Ewart thoughts on Simon Fraser near Hellsgate Canyon, 1808
Simon Fraser near Hellsgate Canyon, 1808 comments: I've always been fascinated by stories of the early Canadian explorers. When Ocean Cement asked me to contribute to the Building B.C. Collection to mark the 1966 Centenary of British Columbia, I was intrigued and willingly participated in the project. In response to the following description written by Mr. W. Ireland, B.C. Provincial Archivist, I painted this image of Simon Fraser Near Hellsgate Canyon, 1808.
A Path Becomes a Road to Tame a Wilderness.
No more heroic journey was ever made through a wilderness than that taken in the summer of 1808 by Simon Fraser and his tiny but courageous band of 23 men. His mission, as a young officer of the Northwest Company at Fort George, was to forestall the Americans on the lower Columbia. Alexander Mackenzie was the first to cross the continent by land and voyage upon the Fraser to the site of Alexandria in 1793. He thought it to be the 'Great River', the Columbia, and changed his course northward. It was Simon Fraser who followed this same river (which now bears his name) to the ocean to prove Mackenzie's theory untrue. They travelled part of the distance by canoes, with long and treacherous portages in search of places to launch their frail crafts on the river, then in high flood. Later the canoes had to be abandoned. Over the impossibly rugged terrain, formerly travelled only by Indians and animals, they made their way. In many places they clung to the walls of the canyon like spiders, often using the web ladders built over the centuries by the Indians. Finally, on July 2, 1808, they were rewarded with the view of the Gulf of Georgia. With the same spirit of adventure, plus modern technology, millions of tons of earth and rock have been moved and miles of concrete tunnels and bridges have been built. Now all may follow this perilous path in comfort, through the scenic Fraser Canyon. Today in Burnaby, B.C., a great University of concrete and steel stands a tribute to Simon Fraser, an illustrious, historic figure and one who is justly entitled the honour of being recorded as one of the founders of British Columbia.
'The world's mountains have always been a source of inspiration to artists and I find a great source of inspiration in painting the Canadian Rockies,' says Peter Ewart. 'I have experienced their majesty at dawn and dusk, in summer and winter, in fair weather and foul, and there is always a wonderful pleasure in painting their moods and majesty.'
Lying alone in your sleeping bag, high on the shoulder of a mountain, you get the feeling that you are a part of the universe - on a great star, circling among those billions of other stars and planets. And quite at peace...