Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre | Archives and Special Collections

Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre – Archives and Special Collections

Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre Built History

Construction start: 1901

Construction end: 1972

Major additions and dates/cost: First building program cost was $1.36 million

Occupancy over time: Marine and coastal scientists from the member universities and from other Canadian and international institutes, including undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, technicians, school and other public groups pursuing programs in marine biology and general science.

The Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island.  The original station was built in 1902 as the final link in the British Empire’s telegraph system, the first globe-spanning communication network.  Francis Rattenbury designed the original building (Rattenbury is best known for designing the Empress Hotel and the provincial legislature building in Victoria.)  The station also resembles a Canadian Pacific hotel given that CP Rail was responsible for operating the land-based telegraph lines across Canada.  The station fell into disuse in 1959 when a semi-automatic cable station opened in Port Alberni.

In 1969, five universities in Alberta and British Columbia committed to a long-term partnership in marine research.  Although the Bamfield buildings and site required an estimated $1.56 million in repairs and renovations, the location was ideal for marine research.  By 1973, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, and the University of Victoria were all involved in scientific work at the station.

Dr. Hartland-Rowe, a biology professor, described the station in 1979 as “absolutely first class. The quality of environment is so high they couldn’t do better for marine ecology.”  However, he also noted that the pressure of building accommodations had meant that the equipment budget was somewhat lacking.  Hosting researchers and students at the site necessitated a spate of building in the 1970s and 80s.  A bunkhouse and trailers were added in 1976, with a new dorm built in 1981.

The site now boasts a conference centre, laboratories, and a scientific diving facility, with research ongoing in ecology, evolution and conservation, climate change, fish physiology, fluid dynamics, and aquaculture.

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Bamfield Station is “absolutely first class. The quality of environment is so high they couldn’t do better for marine ecology.”

Dr. Hartland-Rowe, Professor of Biology (1979)