Canadian Rockies: The road to Lake Louise, A dirty hidden history?

in #photography2 years ago

Hey Steemies!

Well now it's official, I'm due back to work in about a week so vacation time is over until summer, thankfully! I need to fund more trips and stackibles 😎. With that being said, I better start writing the stories from this last trip because time will become really limited soon. It tends to be more like I live at work while occasionally visiting home working 70 hours + a week, the good news, it is generally just for a month or two at a time. I can't even imagine doing it for 50 weeks a year like some guys do. Without further ado, lets go to the topic at hand, MOUNTAINS!

stormy mountain.jpg
Stormy Mountain, shot 1/800 sec. f/7.1 78 mm, ISO 200

As a continuation from my last travel post, having fallen ill to an severe allergic reaction the day before we left for the trip, I was really hoping for a good night's sleep for my body to recover a little before the hikes to begin. I didn't care that I felt sick and certainly wasn't about to cancel mountains for it, the only thing that keeps me away from my beloved peaks is if they are on fire (it does happen during the summer season). Of course....the darn train woke us up every 45 minutes like an alarm clock on perpetual snooze mode and it became irritating especially with a bad headache. At about 6 am we gave up trying to rest and just hit the road as it seemed pointless to even try at this point.

park art2.jpg

We wanted to get some sunrise pictures but much like the night before, everything was still foggy and wasn't a likely scenario, Why not get on the road towards Lake Louise, it wasn't a far drive from Castle Mountain. We knew the lake was frozen solid from the live cam we found online but all this snow would mean the glacier would be stunning and larger than we have seen yet. Things started pretty gloomy as stated, I suppose it was very fitting with the somber discovery we were about to make that we somehow missed during our previous travels on the Parkway. Then again it was pretty small, it looked to be a shrine of some sort by a mountain named Internment Mountain, I thought it was a rather sinister name for a mountain...How did they come up with that?

internment_memorial.jpg
Shot 1/30 sec. f/4.8 40 mm, ISO 1250
Well hidden in Canada's most beautiful landscape and wilderness we call Banff National Park and away from the public eye along with our history books, Camp Castle was established. Sounds like a cool camp to go to right? Except this wasn't some cool summer camp for kids or an anticipated quiet getaway destination, this was an internment forced labor camp aka concentration camp for World War I enemy alien prisoners established in 1915. WTF! This was news to me, I never knew such thing ever existed in Canada, they do a good job at manipulating or omitting information to distract the population away from our dark dirty History. The camp mainly housed civilians of German, Ukrainian and Austrian descent along with merchant marines and military reservist and their families. The wives and children weren't forced into the labor camp but often accompanied their husbands having no other means to sustain themselves without their main bread winner in the real world during this difficult time of war and growing financial insecurity that eventually led to the Great Depression and in the days where women's rights were much more limiting than they are today.

I can only assume that many came to regret this decision as the forced labor of this camp was used to clear the land, establish roads, bridges, quarry stone and various other infrastructure that would be required to ensure accessibility for future tourism plans for the area. In total from 1914 to 1920, 24 camps across Canada housing some 8500 prisoners divided in classes were established including 4 in the Canadian Rockies Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Revelstoke National Parks. Camp Castle (summer use) and Cave and Basin (winter use) held as many as 600 prisoners and 180 guards where escapes were frequent. Working for as little as 25 cents a day, living conditions were squalid, often not outfitted with proper warm clothing to sustain the cold conditions, lack of food, some living in tents or un-insulated tar-paper shacks with the camp surrounded in barbed wire and armed guards, 107 prisoners died at Camp Castle for various reasons including suicides or caught trying to escape and often subjected to rough treatment. The Canadian government refrains from calling them concentration camp because of the tarnished image of German camps left behind, slightly less drastic and violent than the German counterpart, they are just that...Concentration Camps of slave Labor, in Canada.

DSC_6137.JPG
Took a photo of the Park display at the location.

