Author: rkelland

“IT THREW A MUSHROOM CLOUD JUST LIKE AN ATOMIC BOMB”: THE LEDUC No.1 OIL DISCOVERY – 70 YEARS AGO

On a bitterly cold afternoon, at 3:55pm, Nathan E. Tanner, Minister of Lands and Mines turned a valve at the Leduc No. 1 oil well as a rig hand held out a burning rag, setting alight a massive column of smoke and flame that roared hundreds of feet skyward. That event took place on February 13, 1947, seventy years ago today and it heralded in a new era for Alberta. An era of rapid development and prosperity fed by the now discovered reserves of oil deep under the province.

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“It flared hundreds of feet” is how tool push Vern Hunter described the lighting of the flare as the Leduc No. 1 oil well was brought in on February 13, 1947. Source, Provincial Archives of Alberta, P1342

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St. Nicholas Peak

You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you’re sleeping,
He knows when you’re awake,
He knows when you’ve been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!
(J.F. Coots & H. Gillespie, 1934, © EMI Feist Catalog Inc; Haven Gillespie Music)

How can Santa Claus see all of this? How can he know what we are doing all of the time? Where exactly does he get his information? While some more imaginative people believe that Santa Claus must have magical, all-knowing, all-seeing powers. Other, more practical-minded folk, insist that he must have a vast network of elfin spies keeping tabs on every boy and girl in his domain. However, here in Alberta we know better. Santa Claus obviously does his recon from his lofty vantage point in the Canadian Rockies from which he can see great distances – perhaps even into your own home (and isn’t that just a little bit creepy?).

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St. Nicholas Peak, North elevation as seen from the Wapta Icefield, 1903. Photograph taken by Arthur Oliver Wheeler. The “Santa Claus” gendarme is the small rocky projection on the right side of the peak. Image Source: Source: Mountain Legacy Project, 85.

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ELIZABETH STREET SCHOOL, MEDICINE HAT – MUNICIPAL HISTORIC RESOURCE

In February 2016, the City of Medicine Hat designated the Elizabeth Street School as a Municipal Historic Resource. In September, a plaque about the school’s history and designation was unveiled. The school is the most recent of Medicine Hat’s historic resources to be listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places.

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Elizabeth Street School during construction, ca. 1912. The school’s Classical Revival details, notably the cornice at the roofline and the keystone and voissoir details around the entryways, are evident.
Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, A10594

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Claiming their Ground – Three Pioneering Alberta Women in their Professions

October is Women’s History Month in Canada, when we celebrate the achievements of women throughout our past and use their stories to inspire Canadians today. The twentieth century saw women entering occupations previously the exclusive domain of men. A variety of circumstances combined to allow these advances, including the rise of public education, social activism culminating in universal suffrage, legal challenges that established women as “persons” and the upheaval created by two world wars. These changes are not sufficient to explain the careers of the three women described in this blog; it took determination, persistence, courage and intelligence for them to succeed and carve a place for themselves as professional women in these fields that were predominantly, if not exclusively, the preserve of men.

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Diane Loranger, geologist, ca. 1946-1947. (Glenbow Archives, IP-14A-1470)

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Edmonton’s River Valley: The Glitter of the Gold Rush

Every summer around this time of year, I look forward to checking out the sights and sounds of Edmonton’s local exhibition formerly known as Klondike Days. Its very name conjures childhood memories full of non-stop carnival rides, piping hot corn dogs and the sweet smell of freshly spun cotton candy. The name Klondike Days was originally brought in by exhibition organizers in the 1960’s and the Klondike gold rush theme was enthusiastically embraced by the public. I’ve always wondered what our local historical connection to the gold rush really was. Is there really gold to be found in the river valley?

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Man washing gold at Edmonton, 1890. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, B5280

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The Battle of Jutland, First World War Commemoration and Alberta Place Names

No single event has had such a dramatic impact on place names in Alberta than the First World War Battle of Jutland. Deep in the heart of Kananaskis Country can be found a series of mountains bearing the names of the ships and naval commanders of this naval battle. At least twenty-six mountains bear names commemorating the Battle of Jutland – sixteen of them are named for Royal Navy vessels that took part in the battle and ten are named for the Admirals, ship captains and seamen that lead and fought at Jutland. Additionally, many features associated with the mountains (glaciers, lakes and creeks) have subsequently been given Jutland names. The great number of Jutland-related geographical names in Alberta is curious. While there is no questioning the significance of the Battle of Jutland – it was the only major sea battle of the First World War, one of the few times in which dreadnought battleships fought directly against each other and its results affected strategy and tactics on both sides and altered the course of the war – it was also a battle in which there was no significant Canadian presence; no Canadian ships were involved and only one Canadian casualty has ever been confirmed. So, how did so many of these mountains along the Alberta-British Columbia boundary end up being named to commemorate this battle?

Mount Engadine (left), The Tower (middle) and Mount Galatea (right), taken in 1916 by the Interprovincial Boundary Survey. Mount Engadine and Mount Galatea are named for Royal Navy vessels that fought at the Battle of Jutland, the seaplane carrier HMS Engadine and the light cruiser HMS Galatea.

Mount Engadine (left), The Tower (middle) and Mount Galatea (right), taken in 1916 by the Interprovincial Boundary Survey. Mount Engadine and Mount Galatea are named for Royal Navy vessels that fought at the Battle of Jutland, the seaplane carrier HMS Engadine and the light cruiser HMS Galatea. Image Source: Mountain Legacy Project, IMG_3320. The Mountain Legacy Project is based at the School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC. For more information, go to mountainlegacy.ca, or email mntnlgcy@uvic.ca.

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Mount Lougheed and Wind Mountain

One of the most recognizable mountains in the Canadian Rockies is Mount Lougheed. Located approximately 15 kilometres southeast of Canmore, this majestic 3,150 metre (10,335 ft.) mountain is named for Sir James Alexander Lougheed. However, Lougheed is not the only name the mountain has had. In fact, it is not even the first mountain in the area to bear the name Lougheed. The story of how the mountain became known as Mount Lougheed is interesting.

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Mount Lougheed from the Trans-Canada Highway, August 2011. The entire massif is known as Mount Lougheed. The large, central peak is likely the feature named “Windy Mountain” by Eugene Bourgeau in 1858. The prominent peak furthest to the right is Windtower Mountain. The peak known today as Wind Mountain is the distinctly pointed peak visible on the horizon at left side of the photograph.
Source: Larry Pearson, Historic Places Stewardship Section, Alberta Culture and Tourism.

In 1858, Eugène Bourgeau (sometimes spelled Bourgeaux), a botanist with the Palliser Expedition, accompanied James Hector up the Bow Valley towards what is now Canmore. Bourgeau named many of the mountains and lakes along the way. Bourgeau was struck by the way the clouds swirled around one particular peak. James Hector, in his account of August 11, 1858, noted that (more…)