Well known it that boulder on the mainland shore, naming the city of White Rock, B.C. The White Rock is situated close to 49 degrees Latitude and near 123 degrees Longitude. It sits on the sand at high tide on Semiahmoo Bay, about one-half mile from the Great Northern station at White Rock. The boulder’s fame has been spread by the many tourists who swarm the seashore on summer days. Big Rock on Vancouver Island’s east coast, naming a suburb of Campbell River—home of the famed Tyee Salmon.
The history of the white rock begins in Indian folklore. Chief Bernie Charles of the Semiahmoo tribe recounts that the son of a sea god sought the hand of the daughter of a Cowichan Indian chief on Vancouver Island. However, both the sea god and the maiden’s father frowned on this marriage. In a fit of anger, the youth picked up a huge rock near present-day Sidney and threw it across Georgia Strait. As he did so, he vowed that he and his loved one would make their home wherever it landed. The young god and his bride swam across the channel and found that the boulder had landed at Semiahmoo Bay.
And there they settled. Their descendants are the Semiahmoo tribe of today. Since those early days, the big white rock was used as a land mark by navigators, before the first white settlers came to the bay in 1902.
Increasing throngs of beachgoers meant inevitable vandalism to the rock. Over the years hooligans have daubed it in various shades of paint, and some even tried to set it afire. The most serious damage was done on Friday night, March 10, 1950, when the boulder was completely covered with a coat of tar paint. The event was considered a real tragedy by the community leaders, for they knew that repainting could not be effected on a tar surface. By 1960 however, the rock had been returned to its original whiteness.
Perhaps the greatest threat of its life came when Mayor A. W. Freeman of Sidney demanded that the white rock be returned to its original home. Mayor Freeman sent two letters to Mayor Harry Douglass of White Rock. The first, a formal message, claimed Indian legend substantiated Sidney’s right He demanded an immediate return of the boulder. In the second informal letter, he explained the good-natured intent of this publicity stunt.
Mayor Douglass, in his formal reply, declared that possession was nine-tenths of the law. He would use all means at his disposal to safeguard the huge stone, even if he had to call on Prime Minister Bennett’s navy. Things came to a head on March 1 when Mayor Freeman send a delegation to White Rock’s Klondike Days’ celebrations. Delegates were Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Hollingsworth, Mr. and Mrs. Ray Bowcott, and Len Bland, president of Sidney Kinsmen. They were booed and told to leave. Mr. Hollingsworth suggested that some dark night the rock might easily be shifted by a local marine transfer.
It was front page news in the Vancouver Province of March 3,1969 when Mayor Freeman’s delegation left after taking measurements of the boulder. White Rock residents were warned to keep close watch on their crown jewel.
After further negotiations, truce terms were resolved. Ownership of the boulder would be decided in a boat race on the Dominion Day weekend. Bob Benson of the White Rock Sea Festival Society announced that officials on both sides of the truce table agreed that the winner of the race would have nominal possession of the rock for one year. The contest was duly held over the 23-mile Strait of Georgia course. Twelve boats, restricted to 14 feet, 10 horsepower, and marked with Indian motif, made the dash from Sidney to White Rock.
Mayor Freeman, in hospital at the time, left his bed to protect his interests. The fruits of victory were his when Terry Sievert of Sidney, in a 12-foot, 10-horsepower craft, made the best time in two hours. His reward was a replica of the vaunted prize And so, in name at least, the big white rock has returned to its proper owners.
Meanwhile all was peaceful at Campbell River. This boulder seems to have led a quieter existence. Big Rock is situated near 49 degrees 59’ Latitude and 125 degrees 13′ Longitude. It is closer to the 50th parallel (900 feet short) than White Rock is to the 49th.It stands on the beach looking one mile across Discovery Passage to Cape Mudge Light on Quadra Island. Could it talk, what a tale it might tell of sea drama on this shipping lane!—a lot more than White Rock has ever witnessed.
Mr. Holden of the B.C. Government Surveys indicates the rock is recorded as Bench Mark 842J of the Geodetic Survey of Canada. The B.C. government uses the boulder as a station when preparing charts of the Discovery Passage. According to the government, Big Rock is 25 feet high by 40 feet wide by 40 feet deep. Its circumference is over 100 feet. So it easily surpasses the white rock in size. In fact, Big Rock is purported to be the largest on the Coast north of Portland, Oregon.
Indian legend has it that long ago, grizzly bears on the mainland had failed to swim to Vancouver Island. The Great Spirit then told them they would be allowed to live on the Island if they could leap there in one bound. Should they touch water before landing, their fate was transformation to stone. Most of the bears trying did not make low tide—the explanation for many rocks off the Island’s east shore.
One super grizzly almost made the beach, but his rear paws touched salt water. His effort is immortalized in Big Rock.
Unlike White Rock, which is community property, Big Rock is actually on private foreshore land. But the owners welcome visitors, and it is a popular stop for motorists, especially camera fans, as it is only a “stone’s throw” from the highway. Perhaps some day mainlanders will demand the return of their grizzly. Until then, Islanders really do not need the surrender of their white rock, since they still possess the largest boulder on the British Columbia Coast.