Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Nine O'Clock Gun

Vancouver has its share of oddities, and none is more odd than the Nine O’Clock Gun. Vancouverites actually set their time by it. When my daughter was a little girl, we lived in the West End and she knew as soon as she heard the Nine O’Clock Gun, it was time for her to go to bed.

The 9 O'Clock Gun is a cannon located in Vancouver, British Columbia that is shot every night at 21:00 (9 p.m.). The crests of King George III and Henry Phipps, 1st Earl of Mulgrave, Master-General of the Ordnance at the time the cannon was cast, are on the barrel.

The gun is a 12-pound muzzle-loaded naval cannon, cast in Woolwich, England in 1816. Seventy-eight years later, in about 1894, it was brought to Stanley Park by the Department of Marine and Fisheries to warn fishermen of the 18:00 Sunday close of fishing. On October 15, 1898 the gun was fired for the first time in Stanley Park at noon.

The 21:00 firing was later established as a time signal for the general population and to allow the chronometers of ships in port to be accurately set. The Brockton Point lighthouse keeper, William D. Jones, originally detonated a stick of dynamite over the water until the cannon was installed. The cannon eventually had an electronic trigger installed and is now activated from the harbor master's perch on top of a building near Canada Place.

The 9 O'Clock Gun has been silent for at least four periods: once during World War II, in 1969 when it was stolen and held by University of British Columbia Engineering students until a "ransom" was donated to BC Children's Hospital; in 2007 during a work stoppage; and in 2008 when UBC Engineering students painted it red. After the 1969 theft, the cannon was surrounded by a stone and metal enclosure as shown in the photo.

The gun was restored and new pavilion designed by Gregory Henriquez of Henriquez Partners Architects in 1986 and built as a centennial gift to the city from Ebco Industries, Chester Millar, First Generation Capital, and the Hudson's Bay Company.

… Wikipedia

I live relatively close to Stanley Park, but not close enough that I can hear the Nine O’Clock Gun anymore, except perhaps on very still nights when the condition is just right for the sound to carry across English Bay. In a future post I might tell you about the building that blasts "Oh, Canada" across the city every day at noon. Oh, yes, we are an odd bunch.


Firefly said...

A very interesting post. I just find it interesting that it is as late as 21:00 and that people haven't complained about the time.

In Cape Town they have a noon gun that fires a shot from Signal Hill next to Table Mountain. If you are down in the city centre or at the waterfront you can clearly hear the shot and if you time it right and look up at the hill you may just see the plume of smoke.

KathyB. said...

I think it is amazing the gun still fires. No one complains about the noise ? How wonderful there are some things you can mostly count on !

I will violate unwritten comment rules...your last post is touching...i, and my family, especially my son who is formerly a U.S. Marine, have always been aware of and careful of the civilian side of war. There are so many stories and heart felt experiences about this. War is a terrible and tragic thing that words and politics cannot adequately express or describe. War is Hell !

Russell said...

Here in Iowa it seems to be a tradition for every small town to sound a siren at noon.

As a child I would hear the noon siren and know it was time for dinner (lunch many people call it) and so on.

I have noticed every small town I have lived around in Iowa sounds a siren at noon. I am not sure how that got started but it is certainly a long standing tradition.

I enjoyed watching the video of the gun being fired. Most interesting. Reminds me of Mary Poppins!!

Adventure girl wanna be said...

Interesting and educational:)
Happy Wednesday;)

RiverPoet said...

Wow, I had no idea! You're right, you have some odd and interesting things in Vancouver. I'm sure that we'll get the full history of that during the Olympic coverage.

I remember in Houston, where I grew up, we heard the air raid siren every Friday at noon. Of course, it was just a test, and I don't know if they do it anymore, but it was just one of those certainties in life that I came to take for granted.

Peace - D

Charles Gramlich said...

It's all in the timing.

Leslie: said...

Living where I do now, I'd forgotten about the 9 o'clock gun. But I do remember 1969 when the UBC Engineering students stole it.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Interesting but why 9 o'clock and not some other time?

Daryl said...

Why 9 pm? What is the significance of this hour vs another?


Hilary said...

Very cool. I'd find the reliability of that 9 pm gun very comforting. But like Daryl asked, why that hour?

Great post.

xup said...

Halifax has the noon cannon. Up on Citadel Hill at 12:00 noon sharp they blast the cannon. Every tourist in the city jumps.... and every local

http://www.creativewritng.ca said...

Dunno whom the bell rings for, but lookee here.Right in your neighbourhood

CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C.–A bizarre case that has baffled British Columbians grew even more bizarre today.

A sixth foot – and the second one this week – washed up on shore and RCMP say it appears to be a human right foot.

My children's reading had "The Fog Comes on Little Pig's Feet", but no. Looks like this little piggie wore Nikes or something.

Cedar said...

Is Williams Jones' nickname, Three Fingers Jones?

VioletSky said...

It is odd traditions like this that make a place so much more interesting. I had forgotten about this and didn't realize it still went off every night.

Jo said...

Firefly, that is very interesting. I didn't know Cape Town had a noon gun. Now you see? I learn something every day!

Kathy, I didn't know about the unwritten blogging rules. I often read two posts at a time, and comment on them both. Oh, gosh!

Russell, a noon siren? Well, that would make sense, to call people in from what they are doing, so they can have their noon meal. That is the major meal of the day there, isn't it?

Adventuregirl, Happy Thursday! *heh*

Riverpoet, yes, we had an air raid siren where I grew up too, and we used to hear it on a regular basis. It always scared the sh*t out of me. (Pardon my française).

Charles, *heh*

Leslie, yes, the engineering students have done some great things, haven't they? What a bunch of goofs!

LGS, Daryl and Hilary, apparently 9:00 was when the fishermen were supposed to come back to shore, so it was a signal for them.

XUP, at noon here in Vancouver we have the air horns that play "Oh Canada". And everyone here jumps too. :-)

Ivan, yes! Carl Sandburg. It's one of my favorite poems.

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Cedar, *heh* He's known as Two Fingers now...

Violetsky, oh, yes, every night at 9:00 on the dot, that gun still goes off. It's sort of a Vancouver icon, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.