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HMS Egeria and Early Hydrography on the British Columbia Coast
by John M. MacFarlane and Lynn Salmon 2012 (Updated 2016)
One of the inscribed Egeria rock monuments – this one is located in Bedwell Harbour, Pender Island BC (John MacFarlane photo)
The bronze plaque located behind the inscribed Egeria rock monument – this one is located in Bedwell Harbour, Pender Island BC (Photograph courtesy of Bob McCauley.)
HMS Egeria was a Royal Navy steam sloop, 940 tons, four guns. She was built at Pembroke UK and launched on 01/11/1873. She was 49m (160 feet) x 9.4m (31 feet) x 4.3m (14 feet) and powered by a two cylinder horizontal compound steam engine.She was armed with two seven–inch (90cwt) muzzle–loading rifles and two 64-pounder muzzle–loading rifles.She was named after Egeria, a water nymph of Roman mythology. She was re–configured for hydrographic survey duties in 1886. She arrived on the British Columbia coast in October 1898, to carry on new surveys and re–survey the work of Captain Richards RN and Commander Pender RN. In the early years 1898–1905 the survey work was in response to the Klondike gold rush. After 1906 the survey work was in response to the need to locate a terminus for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.
HMS Egeria and HMS Phaeton in Esquimalt Harbour (MMBC Photo P2048)
She had five different commanding officers during this commission on the Pacific coast:
Commander (later Captain) Morris H. Smyth RN 10/1898 to 03/1900
- – 1898 surveyed for a Pacific cable, surveyed Baynes Sound
- – 1898 surveyed First Narrows of Burrard Inlet
- – 1899 Nanaimo Harbour survey (chart BA 573)
This relief plaque is located on the Marine Building in Vancouver BC. (Photograph courtesy of Christopher James Cole.)
Commander Cortland H. Simpson RN 03/1900 to 03/1903
- – 1900 coastal survey Discovery Passage, Seymour Narrows, Cape Mudge (charts BA3162, 3333)
- – 1901 coastal survey Johnstone & Broughton Straits (chart BA 581)
- – 1901 Queen Charlotte Strait triangulation
- – 1902 surveys off NW part of Vancouver Island (chart BA 582)
Commander (later Captain) John F. Parry RN 03/1903-03/1906
- – 1903 hydrographic survey northwest of Vancouver Island (chart BA 582)
- – 1904 coastal survey of Active Pass (chart BA 3520), Nanoose (chart BA3517), Gabriola Pass (chart BA3619)
- – 1905 hydrographic survey of the Strait of Georgia (chart BA 576, 2689)
Commander (later Captain) Frederick C. Learmonth RN 03/1906 to 1908
- – 1906 coastal survey Port Simpson (chart BA3678)
- – 1907 coastal survey Dixon Entrance and Hecate Strait (charts BA 1737, 1923, BA3754)
Commander John F. Parry RN 1908-1910
- – 1908 hydrographic survey Dixon Entrance and Hecate Strait (chart BA1901), Sansum Narrows
- – 1909 hydrographic survey Edye, Beaver, Schooner Passages
- – 1910 coastal survey Port Simpson
Commander J.D. Nares RN 1910
- – 1910 Malaspina Strait, northern end of Strait of Georgia
- – 1910 Final closing of RN Hydrographic survey
- – 1910 HMS Egeria sold
Canadian Hydrographic Survey
- – 1906-07 "Camp Parties" conduct surveys at Prince Rupert, Skeena River
- – 1907 Permanent office established in British Columbia
- – 1908 Launch of C.G.S. Lillooet
HMS Egeria (Photograph courtesy of Mayne Island Museum.)
HMS Egeria deck view (MMBC Photo P1403)
The history of HMS Egeria is synonymous with hydrographic surveying. In 1874-1881 she served on the China Station. In 1886 she was fitted out for surveying the waters of China, Malaya and Australia and was employed as a survey vessel for the remainder of her career. In 1889 she sounded the route of the Australian – British Columbia undersea telegraph cable.
