Imagine trying to settle a new area and at the same time to have the lingering fear of an angry armed hoard of invaders potentially popping up over your local hill. This would definitely put a damper on the excitement that would come from the discovery and exploration of your new home land.
We’re launching a two-part series starting today that takes a look at one of the cornerstones of our defense facilities, Macaulay Point Park.
As the British empire went about establishing communities in the newly discovered lands of North America, wars were brewing in Europe. At first, that sense of separation by vast oceans must have given the settlers a sense of security, but as events unfolded in the world it became evident that there was a need to create a bastion of defense on the west coast. Macaulay Point represents the first such bastion for Britain on the west coast for both North and South America, making this a historically significant location.
Two facilities were created during the founding, one is here in Esquimalt in Victoria, BC, the other is located across the inlet at Fort Rodd Hill. As the original settlers and founders stood on this knoll looking south to the United States, they must have been filled with a sense of wonder. The Cascade Mountain range is clearly visible, presenting a commanding and strong presence on the horizon.
The Esquimalt harbor was initially used by the British Royal Navy in the 1840’s. In the mid 1850’s it became a fully active naval base and as the crisis in the Balkans made war imminent in 1878, Macaulay Point was designed and armed. Three 7-inch RML guns were initially installed at the location but soon thereafter were deemed inadequate and the infrastructure for our local navy was then outlined and created. Thus began the naval presence in the city of Victoria and its surrounding areas.
In 1985 the area was transformed into a municipal park that remains a highlight for locals and visitors alike today. The old bunkers and ammunition stores are colorful highlights to take in and enjoy when visiting the park. The day we were here on our shoot, many people were busily making their way around taking in all the sights, but with that being said a distinct heavy feeling followed us as we went about our work photographing this great location. This park is rich in history, and for those who were actively stationed here during the founding times, it must have been a terrifying experience just waiting for the war in Europe to cross our shores.
The sound of boots rang in our ears as we made our way around the site. How many young men trained to ready for what was considered to be an impending invasion? What did they think and feel as they went about their activities? They must have been filled with a sense of pride in protecting the new villages and communities of the emerging British empire. Today, these barracks are all well maintained, likely a side-effect of the stringent security mechanisms placed to protect these historic facilities.
All of this just made us want inside even more…
We come around a corner and encountered another ammunition store. We found ourselves utterly fascinated by the wear and weathering that is so evident, even inside such a structure. This history simply oozes out of these thick concrete walls.
As we peer through one of the lookout portals, our curiosity further peaks. You can almost sense the butterflies that must have filled the young soldiers as they awaited a war that never came. In some senses, that fear is sometimes worse than actually being confronted with such a situation. Don’t get me wrong, war is a horrible thing but so is gut-wrenching, unabating fear.
Probably one of the best aspects of this site is all the hidden tunnels, nooks and crannies. Many of these entrances are now welded shut and are completely inaccessible, leaving their internals entirely to the imagination of the visitor. This only serves to further the mystery and curiosity one has when touring the area. This tunnel was built in 1895, making it a very early part of the history of Victoria. It connects bunkers and gun emplacements with each other, allowing the battalions who once actively used this area a safe means of moving around the site.
This is, without any doubt, my favorite image from the adventure we had this day. We clearly have found the limits of my camera in terms of its low-light abilities, but I still feel the picture tells a dramatic story. The rich textures in the ceiling, the walls and the floor all speak to the hard labor that went into making these tunnels. Modern construction equipment was years away when this site was built, meaning these tunnels were made by blasting and hand digging.
This is the view as we come out the other side of the tunnel shown above. Right behind us is a lookout and the actual gun batteries. These items will be highlighted in our second part of this series, coming early next week.
I think one of the key lessons I have come away with from this visit is how the specter of war hangs over almost everyone’s head since the dawn of humanity. We, as a people, have moved through countless cycles and times of war yet the human race persists; in some cases against all odds. Today here in Victoria the city is calm and restive, the people move about their days with a smile on their face, all too happy to say hi to a passing stranger. And even though we all live in a time of peace and relative prosperity, war is occurring half way around the world. Modern communications make these events shrink in terms of geography, producing an entire generation that is acutely aware of these happenings. Sure, our equipment has been vastly modernized and in some cases wars are handled with minimal human involvement directly on the battlefield, but this makes the act itself no less concerning.
Any even with that all being said, the ability to come to places like Macaulay Point and walk around in the footsteps left by those before us creates a strong and powerful connection with our past. And quite honestly, it’s rather compelling.
Please stay tuned for our second part to this series, slated to hit our photo-blog early next week. And in the meantime, as always we ask all our visitors to leave us any comments you may have as we really do love to hear from you all.