The 1,500-pound, cast iron cannon on the Stanley Park seawall is perhaps the most anachronistic but beloved bit of municipal infrastructure in Vancouver. The iconic piece of naval artillery erupts in fire every evening at precisely 9 p.m. and sends shockwaves blasting across the inner harbor, to the surprise and delight of passersby.
The 9 O’Clock Gun was set up by the Canadian Department of Marine and Fisheries as a way to alert salmon fishermen that the workday was coming to an end. This replaced an earlier, more haphazard system that required the local lighthouse keeper, William Jones, to detonate sticks of dynamite over the water, which he later described as nothing more than an “exaggerated fishing rod.”
The 9 O’Clock Gun quickly proved its value as a time signal and came to be relied on by local sailors who set their ships’ chronometers to the daily blast. The gun also made an inviting target for mischievous youth, who have persistently attacked it over the years.
One such anecdote from the May 21, 1964 Ottawa Journal tells of a boy who succeeded in jamming a rock into the cannon, which blasted forth at 9 p.m. and ripped “clean through the ‘O’ of the Texaco sign on a refueling barge.” On another occasion, University of British Columbia engineering students stole the cannon and demanded a ransom, which ultimately precipitated the sturdy fence that currently surrounds the gun.
In its earliest incarnation the 9 O’Clock Gun was manually fired, though it’s currently set off remotely by David John Waine who warns that, “If you were standing right here when the gun goes off, you wouldn’t hear for a week.”
Know Before You Go
9 O’Clock Gun enthusiasts located outside of Vancouver can now follow it on Twitter and look out for the daily “BOOM!” post.