The perfect vantage point to fend off attack, up high on a knoll with a perfect 180* panoramic view. It must have been hard to imagine that forces based thousands of miles away across a vast and treacherous ocean would have any plans to land on these shores. But, the threat was so very real and designs had to be set in motion to create a bastion of defense against the possibility.
This post finds us finishing off our latest photoblog series on Macaulay Point in Victoria, BC. The first installment was “Macaulay Point: The First Bastion: Pt 1” for those who may be joining us here.
In our last post, we left off by exploring the tunnels that connect the various features of the site to each other. These tunnels allowed safe movement around the facility, underground and out-of-sight. As you emerge from those tunnels and head towards the upper areas where the actual gun batteries were housed, the scenery takes on a distinctive change.
This combination bunker and ammunition storage area was constructed with thick, solid concrete. The entire facility is peppered with nooks and crannies, storage rooms and other little places; all welded shut. Visiting the site leaves the explorer with both a renewed sense of connection with the past, as well as a distinct curiosity as to what is inside all these rooms and areas. In many cases, you leave with more questions that you had upon arrival.
This lookout point has the most incredible view. It’s the perfect place to sit a spell today, to take in the crisp air and to see across expanses of the ocean. The Olympic Mountain range in Washington State in the US is readily visible on most days.
But, it was not always serene and peaceful. What must it have felt like to be a sentry perched atop this platform, eyes darting around to the west looking for any sign of approaching ships? After staring at scenes like this for an extended period of time, it’s quite normal to start imagining things. The sounds of the ocean lapping against the shores accompanied by the voices in the wind… truly mesmerizing tones further creating the likelihood of a false alarm.
We make our way down from our lofty perch and encounter our first gun battery. The concrete shapes that make up the emplacement today form a strange silhouette against the sky, almost appearing to be a lost and forgotten building in the rapid process of decay. As we stand here taking this photograph, we hear the screams of children over the hill as they play in the park. It seems eerie given the nature of our surroundings at this point.
Standing at the base of this gun battery, several key elements begin to come to life in detail. The wear and weathering from years of salt water pounding the site is leaving its indelible mark on the remains. In some places, this weathering gives the concrete an almost fluid-like appearance, as if the concrete itself is running down the walls in liquid form. Again, we encounter doors that are welded shut. Signs of the courageous abound everywhere in the form of marks left behind from crowbars and other apparatus trying to pry their way into these forever hidden bunkers.
From what we can see, no one has had any luck in doing so.
We begin to make our way up the concrete steps, to see what can be found of the remains of the gun battery itself. The air is crisp and cold, and the seagulls float above us in the eddies, almost effortlessly. Whose feet stood on these steps a hundred years ago, and what were they thinking as they made their way up? This age of relative peace we find ourselves in makes this all seem so surreal, almost as if we’re moving around a complex movie set. There is no connection with reality here in terms of the original purpose contrasting with what today makes for a popular historic park for everyone to visit.
The only warriors evident today are armed with spray cans, with a prime focus on making art, not war. This structure we see here was the mounting spot for one of the three 6″ disappearing guns stationed at the site. Wikipedia states:
These guns were sited in concrete emplacements ten feet thick, which were in turn protected by the rock massif of the hillside into which they were sunk. The barrels were normally kept down in the loading position, within the protection of the concrete emplacement (which also had an overhead metal shield). Using a central Observation Post and remote electric dial system to pass target information, the guns would be loaded and aimed while in the “down” position. Only when actually about to fire, would the large hydro-pneumatic system raise the 5-tonne barrel up over the parapet.
The strength of the system was that the barrel was exposed to the enemy for a minimal amount of time, and with naval guns of the time firing on a flat trajectory, it was virtually impossible for an enemy ship to drop a shell on the emplacement, with its sloping rock glacis in front. Disadvantages of the system included a slow rate of fire (perhaps one shot every two minutes), and a propensity for the complicated hydro-pneumatic system to leak.
The marvel of engineering that comprises this facility is amazing even by modern standards. When viewed in the context of being a hundred years old now, the site takes on an almost enigmatic persona, one that is difficult to fully comprehend in today’s day and age.
Yet, here it stands.
In a time without backhoes or excavators, tasks like the one we see completed here requiring the removal of vast amounts of dirt would have been an onerous job, to say the least. Once completed the facility becomes almost one with the surrounding landscape, seamlessly integrating with the hill. The scope of the job is astonishing. The outcome is amazing.
Our final image is a panorama overlooking the knoll towards the mountains in Washington State. This 9 bracket, 3 panel image shows a gently rolling hill that meanders its way towards the ocean. Halfway down, looking closely we see the three gun battery emplacements. On the one to the far right, people are standing on them giving the image a strong sense of scale.
To the right of this scene lies open water leading west towards Russia and Asia. Those who commanded and kept watch at this site would have kept a vigilant eye west, waiting for the first sign of impending invasion. They waited for an event that never occurred. Quite thankfully.
This entire shoot was another example of how photography can create awareness for me. I knew of this location for over 30 years now, but never visited or researched it. Today I feel as if I have some form of a connection with those who built and manned this place, having walked in their steps, heard the sounds they heard and felt the ocean winds on my face as they did. What a truly wonderful experience.
Thanks ever so kindly for taking the time to visit. We really do love to hear from all our visitors, so please feel free to leave us any comments you may have.