Flipping through the pages of Chuck Davis’ History of Metropolitan Vancouver I came across an image of a man with a mop standing on top of the Challenger Relief Map. Created by George Challenger, to this day it’s the largest map of its kind in the world.
Since his arrival in British Columbia in 1896 George had probably traveled over more of the northern part of the province than any other white man, and his experience as prospector, miner, survey crewman, logging and sawmill operator uniquely fitted him for the map making project. It was his desire to instill in British Columbia’s youngsters the same sort of pride in the province that finally prompted him to build the big map.
The map was built over a seven-year period, (1947-1954), from three-dimensional cutouts of quarter inch fir plywood donated by MacMillan Bloedel. With help from his wife and his son Bob, George Challenger cut, painted and assembled the 986,000 pieces individually on 180 4-by-8 foot and 16 4-by-4 foot panels of plywood at a total cost of $252,000. [Challenger Map]
Challenger donated the map to the PNE where it was first on display in 1954. I remember visiting the piece in the BC Pavilion when I was younger, and I’m sure other locals and visitors might recall this unforgettable map as well until the pavilion was demolished in 1997.
In 2010, after being in storage for almost a decade, the South West section of the Challenger Map reappeared at RCMP headquarters in Richmond as a part of the 2010 Winter Olympics Integrated Security Unit.
As far as I know, the map is back in pieces, packed away in storage, as a permanent home has not been found. You can donate to become a Guardian of the Map, assisting with restoration and preservation efforts for this Guinness World Record-holding piece.