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Northwest Vancouver Island Expedition

Discussion in 'U/W Archaeological Society of British Columbia' started by UASBC, Jul 28, 2011.

  1. UASBC

    UASBC Angel Fish

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: British Columbia
    In June of this year the UASBC embarked on the first of a series of planned expeditions to the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, to search for and inventory the areas shipwrecks. The northwest coast of Vancouver Island is new water for the UASBC, and the first expedition was an overwhelming success.

    A few photos from the expedition can be viewed HERE.

    Here is a trip report written by David Hill-Turner, enjoy:

    The west coast of Vancouver Island has been a fertile training ground for the UASBC. Sites such as the Ericsson, Lord Western, Hera and the Pass of Melfort have provided many of us with first hand experience documenting a shipwreck. And with the popular recognition as “Graveyard of the Pacific”, there are an endless number of sites to explore. If you can get to them, that is.

    The most recent expedition to Esperanza Inlet was a kickoff for the society’s next regional report, Northwest Vancouver Island. Our experienced team of eight rendezvoused at the Tahtsa Dive shop in Tahsis, on an overcast Thursday afternoon. While the expedition was for five days, the mountain of gear gave the impression that it would be for much longer. Somehow, Scott Schooner, our adventurous captain, stowed all of it into the converted bowpicker, Notorious.

    It was an easy run to Nuchatlitz Island, our home base for the expedition. From here we would travel the next three days north to the Kyuquot area, south to Ferrier Point and to a fourth site near Nuchatlitz. We had a variety of sites to potentially survey, including a 1960’s bulk carrier as well as smaller sailing craft dating to the 1890s.

    Our first dive was to the Westport Straits, a steel log barge that struck rocks and sank in February 1968. To our relief, the seas were unusually calm and would be for the next three days. After locating the site using a combination of GPS coordinates and depth sounder, we prepared for the 120’ dive to the deck of the upright vessel. The recognizable upright steel barge is empty and is gradually deteriorating in its exposed location.

    Three teams were distributed along Rugged Point but no evidence of the wooden auxiliary schooner, that burned and sank off Rugged Point in January 1925, was found.

    Treis Ierarachai
    Arriving in ballast to load lumber, the three year old Greek registered freighter ran aground at Ferrier Point in December 1969. While the crew was rescued by towboats in the vicinity, the ship was lost before they could attempt to dislodge her. While I was always impressed by the power of the sea as I witnessed the collapse of the Vanlene (1972) over the decades, this site represents utter devastation. The identifiable parts of the vessel include the massive block of the Fiat diesel engine, the rudder, auxiliary boilers and, possibly, a condenser. To understand something of the ship’s construction, we spent our surface interval at Louie Bay around the point. Massive sections of the ships forward section are spread along the sand beach. They were hauled there by tractor, in an attempt to salvage the ship for its scrap value.

    Ensanada Island Mystery Wreck
    The fragment of the wooden hull provided an ideal location for practicing measuring skills. Scott ferried us ashore to a small cove where the hull section has been stranded for many years. It was an opportunity to not only look at traditional wooden boat building, but also to study hull repairs. These included new sections of wood butt jointed, rather than scarfed, into the rubbing strake and seams sealed with concrete, a cheaper alternative to pitch. From the measurements and economy repairs, Jacques narrowed it down to one of two possible vessels.

    Northern Light
    A schooner rigged sailing barge that was driven ashore at Nuchatlitz in January 1892. My ears are still ringing from this site. I hit the deepest point of the reported site at 30 feet. Unfortunately, no evidence of the wreck was found.

    Expedition Life
    Our base was Sea Watch Cabin located on an unnamed island in Nuchatlitz Park. Our host, Brain Witt, explained the operation of the showers, pointed out the location of the outhouse and welcomed us to the home that he built and shares with Shannon Bailey. The home is well “off the grid” and electricity comes from solar cells and a generator. We had no problems with keeping our mountain of batteries charged. Jacques kept divers recharged with his tradition of interesting and tasty meals. The team easily settled into a routine of helping with meal preparation, cleaning dishes, filling air cylinders and exploring Brian and Shannon’s extensive library. Tanks and gear were ferried daily between the cabin and the Notorious which was secured to an offshore float.

    The expedition provided an opportunity to explore some potentially interesting wrecks. We were very fortunate to experience almost perfect west coast diving conditions, and we can only hope the same for future expeditions.
    cfenton likes this.

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