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Cowichan Historical Society presents the little-known story of mapping Canada

In 1947, Canada’s federal government launched an ambitious program to map the entire country
Mosquito crews took on the work of mapping Canada. (submitted) Spartan Air Services flight crew with their air survey Mosquito at Uplands Airport, 1958. (George Hunter photo via Robert Stitt)

By Carolyn Prellwitz

Two-thirds of the world’s population now owns a cell phone. Among their many uses, these so-called smart devices give almost universal access to searchable maps of the entire planet. Yet as recently as 60 years ago, there was no paper, let alone digital map coverage for vast areas of the Earth’s surface, including most of Canada.

In 1947, Canada’s federal government launched an ambitious program to map the entire country, driven by the needs of the Cold War and the desire to better prepare the country for various forms of development and resource management. The Royal Canadian Air Force initially took on the required aerial photography but other priorities meant that it was a few civilian companies that forged ahead to complete this mammoth project.

Aviation historian Robert Stitt will relate this little known story through the most iconic of these Canadian enterprises, Spartan Air Services, at the 7:30 p.m., Jan. 16, general meeting of the Cowichan Historical Society at St. Peter’s Church Hall in Duncan. Coffee, tea and cookies will be available at the conclusion of the presentation along with an opportunity to mingle and chat with Stitt, as well as other Society members in attendance. Non-Society members are welcome to attend; donations to the Society are much appreciated.

The Cowichan Historical Society is an all-volunteer non-profit organization that owns and operates the Cowichan Valley Museum and Archives. The museum is located in the former Duncan Train Station on Canada Avenue and the archives are located on the third floor of the Duncan City Hall. The aims of the Society are to gather and preserve information and records connected with the history of the Cowichan area and to maintain the Cowichan Valley Museum and Archives which it owns and operates.

New Society members are encouraged to join. Membership fees are $20 annually and come with such benefits as select previews of new exhibitions at the Cowichan Valley Museum in the former train station on Canada Avenue, e-newsletters and a $5 discount off a subscription to the quarterly BC History Magazine.

Carolyn Prellwitz is the director of the Cowichan Historical Society.