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Slough Boot on Fraser River

October 17, 2016

boot-on-river-bank-at-brownsvilleThis boot was sticking out of the muddy bank of a slough on Fraser River near Brown’s Landing, some years ago.

It had a curious quality: its flexibility and an impression of toes, making it look like a foot, or that there had been a foot in it for a long time. The boot had been lately exposed from erosion by high water.


brownsville-boot-close-upA closer look revealed it was nothing more than an empty boot of decaying rubber. It was left undisturbed, as found.

Rubbers or gum boots, are most effective in puddles for keeping the feet dry. They are not great for walking. They sometimes stick in mud as the hapless wearer steps out. More seriously, gum boots overflowed in deep water can be hazardous to life.

What happened in this case we cannot know. The boot is horizontal to the land surface and may have simply been discarded.


Engineers’ Gum Boots A Factor in Drowning Deaths

On setting up Camp at Queenborough in 1859—on the opposite side of the river to where this boot was seen—one of the first supply requisitions put in by the Royal Engineers was for rubber boots.

One year later, In March 1860, Lieutenant HS Palmer wrote to his Commander, Colonel RC Moody, to report the sad loss of three Sappers, drowned after their canoe capsized on the Harrison River. There was one survivor:

“Brown, who had light boots on, swam to the canoe, and got astride her, and, having kept hold of his paddle, managed to reach the shore, and crawl nearly dead into camp. Of the other three poor fellows who had Gum boots on, Brown says that one (Sapper Roe) held on to him for a short time but soon sank exhausted – of the other two he saw no more.”
. . .
“I think the loss of at least one, viz: ‘Manstree’ who was the most powerful swimmer in the Detachment, was owing to his having long boots on, which must have utterly incapacitated him for swimming.”

Letter excerpt from The Royal Engineers in British Columbia website.

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