Surveying the Great Divide

The Alberta/BC Boundary Survey, 1913-1917

Jay Sherwood

In 1917, during Canada’s 50th anniversary, there was little celebration in the country as it entered the fourth year of World War I. This conflict had a tremendous economic and emotional impact on the various levels of government in the country and on the lives of many people in Canada.

In western Canada, despite the turmoil and uncertain outcome of the war, one of the country’s major surveying projects continued. In 1913 the Alberta, British Columbia, and Dominion governments began surveying and marking the boundary between the two provinces along the Rocky Mountains. British Columbia’s representative, A.O. Wheeler, scaled many of the peaks along the Great Divide and did the phototopographic surveying. R.W. Cautley, the representative for the Alberta and Dominion governments, mapped the boundary through the economically important mountain passes. During the years of 1913-1917, the Boundary Commission surveyors mainly covered the area from Kicking Horse Pass to the United States border.