Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Hulks

Powell River in Coastal BC started as a company town for the Powell River Company. Brooks, Scanlon & Obrien joined forces to form the Powell River Company, western Canada's first pulp and paper mill.

Powell River was selected for the location because of the close proximity of huge timber resources and a rushing river to be harnessed for power. The mill was started in 1908 and the first roll of paper was produced in 1912.

The Hulks have been a common sight in Powell River since they were installed to form a protective floating breakwater for the mill's log pond in the late 1940's. They are all concrete ships originally built as transports for supplies in World Wars I and II. All ten are the last remaining representatives of their class of ships. The Peralta, holds the honor as THE last concrete ship remaining from World War I.

In 2002 the mill, then owned by Pacifica Papers, eliminated it's pulping operations, but decided to keep the Hulks. They were reconfigured to make the pond smaller for barges of wood chips waiting for their turn in the mill.

The waters off the Powell River coast are deep. It would be expensive, if not impossible, to build a traditional breakwater around the area. The concrete ships sit low in the water, thus providing protection from heavy wave action, even during storms. Huge concrete anchors and massive chains hold the ships in place. Occasionally, however, they must be reset due to the corrosive action of rust and the power of the sea.

Here are some resources to find more history about the hulks:

The Powell River Museum
The Hulks: The Breakwater Ships of Powell River by John A Campbell
Shotcrete Repair of WWII Concrete Hulks
Pulp, Paper and People by Karen Southern and Peggy Bird
Powell River's First 50 Years by the Powell River News

And finally, a shot of the guardian of the pond and its historic Hulks.

I invite you to put Powell River on your list of places to visit. -- Margy


  1. Wonderful photos and a most interesting post. If I could still fly, I would be over like a flash.

  2. I haven´t seen a breakwater like that before. Loved the seal too.

  3. Thanks for the invite Margy. Now this is a bit different and so interesting.

  4. Thank you for providing some history on your area. I'm always excited to see what you are going to show us next. I was joking with my husband that I was going to cook our turkey in the woodstove for Thanksgiving. LOL

  5. Nice post and information.
    Great photos.

    Thanks for sharing this interesting story w/ photos.

    I learned something new today.

    Troy and martha

  6. Very cool. Neat history.

    See you next week.

  7. Great post, Margy. Nice to learn some of the history of Powell River. And how lucky you are to have such a good-looking guardian of the pond.

  8. Fascinating! Great pictures, and I enjoyed reading about the Hulks. What a innovative use of these ships. Rather good recycling, huh?

  9. another interesting and most informative post...enjoyed the read and the photos. thanks a bunch for sharing some more history of your area.

    take care

  10. Fascinating - I'd heard of concrete ships but I've never seen one. Nice recycling! and I love the harbormaster.

  11. How interesting! That WOULD be an interesting place to visit. I love the guardian, too!

  12. Facinating Margy! I didn't even know there were even concrete ships. How wonderful for your community to presrve them in this useful way!

  13. All interesting w/ wonderful photos!

  14. The place is great and very clean, also the people that run the place do everything they can to help you with what you need. It was a wonderful experience.

  15. Having spent some time in Powell River commissioning Paper Machine 11 in the early '80s, I was mesmerised by those hulks and the fact that they were cement. I was so pleased to see them on your site. Even though I now live in Australia, I still keep a large satellite photograph of your part of the West Coast on my kitchen wall. Unfortunately I can't quite make out the Powell River hulks in the photo ...