3 assistants, plus personnel loaned from Ottawa, he continued the charting of coastal waters. Captain Musgrave was succeeded in 1920 by H.D. Parizeau, M.B.E. Mr Parizeau has become an almost legendary character on the Coast, and is remembered in every village and community where he surveyed, from Victoria to Alaska. He was followed in turn by Mr. W.K. Willis, under whose direction the Service continued to expand. The present District Engineer is Mr. R.B. Young, under whose administration are three survey ships, and sections for chart construction and tidal survey. The present establishment includes a total ships' compliment of 18 surveyors, 15 officers, and a crew of 72, and an administration and chart construction staff of 18.

The first Canadian hydrographic ship on the west coast was the "Lillooet", a 168-foot vessel commissioned in 1908. For 25 years she served as the major survey unit, with smaller vessels employed at times for detached surveys. In 1933 the "William J. Stewart" was commissioned to replace the "Lillooet". She is the flagship of a survey fleet of three ships which include the "Parry", commissioned in 1947, and the "Marabell", 1953.

The Hydrographic Service on the Pacific Coast from simple beginnings has gradually expanded to provide a variety of services for the public. In the early years the office closed each spring, and the whole staff served in the field from April to October. In 1938 a full time office became essential, both to direct and supply the field survey, and to meet increasing public requirements of charts and other hydrograpic information.

Over the past 48 years 136 charts covering a substantial part of the B.C. Coast have been produced for publication, and 18 charts are now in preparation. Some idea of the present service to the public can be gauged from the 1955 distribution of publications, which include 22,000 charts, 32,000 Pacific Coast Tide Tables, and over 500 volumes of the "British Columbia Pilot". Additional publications and data are provided to government, industry, and the general public.

1958 Memo from R.B. Young (Regional Hydrographer) to N.G. Gray (Dominion Hydrographer)