Princess Maquinna

The SS Princess Maquinna was one of the vessels used by Charles to get to his stations.


   Francis Charles (Charlie) Aitkens was born in 1904. Around 1921 he took a radio course at Sprott-Shaw and then joined the Government Wireless Service. His career postings were to Point Grey, then Bull Harbour (1924), then Pachena. In 1927-28 he was at Gonzales Hill (Victoria). Some time before 1930 he was posted to Estevan. Charlie left Estevan in about 1936-37. From then until 1939 he was leading crews to scout new radio beacon sites throughout BC. In 1939 he joined the RCAF Special Forces, doing much the same work. In 1947 he signed onto RCAF regular forces and retired in 1957. He then went overseas with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to Syria, Nepal and Afghanistan. He finally retired in 1967.

   Charlie became a silent key in March 1996 but his wife lived to be 99, and passed away in August of 2007.

   Photos are grouped in pages of 25 each.


   001   1942 RCAF photo of Estevan Point Wireless & Lightstation.


RCAF image of the Bamfield Cable Station.   002   1943 RCAF photo of the Bamfield Cable Station. The cable station was the Canadian end of a Pacific cable terminating in Australia. This system provided rapid inter-continental communication in the days before radio. During wartime this system provided a fairly secure method of sending messages and thus was a valuable communications asset.


Estevan operations building.   003   Estevan Point's old wireless operations building exterior. The wooden stepped wooden masts were constructed using shipwright techniques. Photo credit is the Public Archives of Canada.


Charlie and Jean Atkens.   004   Charlie and Gene Aitkens. Charlie was a wireless operator from about 1921 to 1937 at various stations along the British Columbia coast. In those days many of the stations were very isolated with supplies coming every couple of months.


Pilings placed into Long Beach to deter Japanese aircraft during the war.   005   Pilings were driven into Tofino's Long Beach in early World War 2 to create an aircraft defence obstacle. There was a worry that the Japanese Air Force could use the beach as a landing strip and thus create a beach head for an invasion force.


   006   Photo credit to the Public Archives of Canada. A small house is visible near the point. This image was taken near Clo-oose (east of Pachena) during a survey for suitable Canadian military DF sites in 1941.


1930's view of Pachena from sea.   007   A 1930's view of Pachena Point Light and Wireless Station. Photo is from the Public Archives of Canada.


McConnell with a load of planks on a truck.   008   "Mr. McConnell with a load of planks for Phil's house." This is photo was taken during Aitken's posting to Estevan Point. "Phil' would be Phil Eldridge, one of the radio operators at the station. Phil was in the process of getting married and was either boarding or batching with someone on the station. He was building a house for his bride.


Estevan engine house.   009   "Engine house, Phil (Eldridge) with his planks and corduroy road up the hill." The is the east side of the Estevan radio operations building. The diesel engines were housed on the right end of the building and would power the transmitters. The engine house also supplied power to the rest of the buildings on the light/wireless station. Phil got married in 1935 and built his own house at that time. Phil was at Estevan during the years 1929 through to 1937.


Martin King standing outside the original operations building at Estevan.   010   Martin King by the old wireless operations building at Estevan Point. After 1922, King was the Officer In Charge at the Pachena DF Station. This building appears in Bowerman's 011. The chimney appears to be missing in this photo when compared with 011, but close inspection shows this photo has the roof line cropped off.


Old time rigger Alex Chisholm up a pole.   011   Alec Chisholm (b.1891 d.1971) up a mast at Estevan Wireless Station. Alec was a rigger. Gene Aitken's diary mentions Chisholm visiting in May 1934.


Colour aerial view of Estevan in the 1980's.   012   1980's photo of the Estevan Point community. Old and new operations buildings in view.


Charlie having a snooze between shifts.   013   Charlie Aitkens catching a quick nap in the operations room at Estevan Point Wireless.


Vessel Santa Rita wrecked on Dare Point Feb 14, 1923.   014   Photo 1 of 3. A note from Ken advises this is the wreck of the 'Santa Rita' on Dare Point, a short distance west of Carmanah Point on February 14, 1923. In 1923 Charlie Aitkens may have been at Carmanah Point, a few miles south of the wreck.


Santa Rita wreck.   015   Photo 2 of 3


Santa Rita wrreck.   016   Photo 3 of 3.


1930's Estevan operating position.   017   Charlie Aitkens on watch. Note the valve transmitter tubes glowing behind the windows. From his age, it was most likely taken at one of his earlier postings in the 1920's.
   This receiver is a "Universal Radio Receiver Type 707". The receiver was quite likely built by the Canadian Government Radio Service. Frequency range was 400 down to 3,200 meters (or 750 kHz down to 90 kHz.) The Vancouver Society for the Preservation of Antique Radio in Canada (SPARC) museum's web site has one..


Pachena view.   018   General view of the Pachena station sometime shortly after it reopened with direction finding capabilities. Light tower in the background. Direction finding receiver hut in the center of the photo. Station used two loops of wire at right angles to each other. Posts holding the ends of the loops are visible. A vessel could call the station and in return, the operators at Pachena could tell the vessel his bearing to the station. This was a great aid to vessel navigation in the days before other electronic navigational aids.


Radio mast at Carmanah.   019   Radio mast at Carmanah Light Station. Radio telephone sets fitted to many light stations in the 1920's. Eventually this location had a radio beacon to aid vessel navigation.


Carmanah light tower.   020   Carmanah Point Light tower.


Radio mast at Carmanah.   021   Radio mast at Carmanah Light Station.


Radio mast view of Bull Harbour.   022   Early Bull Harbor, obviously taken from one of the radio towers. Shows the board walk and two operator's residences.


Bull Harbour residence and boardwalk.   023   Early Bull Harbor looking southwards towards a residence.


View of 1930's Estevan taken from the light tower.   024   View of Estevan Point Wireless and Light Station taken from the light tower. Large building is the radio operations building. Diesel cooling tower is off to the left. Rail tracks are noticeable heading off the upper left, most likely to the old supply landing to the north of the station. Unknown date but in the 1920-30 period. Photo credit to the Public Archives of Canada.


View of Clo-oose taken from sea.   025   Undated photo (1930's?) of Clo-oose, a coastal village between Pachena and Carmanah Light Stations. Today the settlement is much smaller and is a stop on Pacific Rim National Park's West Coast Trail. Photo credit to the Public Archives of Canada.


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