Reports of stone outcroppings near Friendly Cove, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. . . an ancient quarry, replete with stacked  boulders, lay abandoned in tiny Valdes Bay, near the mouth of Muchalat Inlet, twenty-five kilometres down river from the lumber town of Gold River.


A party of four sculptors . . .  On a late summer night in 1976, the sculptors slipped into the rugged town of Gold River toting canvas bags that were heavily laden with stone-cutting points, flats, mallets, and bush-hammers. They had come as hired-guns  . . . First though, the existence of the stone had to be proved.


As dawn broke coldly the next morning the four sculptors motored, huddled, down-inlet in a battered skiff borrowed from the Tahsis Lumber Co., later to arrive, chilled through, at Valdes Bay. They secured the boat and jumped ashore. No quarry, no stone was visible, but a small, rusted rail ran off into the bush and tailed out of sight behind a stand of cedars. “This way please,” the track may have said. The four sculptors accepted the implicit invitation and followed the rail line into the dark woods.


They emerged in the dappled light of a small clearing. A natural pool, fed by underground springs and rainwater, lay at the centre. Ringed about, like ancient Stonehenge, stood columns of quarried stone, thick with velvet carpets of moss. Cathedral walls of Douglas fir sprang up behind the black marble piers. Shafts of light shooting down through the green-ribbed vaults of the wooden giants cast dancing diamonds into the quarry pool. God may have built a cathedral like this for sculptors to pray in.


The four sculptors set out their tools and began testing the stone for its carving qualities. Their ringing strikes, cutting into the black marble, alerted wildlife to sounds not heard in this place since before moss began to shroud the stone. Sea otter and sea lion gathered in the bay, and bald eagles filled the sky. The sculptors made an inventory of the quarried stone (more than two hundred tons by their calculations). They claimed and dated each piece with marks carved into the blocks . . . At the conclusion of the draw the sculptors cut signatures into their chosen stones. For the first time that day they were hungry. They hadn’t eaten since before dawn. Nor had they brought along any food. No matter. The ebbing tide provided for them. As the inlet’s finger of sea withdrew to the ocean, the sculptors whacked saucer-sized oysters off the tide line with their mallets, threw them on a fire to cook and squeal in their own liquor, and dined elegantly, on black marble tables, at the dimming of the day.


The four sculptors . . . learned that stone from the quarry had ninety years earlier gone into the construction of British Columbia’s parliament buildings.The marble had been carted along the now-rusted rails, loaded on flat bed barges, and rafted down island to Victoria. They also learned that the stone had been quarried by Chinese, imported to do the work at pitifully meagre wages. On completion of construction, over quarried stone was left at the site,and the coolies were sent home.


… four weeks later the trucks rolled onto the sculptors’ courtyards  … the black marble monoliths chained securely to groaning flat beds, and glistening in the West Coast rain.



(C) 2015 arne torneck all rights reserved

Google images