Monday, September 7, 2009

Launching History: The Saga of the Burrard Dry Dock

By Francis Mansbridge
Hardcover 226 pages Harbour Publishing 2002 978-1550172805
When Alfred Wallace opened a shipbuilding yard at the north end of Granville Street Bridge in 1894, he had little idea that the business would last nearly 100 years. Wallace Shipyards moved to North Vancouver in 1906, became Burrard Dry Dock in 1921 and Versatile Pacific in 1985, and saw changes in marine construction from wooden sailing schooners to steel icebreakers and high-tech search-and-rescue vessels. The saga of Burrard includes stories of some of the famed ships of the Union Steamship Company that opened up the BC coast; of Canada's post-World War I merchant marine fleet; of the St. Roch, the first boat to traverse the Northwest Passage in both directions and to circumnavigate North America; of the BC Ferry fleet; and of the warships and workboats that came down the ways into Burrard Inlet. It also provides a glimpse of the early years of the twentieth century on the coast, when ships were not mere transportation but also an opportunity to fuse practical workmanship with aesthetics.
Mr Mansbridge is well known to researchers of shipbuilding history for his assistance to persons all over the world over the years from his position of archivist for North Vancouver, from which he is now retired. Kudos to him for taking this information and putting it into a book that serves as a valuable addition to the historical record.
I for one was one of the people lucky enough to have used the services of Mr Mansbridge and in fact saw parts of this book while he was working on it.
Profusely illustrated with photos from the North Vancouver Museum & Archives, the work includes all the major projects over the years of the yard in table format.
One minor criticism is the use of “the” before ship names, which makes ship purists cringe. However this is only minor and cannot detract from what is an excellent work.

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