Fernie & Elk Valley Culture Guide Issue 4 - Spring 2017 - Page 17

RESOURCE HERITAGE The Fernie Oil Derrick The last standing wooden oil derrick in BC towers over Fernie's Highway 3 Visitor Centre on the eastern entrance to Fernie. It has been preserved as a memorial to the area’s resource heritage, a welcome to visitors, and a visible landmark for residents returning home. The metal components used to construct the Fernie Derrick are from Akamina #1, the first oil well drilled in BC in 1907 by the Royal Canadian Oil Company. The components were also used for Akamina #2 in 1908 before being moved to Fernie and rebuilt on the present site in 1984 following a salvage mission by Dave Yager. Transporting large pieces of heavy machinery into the Akamina and Sage Creek areas of the Flathead Valley by horse and cart could only begin after new roads had been cut into the wilderness. Riverside locations were required to provide water for the massive steam boilers used to power the newly constructed sawmills. These produced the timbers to build the derricks, and the bunkhouses needed 17 for the construction teams. The locations would also have been essential as a fresh water and food source for the crews. Akamina #1 was drilled to a depth of 1200ft before being abandoned so that the equipment could be used to construct Akamina #2, which achieved a depth of 600ft before also being abandoned. At both sites, tools were lost at the bottom of the wells; a foreshadowing of the hopes, dreams, and even lives that would be lost by the many hardworking pioneers who worked on the rigging crews. In total, 23 drilling rigs and oil wells were constructed in Southeastern BC between 1907 and 1930; however, no commercial quantities of oil were ever found. Now all that remains are abandoned well sites and the ghosts of an industry that found prosperity elsewhere. 17