Surveying Central British Columbia



Sunday swim

Crew member Leonard Butler swimming from horseback on a Sunday, Nahlouza Lake, 1926. Photo: Royal BC Museum.



Frank Swannell returned to British Columbia in 1920 after five years of service in World War 1 and on the Allied expedition to Russia. During the next nine years he made an epic mapping survey of the Coast Mountains from the Kitimat area to the Chilcotin.

Smokehouses on Babine River

First Nations salmon fishery smokehouses on Babine River. Photo: Royal BC Museum.


Swannell's work in central British Columbia demonstrates that he was probably the province's best mapmaker of the 20th century, and the last of BC's great cartographers. 

It was necessary to climb to the top of many mountains each summer. This was challenging and occasionally dangerous work... In spite of the adverse working conditions, Swannell's surveys and maps were so accurate that they were not supplanted until the development of improved surveying techniques and equipment after
World War II.


Swannell panorama photo of upper Finlay River

An example of Swannell's panorama photo sets. Taken from the top of Mount Duncan in 1931, these photos show Thutade Lake, 38 km long, and the upper Finlay River basin. Panorama photos at the beginning of a season enabled Swannell to decide where best to establish other survey stations. Photo: Royal BC Museum.