60th Anniversary of Ripple Rock explosion near Campbell River


Seymour Narrows, just north of Campbell River, is still a dangerous place for boaters with strong currents and treacherous whirlpools but prior to 1958, it was downright deadly, sinking countless boats and killing a recorded 114 people through actual the number is probably much higher.

“At low tide, the pinnacle was at about eight or nine feet below the surface so a hidden disaster in the waiting right in the middle of Seymour Narrows,” said Campbell River Museum Executive Director Sandra Parrish.

There were two peaks just below the surface and two previous attempts to blow up the rocks from above the water failed.

Then in November 1955 work on a massive project began to tunnel under the water and up into the rock formation.

“There were little side channels and they packed the whole rock with explosives and it didn’t have a chance, it was going for sure,” added Parrish.

Prior to the detonation, people wondered if it would cause an earthquake or even a tidal wave.

“It was a day that was full of great anxiety and fear because they didn’t really know what was going to happen,” said Parrish.

One thousand two hundred and seventy metric tons of Nitramex 2H explosive was placed in these shafts, estimated at ten times the amount needed for a similar explosion above water.

The entire country watched on live television as the clock counted down and the button was pushed.

The explosion took place at 9:31:02 am, April 5, 1958.

Six hundred and thirty five thousand metric tons of rock and water were displaced by the explosion, spewing debris at least 300 metres in the air which fell on land on either side of the narrows.

The blast increased the clearing at low tide to about 14 metres.

But the fears were unfounded and some witnesses even felt it was anti-climactic.

The removal of Ripple Rock is still believed to be the largest non-nuclear peace-time explosion ever.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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