Campbell River: Gateway to the Inside Passage, Including Strathcona, the Discovery Islands and the Mainland Inlets by Ian Douglas
Reviewed by Catherine Marie Gilbert
Campbell River, Gateway to the Inside Passage offers a fresh look at the Campbell River area, mainly seen through the lens of Boomer Jerritt, whose striking images comprise a large portion of the book. The text is written by Ian Douglas, a resident of Quadra Island. If the intention of the book is to be a combination travel guide/coffee table book as opposed to a scholarly work, then it succeeds very well. Douglas’s prose is light and entertaining and moves quickly without dwelling on too much detail. Except for a few lengthy sentences that may have benefitted from more careful editing, the text is pleasing without being pedantic. Douglas has a vast territory to cover; not only does he describe the city of Campbell River, but covers the region between Oyster River and Sayward in the first chapter alone, and Quadra Island, Cortes Island, and some of the outer islands in the remaining chapters. The chapters are nicely divided into sections that, generally, take the reader from south to north both geographically and by topic.
While the stories of early Campbell River pioneers like Fred Nunns and the Thulin brothers have been well documented elsewhere, Campbell River contains some vital new material. Most refreshing are Douglas’s first-hand experiences of fishing for Tyee and participating in a traditional potlatch ceremony.
One or two facts are misleading. On page 53, Douglas states that “the last Strathcona mine is scheduled to expire in 2012.” It is uncertain where he found this information since the book lacks footnotes or endnotes to indicate sources. In any event, employees of the mine have had no forewarning that this is to be the case. Also on page 85, marine gas is listed as one of the amenities offered at the Kelsey Bay dock, but there is no fuel depot at the dock.
In his treatment of Quadra Island, Cortes Island, and lesser-known islands like Maurelle, Douglas truly hits his stride and presents updated material that offers a glimpse into current island life and the economic challenges faced by island dwellers today. It is heartening that he gives exposure to modern day pioneers like Rob and Laurie Wood, who carved out their own place in the BC wilderness both as homesteaders and as wilderness outdoor leaders.
The images used in the book are quite beautiful and for the most part serve to augment and enhance the text. However, the section on First Nations history would have been enhanced with archival photos of First Nations villages or people; the two-page photo spread of Landslide Lake in Strathcona Provincial Park seems excessive; and the photograph used on page 49 to illustrate Canada Day was recently used on the cover of the Campbell River regional tourism guide and perhaps has been over exposed.
Many readers are sure to treasure this book as a memento of Campbell River and its nearby communities. It also marks the end of an era. Since, as Douglas states throughout the book, the primary industries driving the economy of the Campbell River area like pulp and paper and commercial fishing are now part of the past, the region must look to tourism to maintain its economy. Hopefully, this book will induce more visitors to come and see this exceptional region for themselves.
Campbell River: Gateway to the Inside Passage, Including Strathcona, the Discovery Islands and the Mainland Inlets
Ian Douglas (text) and Boomer Jerritt (photographs)
Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2010 144 pp , $34.95 Hardcover
BC Studies, no. 173, Spring 2012.