Thousands of artefacts found in Esquimalt Harbour

Items dredged from the harbour include torpedo-shaped bottles and a ceramic ginger-beer jar. Credit: DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

An estimated 3,000 artefacts have been found in by sifting through tens of thousands of dredged sea-bottom material from the Esquimalt Harbour, Canada.

Discovered artefacts included naval shipboard crests and memorabilia, Royal Marine Light Infantry buttons, torpedo-shaped bottles and a ceramic ginger beer bottle from a local manufacturer that operated from 1899 to 1922, according to city archives.

The dredging is part of a USD162 million project, by the federal government to remove 110,000 m3 of contaminated bottom material to be transported by barge from Esquimalt Harbour to a facility in the US for disposal. The project commenced in 2016 and is expected to be completed by 2020.

Project manager for the remediation project, Mike Bodman said that after several studies found heavy metals and other contaminant deposits on the seafloor were making their way into the marine food chain, the government took the decision to act. The harmful deposits are leftovers of decades of industrial use of the harbour.

“The contamination on the sea bed was getting into the sea life, and people eat the sea life,” said Bodman. “That’s not great and it’s a problem that’s not going to go away on its own.”

Further, due to ships routinely calling at the harbour and stirring up the bottom sediment, there is no time for the harbour to become progressively layered with sediment and so form a protective cap.

After the artefacts were discovered, the project managers then called upon the help of archaeologists from the University of Victoria to catalogue and preserve the objects.