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Historian unearths footage of northeastern B.C. dating back 60 years

Life of drill rig operator in winter in Fort Nelson

Today's trip down memory lane is heading to northern BC.

Vernon-based historian and videographer Francois Arseneault has unearthed footage from 60 years ago in the Fort Nelson region.

“Winter’s harsh, challenging environment with daytime highs normally -18C and overnights -25C to -40C make driving and work a little more difficult,” Arseneault noted.

“The oil patch has long been an important employer in the region, creating jobs and exploring the region for energy.”

This footage was captured by someone in the industry.

“I rather enjoy these driving films, at a glance you can get a feel for the region, wherever it is, the mind can grasp plenty of information and details, even fleeting, from the topography, signs and structures,” said Arseneault.

Arseneault, who is also well versed in military history, recognized a sign on a bridge over the Sikanni Chief River as part of the Canadian Army’s northern presence dating back to the construction of the Alaska Highway.

“At one time, the crossed swords, three maple leaves and crown of the Canadian army were ubiquitous. Those signs are nearly all gone now,” he said.

The northeastern region of the province has been the focus of petroleum exploration and development since 1952.

When this footage was shot in 1963, the industry was drilling wells and sending that oil and gas to refineries in BC and Alberta.

“Many families made their living here, building their homes, putting their children through school and helping provide energy for the country,” Arseneault said.

Arseneault is always looking for more information on the vintage footage he digs up, and he encourages people to add their input in the comments section on his Youtube page.

Arseneault has an extensive collection of vintage footage, and he is looking for more. Anyone who may have old 16 mm or 8 mm film footage of B.C. is invited to email Arseneault at

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