Port Alberni’s David Gibney has had stars in his eyes for decades, and is about to realize his life’s ambition — creating what he claims is the world’s largest pair of binoculars.
“I’ve been an astronomer for 50 years, and this really will be impressive, like you can see amazing cosmic views,” Gibney says.
He began his love of astronomy trying to document an eclipse of the sun in 1979. A photography store put him in touch with a Catholic priest who also loved star gazing.
“I owe this project in memory of my mentor Father Lucian Campbell, he was a Franciscan monk here in Port Alberni. He had a telescope and a place to observe down by the Paper Mill Dam and after the first night of looking through the telescope, oh yeah I was amazed and interested,” he says.
Gibney, who calls himself “The Star Dude,” has put 19 years of planning and an estimated $400,000 into the binoculars. He created them hoping they can be used by others to observe sights during the daytime and do stargazing at night.
“The first paragraph of the plan was to provide access to the general public to high performance, optical and imaging systems for a nominal fee, like make it accessible and indeed at high traffic tourist locations I’m able to set it up, deploy it, share the experience with others,” Gibney says.
The astronomer hopes to be able to share his creation at Port Alberni’s Harbour Quay, but says he’s facing some resistance from the city because they don’t know how to license him.
“You’re not a food truck, you’re not like brick and mortar, you’re mobile, it’s kind of like where do we fit you in?” he says.
MOTIVATION TO FINISH
Gibney first came up with the concept many years ago, but says life kept getting in the way of his project. A near-death experience provided motivation for him to get back on track.
“I was a musician and I was living at the recording studio in Edmonton, and somebody passed out with a cigarette. The place was burning and I barely made it out of the burning building, and I thought if I live through this, I won’t waste any more time. I’ll go to a lawyer, I’ll go to a patent agent, engineer. I built a scale model and they loved it.”
Because the 70×600 strength binoculars will be placed on a mobile platform, he says he can take it anywhere and is hoping it can be taken to local schools.
“I want to get a business license and be able to perhaps share this with people at different locations anywhere in western Canada, you know it’s on a trailer, I can take it anywhere,” he says.
In order to complete his project, Gibney is looking for some GoFundMe financing or investors to help him get to the final roll-out stage. He firmly believes he has something that will be an instant tourist draw, wherever his Binocular Observatory Project travels.