Isolated and removed or hidden from society, the un-welcomed immigrants were previously brought into Canada by our government with the promise of a better future and to develop the railroads, fleeing an occupied Ukraine and looking to resettle to a better life abroad often were destitute and jobless or from a military background. When WWI broke out, public distrust for these individuals was at an all time high and were seen as a threat to the safety of the nation. After public outcry to the government , they were rounded up and separated from their families to be placed in these "Concentration Camps" to be forgotten and as far away from society as possible to appease the Canadian public under the "War Measure Act" of 1914. The tourism visionaries saw this as a golden opportunity and welcomed the unjust treatment to gain cheap labor to turn their dream playground into reality but there was little concern for the miss-treatment from the general Canadian citizens. The reality is, it was painted as a camp for German/ Austrian prisoners of war but in fact were mostly filled with harmless settler immigrants of Ukrainian descent.

The regular workday was comprised of 8 hours of work, one hour of physical exercise and often a few hours to walk to and from the work location often resulting in a total of 13 to 14 hours per day. The men were equipped with the basic hand tools to perform the hard tasks required of them, very rarely did they get to use the more modern technology available at the time. They stayed in "Camp Castle" during the spring and summer months to develop to road to Lake Louise and moved to "Cave and Basin" near what is now the Town of Banff in the winter months as the wither conditions became impossible at Camp Castle until their release in July of 1917 due to a shortage of labor but were still considered "enemies". Camp Castle was considered to be the worst of all the Canadian Concentration Camp. A letter from one of the internees to his wife has since surfaced.

Nick Olynyk, inmate 98 of the Castle Mountain Camp wrote to his wife of the ordeal: “As you know yourself there are men running away from here everyday because the conditions here are very poor, so that we cannot go on much longer, we are not getting enough to eat. We are as hungry as dogs. They are sending us to work, as they don’t believe us, and we are very weak.”

internment memorial2.jpg

After these obscure events, many of the official documents were destroyed in attempts to erase this dirty piece of Canadian history, much of which wasn't even mentioned in our schools and so little ever knew about the unfortunate events. For many years, the Ukrainian population affected healed and bore the scars in silence in fears that their discontent would attract unwanted attention and further consequences to their communities that were simply looking for a better life for their families. Today, not much remains of the undisclosed camp but a few artifacts, cobble stones, fence posts and parts of the barbed wire fence. In 2008, former Prime Minister, Stephen Harper issued a formal public apology to the Ukrainian settlers for Canada's shameful actions against their communities.

https://www.internmentcanada.ca/PDF/Beaulieu%20-%20C%20B%20Internment%20Report%20AA.pdf

After our unsettling discovery of our shady past and how the landscape we have come to love an cherish, including the very Parkway we were on was build on blood and sorrows of the past, it gave us much to think about for the rest of our short journey to Lake Louise and I learned to appreciate it so much more than usual. As we gained elevation on the road, we were now above the fog and the blue skies and the snowy mountaintops were starting to reveal themselves. The view we had anticipated since our arrival was now within sight, like after the dark comes the light, the calm after the storm. It was great at lightening the load of the information we just had to digest.

bow valley parkway3.jpg
Shot 1/200 sec. f/7.1 40 mm, ISO 200

bow valley parkway4.jpg
Shot 1/160 sec. f/6.3 55 mm, ISO 200

Because of the higher Altitude, The way to Lake Louise melts much later than the rest of the lower ares of Banff National Park, on occasion, road closures can occur due to avalanche risk the melting conditions poses. Luckily, today wasn't the case for this small portion of the Bow Valley Parkway. It was still pretty early in the morning and the temperature didn't have a chance to warm up yet, our time outside was cold enough and we were under dressed since we kinda just left our suite as we woke up, still in our pj's with every intention to return before beginning the day, we were only suppose to go to the near by riverside over looking Castle Mountain, oh well...shit happens! It was the perfect view, we didn't want to turn back and go back to the fog, I doubt Lake Louise would be booming with tourists before 7 am!

bow valley parkway5.jpg
Shot 1/500 sec. f/5.6 78 mm, ISO 280

bow_valley_parkway6.jpg
Shot 1/500 sec. f/5.6 78 mm, ISO 200

Oddly enough, a few were there already on our arrival so we just looked like a couple of weirdos. It was sill fairly quiet and the perfect time for a photographer to visit, we had the place almost to ourselves. It is best to visit the most popular areas before 9 am to avoid crowds. As we suspected earlier, it was still full on winter in Lake Louise and her glaciers, the ice on the lake was becoming too thin and unstable to step on, we could see the edges of the lake partially melted, it's just a matter of time now until it's famous emerald colored water reveals itself. We wont get to see it on this trip unfortunately but we still did a quick tour of the main viewing area and snap a few shots of the magnificent fully frozen Victoria Glacier ahead and the lonely boat house. We didn't do any trails considering we were under dressed and the places we wanted to view were still inaccessible due to high avalanche risk.

