While Canadian soldiers, sailors and pilots fought bravely overseas a century ago, a dedicated group of land surveyors was quietly recognizing their achievements and sacrifices as they named hundreds of newly mapped geographical features high in the Rocky Mountains.
During this centennial of the start of the First World War, GeoBC has created a new digital map (webmap) to highlight this little-known part of the province’s mapping history:
The interactive map marks the locations of over 50 of these sites and explains how their names were selected.
The boundary between southern British Columbia and Alberta was actively surveyed from 1913 to 1924, a period that encompassed the First World War. Many features (such as mountains) that were previously unnamed had to be formally catalogued by members of the Interprovincial Boundary Survey team to confirm exactly where the border lay and to provide accurate geographical points of reference.
It was a long-standing practice amongst exploratory surveyors of that era to name newly mapped features themselves. Since the First World War and the exploits of Canada’s armed forces were often in the minds of compatriots back home, surveyors working on the Rocky Mountain project decided to commemorate the war effort by naming peaks, mountains, passes, ridges and other notable features after prominent military personnel, ships and battles of the Great War.
This method was consistent with other surveying practices around the world at the time, when significant societal and political events influenced the naming of geographical features. Although other geographical features in British Columbia are also associated with the First World War, the work of the Interprovincial Boundary Survey team left an indelible cultural mark on the province’s landscape.
Geographical features highlighted on the new digital map include:
- Mount Bishop (50°26’24”N, 114°52’35”W), named after famous flying ace Billy Bishop, who won the Victoria Cross for his aerial exploits in Europe.
- Mount Cornwall (50°18’02”N, 114°46’53”W), named after a 16-year-old hero of the Battle of Jutland who was killed in action in 1916.
- Mount Gass (50°07’15”N, 114°44’16”W), named after a lieutenant in the Canadian Garrison Artillery who was killed in action in 1917.
- Nestor Peak (50°56’41”N, 115°42’35”W), named after the destroyer HMS Nestor, which was sunk during the Battle of Jutland in 1916.
- Mount Odlum (50°29’11”N, 114°56’17”W), named after Major-General Victor Wentworth Odlum, who commanded the British Columbia Regiment of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.
Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson -
“The First World War was a crucial turning point in our nation’s history and so it was appropriate for B.C. land surveyors at that time to commemorate notable people and events of that period. During this centennial year, GeoBC has given British Columbians an ideal opportunity to learn more about the people and places associated with that conflict.”
- GeoBC creates and manages a wide variety of geospatial information and products, including base maps, imagery, spatial data (e.g., road locations, hydrology, terrain) and information related to natural resources and environmental stewardship in B.C.
- GeoBC provides consultation services to resource professionals, academics, researchers, businesses, First Nations, members of the general public, and a range of government departments and agencies throughout Canada.
GeoBC homepage: http://geobc.gov.bc.ca/index.html
“The Great War and the Interprovincial Boundary Survey” project: http://geobc.gov.bc.ca/base-mapping/atlas/bcnames/showcase/showcase.htm
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations