14 November 2020

Canadian Flagpole comes down after 60 years

| Dominic Giannini
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Canadian Flagpole

The Canadian Flagpole at Regatta Point. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

The iconic Canadian Flagpole at Regatta Point has come down after 63 years due to public safety concerns, the National Capital Authority (NCA) has confirmed.

The pole was damaged and was originally going to be lifted by a crane and wrapped in plastic before being floated down the lake for repair in Acton. However, when workers started to lift the pole they discovered it was not strong enough and it had to be felled like a tree and cut into segments after it fell.

The single spar Douglas Fir pine was first erected on 29 August 1957 as a memento to Canadian Prime Minister Clarence Decatur Howe’s visit in 1955.

The segments will be preserved and another monument to honour the relationship between Canada and Australia is being worked on by the two governments.

There were considerable technical difficulties to overcome in the 1950s to safely bring the 40-metre, seven-tonne pole across the Pacific Ocean from Canada and then overland from Sydney to Canberra.

A similar gift had been rejected a decade earlier because of logistic difficulties.

The Fir was originally submerged in Sydney Harbour for a number of days for quarantine purposes before being transported to Canberra by train. It straddled the length of three railway trucks.

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The transfer of the pole from the railway station to Regatta Point was equally dramatic with the trolley’s tail end swaying from side to side, occasionally going off the road.

The pole’s journey was closely followed by media at the time.

Media coverage in the 1950s

The pole’s journey was closely followed by the media of the time. Photo: NLA.

As a safety measure, there is a detour in place for all walkers around Regatta Point to facilitate important work on the Canadian Flagpole.

The National Capital Authority is currently conducting final inspections on the flagpole and an exclusion zone is now in place re-routing walkers who normally walk by the Canadian Flagpole on RG Menzies Walk around the lake.

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The public exhibition at Regatta Point is now closed and worker safety has been assessed at the Regatta Point building compound, the NCA said.

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I always thought it was a redwood and was perplexed when I heard it was “rotten” ……Douglas Fir aka Oregon is not a suitable timber for external structural purposes. Redwood is one of only two softwood timbers that don’t rot.

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