lake louise2.jpg
Shot 1/320 sec. f/9 46 mm, ISO 100

lake_louise3.jpg
Shot 1/250 sec. f/8 34 mm, ISO 140

lake louise4.jpg
Shot 1/250 sec. f/8 18 mm, ISO 200

lake louise5.jpg
Shot 1/250 sec. f/8 22 mm, ISO 100

We didn't stay very long, I was starting to get cold and this was a deviation from our already busy agenda for the day, this was just a short drive from our cozy cabin at Castle Mountain, and no not a stay at Camp Castle! We enjoyed the ride back hoping that the sky at cleared enough to reveal some of the mountain tops, but not quite yet. Perfect time to have coffee and breakfast, washed up and dressed to a semi presentable state better suited for a hike and public encounters before our day officially started. This still wasn't a bad start of the day considering it was just the first 2 hours.

bow valley parkway7.jpg
1/250 sec. f/8 46 mm, ISO 100

This post is getting long as it is with many pictures, just imagine the rest of the day! I will keep that for separate posts, I really wanted this to be mainly commemorating the suffering of the past atrocities committed against the early Ukrainian settlers and the beauty we get to enjoy today. Their suffering was an unfortunate part of Canadian history that should not be buried away or forgotten but from the heavens, they can look down and see the many smiles they have put on visitors faces with their sacrifice. Next time you find yourself on the Bow Valley Parkway from Castle junction to Lake Louise, remember and honor their sacrifice.

stormy mountain2.jpg
1/250 sec. f/8 40 mm, ISO 100

castle mountain5.jpg
Shot 1/250 sec. f/8 40 mm, ISO 100

Cheers! X🐞X

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WOw the beauty there is spectacular as are your shots of it, and thanks for so much information this was such a great read

I used to work those long hours and more for 20 odd years 12 to 16 hours a day 6 or 7 days a week was the norm for me in the field, I dont know how I managed ot do it for so long, eespecially now as I approach retirement and have slowed down to regular working hours, the thought of those long hours gives me the shivers i must admit. so it is great you can do it for a couple of month periods at a time

Thanks for your kind words, I'm glad you enjoyed the read and pictures!

Sounds like you may have been a tradesmen at one point, what field were you in? Yes it is long hours but I don't work year round and don't mind so much since a lot of the pay is overtime, it makes up for the troubles but it is a full commitment to giving up on a life for a while, it does get hard on the brain and body towards the end. Sometimes I end up working 24 days strait before a day off but I only do this for maybe half the year at best. Gives me plenty of time to work on my art (photography) and visit great places and still have a sustainable income cause my art don't pay!!! lol. I suppose that's the balance I like, I can't picture myself being locked to a 9-5 job for eternity.

I'm still secretly hoping to one day replace the hard trade work ( I started young almost 13 years in the trades now)for a more quiet photography/writing type gig...I guess steemit is like working towards my retirement goal.

I started if as a telecommunications technician many years well decades ago and migrated into IT area as well over the years, I say in the field forgetting most who I interact don’t know what I mean by that I worked in peacekeeping missions for many years and that’s what I am thinking of when I say in the field or on mission but I really should be more clear
Or maybe it’s subconsciously intentionally since people often have a wide range of opinions of the UN and peacekeeping

I to hoped that one day photography would become more than the hobby it is for me and would have allowed for early retirement but fir me that’s just nit going to be
But that said I hope it can be fir you 😎👍😎

We certainly have a different definition of "Field work". You have an interesting background ,I'm glad I asked. That must have been a series of unique experiences and seen places few of us get to see. I have a wide range of opinions about the UN in general...lol but I think the peace keeping missions are important. Great work!

It is what It is, I always have high expectations but flexible on the outcome....photography is like plan C. It may not have worked out for the way you intended but I'm sure you still enjoy every minute and got you exploring so in a sense it did work out.

