One of the major accomplishments of the Underwater Archaeological Society of British Columbia is the publication of UASBC Regional Shipwreck Surveys. To date nine Regional Shipwreck Surveys have been published, while others are ongoing or remain unpublished. These Regional Surveys are the culmination of extensive UASBC projects that take place over many years. Please visit our UASBC Shop to purchase any of these Regional Shipwreck Reports or any of our Special Project Reports.
The Central Coast of British Columbia is the area from Queen Charlotte Sound, adjacent to northern Vancouver Island, to the tip of Princess Royal Island south of Prince Rupert. The Inside Passage weaves its way through this stretch of BC coastline and has been an essential marine transportation corridor since the early 1800s. Over the past 200 years numerous vessels have strayed off course and gone on the rocks. The UASBC made seven expeditions to the Central Coast between 1997 and 2009 to search for, and document, the wrecks in this area. As a result of this project the UASBC located and documented 11 of 13 targeted wreck sites. The highlight of this project was diving the SS Ohio, finding the wreck of the SS Jeanie and resolving the mystery of the Stryker Island Mystery Wreck.
This project was undertaken to update an earlier study completed for the Lower Mainland of BC in 1994. While the 1990’s project examined vessels in Burrard Inlet and Howe Sound, the 2007 project ventured further afield to also look at shipwrecks in the Fraser River and at Lillooet Lake. Archival research documented what sites existed, their histories and their significance. Dive teams then located the wrecks, surveyed the remains, evaluated the dangers to their survival and assessed their potential for educational or recreational use. In the course of this project the UASBC examined: the Prince of Wales a 1863 sternwheeler; the historic Hudson’s Bay Company Beaver lost in 1888; and mapped the James D. McCormick, one of the last Fraser River sternwheelers.
At Royston, located halfway up Vancouver Island, there is a collection of broken and rusted ship hulls. These vessels once formed a protective breakwater for the Comox Logging Company booming operations. The collection includes vessels from vanished days of commercial sail: a barquentine; an auxiliary schooner; and three Cape Horn Windjammers. Among its steamships are: four Canadian Navy warships; a US destroyer; two whalers; two Canadian Pacific Railway tugs; and a deep sea rescue tug. The first vessel, Laurel Whalen, was sunk at the site in 1936. The last vessel to be scuttled was the wooden rescue tug ATR-13 in 1959. The UASBC under took a survey at Royston to record and preserve the history of the vessels within the breakwater. A total station was used to accurately position the location of each vessel within the breakwater. Work is still ongoing at this site
The Sunshine Coast is the piece of British Columbia coastline that extends from Howe Sound near Vancouver in the south, to Lund on the Malaspina Peninsula in the north. Many of the shipwrecks along this stretch of the coast are utilitarian vessels, lost while carrying out their day to day jobs of towing barges or transporting freight and passengers. Research identified the major shipwrecks along the coast. The UASBC spent three years searching for and documenting the sites. The steamship Capilano, tug Commodore Straits and passenger vessel MV Gulf Stream were all challenging dives due to their depths, but rewarding because of their intactness. Resolving the Malahat Mystery was the UASBC’s greatest accomplishment on this project.
Long before the construction of modern highways in the Kootenays, transportation was by train and water craft. Steam tugs towed barges carrying freight, including rail cars, from one landing to another, and sternwheelers ferried passengers and freight from community to community. It was inevitable that accidents would happen and vessels would be lost. The UASBC began an inventory of wrecks in this part of the province after its successful joint expedition, with the Dam Busters Scuba Club, to find the City of Ainsworth lost in Kootenay Lake in 1897. Ten years of fieldwork and research were carried out by volunteers, and a report documenting 17 sites in the West Kootenays was completed in 2000. Some of the high points on this project were: locating the City of Ainsworth; relocating the remains of the giant steel hulled sternwheeler Bonnington; and diving on the 1901 Proctor Rail car site.
Discovery Passage, and Queen Charlotte Sound, makes up the southern part of the water route known as the Inside Passage. During the 1800s the inside passage became the principal route for all vessels traveling to Alaska and to ports supporting the Klondike Gold Rush. The wrecks of the inside passage reflect the vintage and types of vessels used along this route. Most are steamers, as it was difficult for sailing ships to tack within the narrow confines of the passage. The UASBC began examining the wrecks on the northeastern coast in March 1995 and concluded our work in July 1998. In the course of our activities the UASBC found and surveyed 8 sites. The highlights of this project were: exploring the USS Suwanee, a Civil War gun boat lost in 1868; finding the Gold Rush steamer Dora, lost in 1920; and searching for the treasure ship Thomas Woodward.
Explorer Captain James Cook arrived at Nootka Sound on March 29 1778, becoming the first European to set foot on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. The first nation village site of Friendly Cove (Yuquot) became a rendezvous location for the fur traders that followed. In 1790 the Spanish built a fort there, almost causing a war between Britain and Spain. Several other notable events happened at Friendly Cove, including the taking of the trading ship Boston. The UASBC launched a major expedition to Yuquot in 1994 to survey the bottom for evidence of Mowachaht first nation occupation, Spanish occupation, the fur traders, and to try discovering the resting place of the Boston. The bottom was searched extensively with divers and a sub bottom profiler. While the UASBC did find a few a few historical artifacts, the expedition raised more questions than it provided answers.
More than 50 vessels have foundered at the approaches to Victoria’s harbor, and most of those occurred before the turn of the 20th century. In 1988 the UASBC began to inventory the most significant shipwrecks in the region. To keep the project to a manageable size, the UASBC only studied vessels wrecked prior to 1915. Of the 17 vessels shortlisted for study, the UASBC found and surveyed 8 sites over a 36 month period. High current, large beds of kelp and poor visibility made this a challenging project. The highlights were: finding the Quebec built sailing ship Fanny, lost in 1868; and the BC built trading schooner Surprise lost in 1874. The UASBC published the results in 1990 in the report Historic Shipwrecks of Southern Vancouver Island.
Please visit our UASBC Shop to purchase any of these Regional Shipwreck Reports or any of our Special Project Reports.