History of Stanley Park Nine O’clock Gun

Photo credit: Keepitsurreal  | Flickr

Photo credit: Keepitsurreal | Flickr

There’s a saying that goes something to the effect of “there’s only two things you can be sure of in life: death and taxes.” For downtown Vancouver residents another constant can be added to this pithy list: the resounding, deep boom of the Stanley Park nine o’clock gun.

Each night at exactly 9:00 p.m. the 12 pounder muzzle-loaded naval canon located on the seawall just southwest of Brockton Point lets off a large boom to mark the time. The gun gives passersby either a thrill or scare depending on how closely they pay attention to the  cannon enclosure.

Overlooking Coal Harbour and the lego-like downtown skyline the gun was installed in the same spot it stands today in 1898 by the Canadian Department of Marine and Fisheries. 

Cast in 1816 by H&C King in England, the gun was likely used aboard British naval ships before it was gifted to Canada by the British Government in 1856. Of the three cannons brought out to Pacific coast, Stanley Park’s nine o’clock gun is the last remaining; the other two in Victoria met their fiery ends in 1940, melted down to conserve resources during World War II. 

Photo credit: Frank Leonard/Vancouver Archives

Photo credit: Frank Leonard/Vancouver Archives

According to local historians, the gun was originally installed to warn fisherman of the close of the nightly fishery, going off each evening at 6:00 p.m. But as fisherman drifted further away chasing the mighty schools of salmon, the gun’s sound was no longer heard becoming redundant most of the time. The gun was then used to assist local sailors set their vessel’s chronometers to aide in navigation. Meanwhile, the gun also helped local residents callibrate their clocks each night at 9:00 p.m.

Prior to the installment of the cannon and nightly boom, the job was done by lighting a stick of dynamite. Gingerly dangling the dynamite over the waters of Burrard Inlet with a fishing rod, the Brockton Point lighthouse keeper would light it at 9:00 p.m. risking hearing loss, never mind limb loss, to keep Vancouverites on time and ships on their paths. The cannon was thought of as a much more efficient tool to do the fairly dangerous job of keeping city clocks synchronized.

Today the cannon is encased in a sleek, see-through steel and stone enclosure designed by local architect Gregory Henriquez in 1986  as a centennial gift to the City of Vancouver from a number of local companies.

Photo credit: Miranda Post

Photo credit: Miranda Post

On a quiet night this summer, after a patio beverage or a day at the beach treat yourself: walk, blade or pedal towards Brockton Point to observe and hear a 115 year-old Vancouver tradition: the mighty bang of the nine o’clock gun.

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