I must admit I do not often say where I work because I know a lot of people may see it differently than I do, and I may have reservations about some of the decisions made at the higher levels and the Member States, but I have also seen what we do in the field and lost colleagues and friends working in the field over the years, I myself have had the misfortune of having some health issue directly related to working in missions, but in all honesty I would do it all over again. Working in Peacekeeping missions is hard, I know from experience, and many of us working in the technical side have worked long hours and at risk to try and do our little bit to help those struggling after war genocide etc
Thanks for your positive feedback on Peacekeeping and sorry if I went on a little tear in my reply

as for photography I think if I really think about it I am glad it has stayed mostly as a hobby for me, if I was relying on it for income, I think the joy I get out of photowalks and photography would diminish and photography is for me my way of relaxing and unwinding, I had not thought of it this way but when talking to someone about meditation and saying i am too hyper to meditate, they said when you do you photowalks that is you way of meditating and I now think that is so true

My late Grand-Father was a ww2 vet and I'm pretty sure he stayed behind to help the concentration camp surviving victims and clean up the not so fortunate one, I may not agree with war in general but it's real civilian lives taken and sometimes something has to be done to protect lives, either way it's a great sacrifice for your country.They still need help, I can certainly appreciate your efforts especially dealing with the aftermath. People judge things they don't understand or don't bother to learn about, I think that's just the reality we live in now, ppl fail to see the big picture. I'm honored you feel comfortable enough to speak from the heart on my blog. 💟💟

You are right about the walking meditation,that's the best part about photography and it's your story or whatever catches your eye in images. I'm the same I can't shut my mind being quiet and still but in nature with my camera, I forget everything on my mind.

Firstly your last sentence says so well how photography is for me as well, MY father was also a WW2 vet and was part of J Force and saw things he would never talk about, but I know it was in his mind at times, and now after some of my experiences, I can understand why he choose not to talk about it with family, some things you can only really discuss with people who have had similar experiences

I think these days even more than ever before your statement

People judge things they don't understand or don't bother to learn about
I totally agree with it is something we see so much of these days sadly

My grampa either never wanted to talk about it, it really affected him especially seeing the camps, he was young too. He talked about it a little bit during a school assignment I had but I'm sure he kept the worst for himself. I don't blame them, you can't really un-know this stuff and it's hard for any human being to handle. Now that I have seen pictures, it must have been overwhelming.

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Stunning Pictures always Beautiful Shots of mountains. Good Stuff @ladybug146

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed!

Greta pics and now back to work ! Make Canada great again!

Back to work! Time to put gas in Canada's tank to fuel everyone else's summer vacay!

Wow, seriously stunning landscapes there, amazing!!

thank you! It's a stunning place indeed!

I did not know of that camp for slave labour, it is sad. However, I should learn how to take such photos as you.

I didn't know either until I came across the shrine, very sad.

Awwe, you're too sweet, it just takes practice, a lot of practice, you will get there one day!

I agree with you

A sad story about the Camp but every country has a few, or many, stories that they would rather be forgotten. Beautiful photos, as always.

Very sad indeed but they should not hide it, the past repeats itself when you hide history, I'm not a fan of that.

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed them!

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Thank [email protected] and @lizanomadsoul! I will certainly go check it out. :)

Wow, never heard the story of Castle Camp, didn't see that in our Canadian history books.

So I'm not the only one then, I took history, advanced history and political science in school and not once did I ever hear of them either until I came across the shrine on the week-end and started to dig into it, not much info on the subject available online either.


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Beautiful shots. It still looks pretty chilly out there, with that snow on the mountains and chilly fog in the air! Does someone live in that cabin, yet? Looks like a fun place to do a little exploring, as long as you've got the winter gear out, yet.

The cabin is actually the boathouse for the canoe rentals, not fit for human occupancy! lol

The temperature wasn't too bad, yest it was full of snow but it was still above the freezing mark. Definitely need a winter coat and a thermal under layer for altitude along with crampons to hike on the freeze/thaw cycle ice it creates but down in the valleys was really nice and trees where starting to bud. We went hiking more in the valleys and canyon because of high avalanche risk in the alpine areas. 3 hikers died in an avalanche in Banff a few days before our trip, melt time is dangerous in the mountains.