Wednesday, June 20, 2007



Have you been acquainted with my inkwells?

Back in the day Vancouver used to be mostly tidal salt-water marshes, entirely unsuitable for building. Then they brought in some Dutch people, who, in a manner that I'm told is typically Dutch, created the waterfront as we know it today through several years worth of diking, draining and filling.

What did they use as fill? Garbage, of course. And that means that sometimes when they do excavation and start to prepare sites for building, especially old industrial sites, sometimes the machines unearth garbage that is 60-80 years old. The inkwells came from a hole that was dug behind the Vancouver Flea Market, shortly before it was backfilled to discourage antique hunters from digging in it.


I love old garbage dumps because there are always treasures to be found. One time when we were on a rockhounding trip, we left an unsuccessful dig for fossils and started to drive around some of the backroads, looking for where someone had told us UBC geology gets their fossil samples.

Climbing up through the forest, I found some rocks left behind by someone who had highgraded their findings, but not the dig site itself. What we did find, however, was a smallish garbage dump. After digging among the rusted tin cans, we emerged with some hip flasks, gin bottles and a couple of other miscellaneous things. The crowning jewel of our find, though, was a large glass oil lamp, which, upon being placed in the window at home, developed a purple tint.


Sometimes old glass turns purple because before WWI they used to put manganese in glass to make it clear. The manganese reacts with UV rays and eventually gives glass a purple tint. During the war they needed manganese for making weapons, so they found something else to add to glass instead. That means that if an antique piece of glass turns purple when you leave it in the window, it was made before 1914.

A note, though, to people wanting to try this: the purple can't be reversed. Don't say I didn't warn you.

The inkwells won't change though. They're not old enough, but I like them anyways. So many pleasing shapes and so many variations on the same mundane theme and purpose, kind of like the variation you'd find in clothespegs.


My favourite, though, has to be Skip: the successor to ink.