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Jul 8, 2004
Shipwrecks in British Columbia’s Waters
Issue: July 2004
Author: KE Heaton
 

Undeniably, working on the oceans is one of the most dangerous of professions. Being a seafaring person brings many risks. Proof of these risks is the hundreds upon hundreds of boats that line the waters of the world.

British Columbia, Canada has hundreds of miles of coastland, inlets and harbours, much of which can be very treacherous in the best of weather. Over the centuries, many ships, great and small have become victims of the tides and unforgiving landscape that is the beauty of this coast.

The Clarksdale Victory was working as a US cargo transport in November of 1947 when she met her end. A bitter wind came down from the arctic as she made her way south from Whittier, Alaska. She was viciously tossed into the British Columbia coastline off Hippa Reef Island. The Clarksdale Victory was rammed head first into a so called – devils’ cauldron – an opening of jagged rock and non-navigational tides. Forty-nine men of the 53 men aboard were killed.

Ripple Rock is not a ship but was definitely considered a ship killer. Luckily this spot is no longer considered a threat as it was blasted some 47 feet underwater in 1958 by the Canadian government. But before that time, this location in Seymour Narrows was definitely a place many a ship did not wish to find themselves. None other than George Vancouver on the HMS Discovery, who by luck or chance, navigated by Ripple Rock with no problems, brought the first recorded information on this location forth. Recorded information on Ripple Rock claims this location, since 1875, has claimed 114 lives, over 100 small vessels including fishing boats, tugs and yachts, and at least 24 ocean going vessels and barges.

The US Army tug Major Richard M.Strong ran aground off Camp Point on Vancouver Island in September 1949. She was feared to be a total loss. A combined salvage effort by Straits Towing, Island Tug & Barge and Pacific Salvage, who had pooled their resources, salvaged the ship in just 14 days. Island Tug & Barge of Victoria, BC acquired the 123-foot tug, rebuilt and renamed her Island Sovereign.

 

   The SS Prince Albert was wrecked on Butterworth Rocks off South Dundas Island in August 1914. She was formerly known as the Bruno, owned by the Canadian National Railway. She was later converted to the tug J.R. Morgan, but was eventually broken up in Vancouver in 1949.

The tug Lorne and barge Pacific Gatherer together were involved in a spectacular accident in September of 1930. Fast and unpredictable tide caused problems with the tow. With the captain slowing the tug down, the two vessels collided side by side and went into the Second Narrows Bridge. C.H. Cates Towing was dispatched, but their strong fleet made no headway. As the tide came in, the tug and barge slowing rose up and caused the bridge span to come off its foundation. The bridge was plunged into the water.

The seven-year career lifespan of the tug Alberni ended in March of 1915 in Active Pass. The 46-foot tug was built in 1908 for Vancouver Dredge & Salvage Co. She had three accidents over her short life. She first collided with a steamship off Point Atkinson, and then she later got stranded in Pender Harbor. The last job that the Alberni worked was in March of 1915 when she was working with the barge Skookum II at the west entrance to Active Pass. They were trying to free the tug Sea Lion when the Alberni was swept over the tow cable due to strong currents. She capsized and floated halfway up the pass before sinking.

The Rivtow tug Rogue was built in 1958 to first class standards; including first rate safety features and navigation systems. But this still did not stop this tug from mysteriously sinking in February of 1975, off of Triple Island near Prince Rupert, BC. She was towing a 168-foot barge and likely met some bad February winter weather. First reports of problems came in from the light keeper at Triple Island that a Rivtow barge was sitting stationary in the ocean. They of course found the barge but no sign of the tug or her crew. The only problem that occured was the safety abort system that was supposed to allow the tug to drop its towline in rough weather conditions did not work. So the tug sat anchoring the barge 420 feet below it. The tug still sits there, so the reason for the accident is still not known.

 

 

 Written by K.E. Heaton

 

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