Surveying Northern British Columbia

A Photo Journal of Frank Swannell

By Jay Sherwood

Categories: BC History
Imprint: Caitlin Press
Paperback : 9781894759052, November 2004


Considered one of British Columbia's most famous pioneer surveyors, Frank Swannell surveyed much of northern BC for the provincial government between 1908 and 1914, taking many striking photographs of the area and its people. Together with his journal, these images constitute the best record of the region during this period of enormous transition. His photos include portraits of the First Nations people, settlers and other well-known people in the region, plus images of well-known historical routes such as the Grease Trail and Yukon Telegraph Trail. The many modes of transportation of the time, including sternwheelers and stagecoaches, are also chronicled through Swannell's masterful lens. Author Jay Sherwood has culled the best photographs and journals from both the BC Archives' collection and that of the BC land surveyors to create Surveying the North, a vivid illustration of northern BC from 1908 to 1914. With an engaging text that brings the era to life, Sherwood creates an accessible and entertaining saga for the modern reader. Says Sherwood about Swannell's work, "His photographs appear in most books that cover the BC Interior in the early 20th century, yet he is seldom given more than passing credit." Surveying Northern British Columbia sets out to correct this oversight by recognizing and celebrating Swannell's important place within the history of British Columbia.


The operative terms in the title of this book are ‘Surveying’ and ‘Photojournal’ and they are succinctly exacting in their scope…The author is to be congratulated on a fine effort to bring archival journals and superlative photographs out of the misty past and into the light of modern day readership…The finest compliment I can offer to Jay Sherwood is to beseech him to also do a companion volume on G.B. Milligan as well.

— W. Grant Hazelwood, British Columbia History