The Early Years of British Columbia’s Forestry Industry: the Craft of Hand Logging

June 8th, 2017

Imagine cutting down a towering old growth Douglas Fir tree on the rugged coastline of Vancouver Island. Now imagine the only tool you had to get the job done was your own strength and grit. For most, this sounds like a daunting task but for British Columbian loggers in the late 1800s it was a typical day at work.

Back in the day, the Forest Act stipulated loggers were only permitted to use machinery that was operated using human muscular power. This meant hand logging was the primary method for logging along British Columbia’s coast.

Hand logging was the technique of felling massive west coast trees and placing them in coastal waters using only human strength.

British Columbia’s sheltered coastline provided the perfect conditions for hand logging. Loggers would use the quiet waters around islands, bays, and inlets to transport logs, creating large booms with ease. The steepness of BC’s coastline was also an important ingredient to hand logging. With the help of gravity, hand loggers would use the slopes to their advantage by rolling the logs down to the beaches.

The idea of hand logging seems fairly simple. However, successfully carrying it out was a complex task. A considerable amount of time went into selecting the right tree to log. If the tree wasn’t perfect, loggers would have a difficult time making a profit on the market.

The ingenuity of hand logging along BC’s coast is a remarkable feat in our province’s extensive forestry history. (from the collection of the Nanaimo Archives)

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