Egeria sailed from China reaching the Pacific Station on February 8th, 1898. There had been an absence of a hydrographic survey vessel on the Pacific coast for 30 years prior to the arrival of Commander Smyth RN. The Egeria was primarily involved in resurveying settled areas of the British Columbia coast to create modern charts of a larger scale. The ship also surveyed the east coast of Vancouver Island and remained on Station in British Columbian waters from 1897 until 1910. The final survey conducted by the ship was of Welcome Pass off the Sunshine Coast. Egeria was the last vessel sent by the Admiralty Hydrographic Office to the Pacific coast; her last commission ended in 1910 when responsibility was transferred to the Canadian Hydrographic Service with the establishment of the Naval Service of Canada. In November 1911 she was sold at public auction in Esquimalt to the Vancouver Branch of the Navy League for £1,416. She retained her name becoming the Navy League Training Ship Egeria.
HMS Egeria fires an 81–gun salute on the death of Queen Victoria on January 22nd, 1901 (MMBC Photo P862)
An interesting side note is that on January 22nd, 1901 she fired an 81–gun salute of minute guns (one gun for every year of the life of the late Queen Victoria) in Esquimalt Harbour on the occasion of the death of that venerable monarch. Sadly, no salutes accompanied the passing of this great ship when at the end of her career she was sold for scrap in 1914 and was burned at Burrard Inlet in British Columbia.
One of the inscribed Egeria rock monuments – this one is in Miners Bay, Mayne Island BC. (Lynn Salmon photo)
One of the inscribed Egeria rock monuments – this one is on Gabriola Island BC. (Photograph courtesy of Rick T. Jackson)
Geodetic survey monument set by HMS Egeria – this one is on Goose Spit (Comox) BC. (Photograph courtesy of James Webb)
The legacy of HMS Egeria can be found in several place names and monuments:
- – Egeria Shoal in Blackfish Sound (named by Commander C.H. Simpson RN) (1902)
- – Egeria Rock is located in Brown Passage, west of Melville Island.
- – Egeria Bay is located on the east side of Langara Island BC.
- – Egeria Mountain is located on the southeast part of Porcher Island BC.
- – Egeria Reach is located at the head of the Gardner Canal.
- – Egeria Bay is located in Bedwell Harbour, Pender Island.
- – Learmonth Bank (54° 28’N, 133° 05’W) (named for Captain Learmonth)
- – Learmonth Island (53° 41’N, 132° 27’W) (named for Captain Learmonth)
- – Rocks inscribed 'HMS Egeria' are found on Mayne Island (Miners Bay), Gabriola Island (Dodd Narrows) and Pender Island Bedwell Harbour).
- – A concrete slab in Stanley Park is inscribed "This concrete slab was set by the Royal Engineers in 1865 and was used as a survey point in 1898 by the Royal Navy survey ship H.M.S. Egeria.
- – A geodetic monument is located on Goose Spit in Comox Harbour.
- Photograph of Egeria Rock in Miners Bay on Mayne Island by Lynn Salmon
- Photograph of Egeria Rock in Bedwell Harbour on Pender Island by John MacFarlane
- Photograph of Egeria Rock on Gabriola Island by Rick T. Jackson
- Photograph of Egeria Rock bronze plaque in Poett’s Cove by Bob McCauley
- Photograph of Egeria geodetic survey monument on Goose Spit by James Webb
- Photograph of Egeria by courtesy Mayne Island Museum
- Photograph of Egeria relief plaque by Christopher James Cole.
- Walbran, Captain John T.
We gratefully acknowledge the use of the images from the photograph collection at the Maritime Museum of British Columbia in Victoria BC Canada.
To quote from this article please cite:
MacFarlane, John M. and Lynn Salmon (2012) (Updated 2016) HMS Egeria and Early Hydrography on the British Columbia Coast. Nauticapedia.ca 2012. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Hydrography_on_the_BC_Coast.php
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