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Dredge King Edward VII

March 18, 2012
‘The new suction dredge King Edward, which has been operating on the sandbar opposite the city, has made good progress . . .’   (1902)
Dredge King Edward VII at South Westminster

Dredge King Edward VII at work on Fraser River at South Westminster

This photo of the suction dredge King Edward VII is taken from the same vantage point as the views of the City of New Westminster shown in recent posts.  It appears to be from Lot 9, Group 2.   The land back of the river here was cranberry bog before settlement times, and after clearing remained swampy and subject to flooding.  The outfall pipes of the King Edward could be extended a kilometre from the dredge.

The King Edward was  built to be employed primarily in keeping the channels of the Fraser River open to navigation, with some additional work  improving the harbours  at Vancouver and Victoria.

Arthur Wells Robinson, a Canadian engineer with considerable international experience with dredging machinery, designed ‘dredge 305’ for the Department of Public Works of Canada.

The dredge was finished off at New Westminster when its steel frame was overlaid with heavy wood planking. AW Robinson was on hand to personally oversee the trials at her launch in November 1901.

The form and utility of the King Edward revived ancient jealousies between the Mainland and Vancouver Island,  as Victoria also coveted the services of the suction dredge.  The Island press, which never missed an opportunity to decry the navigability of the Fraser River,  liked to use such phrases as the “monster mud-sucker” of the Royal City and, with unconscious irony,  the “mud-thrower.”

The dredge kept open the channels of the Fraser and, as shown above,  pumped ashore fill and raised land along the river banks, both valuable services.   The King Edward also did yeoman work at Victoria, opening up the harbour and filling in the land on which the Empress Hotel now stands.  It dredged Coal Harbour at Vancouver, filled the False Creek flats,  and on English Bay constructed the famous sandy beach for bathers.     While at Fort Langley 1913, deepening  Bedford Channel, the pipes spewed out treasure in the form of  a revolver, a Spanish gold coin dated 1775  and other artefacts that had lain on bottom of the river for more than 60 years.

In 1957 the dredge King Edward was retired by the Dominion government  and put out to tender for private offers, the close of 56 years of  public service on the waterways of British Columbia.


Some specifications of the dredge King Edward VII

Longitudinal view of dredge King Edward VII

Longitudinal view of dredge King Edward VII

The hull of the dredge King Edward was 32 feet wide, 125 feet long and 7.5 feet deep.  At the end of the bow boom was a radial cutter capable of grinding through sand, snags and hardpan. The boat was anchored by two spuds and advanced with a stern paddle-wheel. The discharge pipes floated across the water and could be laid down on land up to a kilometer from the intake, ideal for land reclamation projects.  Quarters for Captain and crew on upper deck.


See AW Robinson, The 20-inch Hydraulic  Dredge ‘King Edward,’  summarized  in Charles Prelini, Dredges and Dredging, 125-131.  AW Robinson, Modern Machinery for Excavating and Dredging.  AW Robinson, Typical Examples of Modern Dredging Machinery.


Dredge King Edward bow suction intake and rotary cutting tool

Suction Dredge King Edward VII


South Westminster Sand Dumps

The Fraser River is ever silting up and dredging is ongoing.  Large sand dumps at South Westminster occupy the same locale where the King Edward pumped out river sand  more than a hundred years ago.


Dredge pipe at South Westminster - 2011 Sand dumps at South Westminster on Bingmap

Dredging equipment at South Westminster in 2011

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