Shipwreck Icon West Coast TrailShipwrecks Off Juan de Fuca by James A. Gibbs, published in 1968 is an amazing book about shipwrecks on both sides off Juan de Fuca Strait. What makes it such a great book is Gibbs lifetime of research on shipwrecks, his remarkable familiarity of the area and his tremendous ability to weave together the fascinating history of the area.  He doesn’t just outline shipwrecks with a list of facts, but rather goes into details that bring the harrowing tales to life.

West Coast Trail Shipwrecks

 Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailAlaskan at 4k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailSoquel at 5k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailSarah at 7k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailBecherdass-Ambiadass at 8k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailMichigan at 12k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailUzbekistan at 13.8k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailVarsity at 17.6k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailValencia at 18.3k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailJanet Cowan at 19k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailRobert Lewers at 20k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailWoodside at 20.2k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailUncle John at 26.2k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailVesta at 29k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailRaita at 33k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailSkagit at 34.2k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailSanta Rita at 37k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailDare at 39k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailLizzie Marshall at 47k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailPuritan at 48.5k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailWempe Brothers at 49.4k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailDuchess of Argyle at 58k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailJohn Marshall at 62.3k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailWilliam Tell at 64.2 Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailRevere at 69k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailCyrus at 75k

West Coast Trail Campsites

Pachena Bay Campground West Coast Trail CampsitesMichigan Creek at 12k West Coast Trail CampsitesDarling River at 14k West Coast Trail CampsitesOrange Juice Creek at 15k West Coast Trail CampsitesTsocowis Creek at 16.5k West Coast Trail CampsitesKlanawa River at 23k West Coast Trail CampsitesTsusiat Falls at 25k West Coast Trail CampsitesCribs Creek at 42k West Coast Trail CampsitesCarmanah Creek at 46k West Coast Trail CampsitesBonilla Creek at 48k West Coast Trail CampsitesWalbran Creek at 53k West Coast Trail CampsitesCullite Cove at 58k West Coast Trail CampsitesCamper Bay at 62k Thrasher Cove - West Coast Trail CampsitesThrasher Cove at 70k Pacheedaht Campground

West Coast Trail shipwrecks in the book include the Valencia, the UzbekistanWilliam TellDuchess of ArgyleLizzie MarshallSkagitSanta RitaWoodsideSarahJanet CowanSoquel and many more. What makes this book stand out is the interesting details he picks out of the scanty history of shipwrecks. He delves into the thrilling history of the Russian ship St. Nicholas in 1808, which shipwrecked leaving the crew in a battle of survival against a swarm of First Nations attackers. Gibbs talks about the brutality shipwreck survivors faced after surviving their initial ordeal. Countless shipwreck survivors in the 1800's and earlier that were lucky enough to survive and then found by First Nations people, usually faced two outcomes, murder or slavery. There is an unexpectedly simple reason for this terrifying and brutal welcome by the tribes of First Nations along the coast of Vancouver Island and the neighbouring coastlines north and south. The nature of the coastline, with its often hard to navigate terrain, irregular coastline, stormy seas, etc, meant that numerous tribes settled in small regions up and down the coast and fought each other with a brutality straight out of a horror movie. Raiding coastal villages was ongoing and capturing slaves and looting was the goal and torturing captives to death was commonplace. This brutal always at war mode of thinking explains the reflexive looting, enslaving and murdering that went on during the earliest known shipwrecks along the shores off Juan de Fuca Strait. If your tribe has been mercilessly attacked for centuries from the sea, you would inevitably perceive shipwreck survivors as unlucky attackers and would be enslavers. 

One of the Best Books on West Coast Trail Shipwrecks

Shipwrecks Off Juan de Fuca by James A. Gibbs is possibly the best book on West Coast Trail shipwrecks as it is so well written and interesting as well as including most of the interesting shipwrecks passed by on the trail.

Juan de Fuca Strait Lighthouses Map v3

Shipwrecks Off Juan de Fuca Map

It is hard to talk about the history of shipwrecks along the West Coast Trail without talking about the United States side of Juan de Fuca Strait, which figures so prominently in almost every shipwreck in the Graveyard of the Pacific. Nearly all the shipwrecks were doomed once they passed Cape Flattery and failed to find the entrance of Juan de Fuca Strait, and instead were thrashed by stormy seas, blinded by fog and hurled into the jagged reefs along the West Coast Trail. For those of us that love the West Coast Trail and shipwreck history, Gibbs covers the exact part of the world that matters the most. The book even has a wonderful map illustration of the known shipwrecks off Juan de Fuca Strait, printed on the front and back inside flap. 

Shipwrecks Off Juan de Fuca Map

Cape Flattery and the West Coast Trail

Though the Cape Flattery Lighthouse lays well outside of the West Coast Trail it is almost always mentioned in shipwreck accounts that happened along Vancouver Island. Cape Flattery Lighthouse built in 1857 and the Carmanah Point Lighthouse built in 1891 on Vancouver Island mark the entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait. It is a testament to how treacherous Juan de Fuca Strait is by the fact that these two lighthouses proved insufficient to guide ships in safely. The Umatilla Lightship was added south of Cape Flattery in 1897 and the Swiftsure Lightship northwest of Cape Flattery in 1909. The Pachena Point Lighthouse was constructed in 1908 just 24 kilometers up the coast from Carmanah Point Lighthouse. Even with this concentration of lighthouses and lightships the brutal weather, changing currents and fog were still too overpowering to many ships and shipwrecks along the Graveyard of the Pacific continued for decades. The picture below is near the 32km marker of the West Coast Trail, just 12 kilometres west of the Carmanah Point Lighthouse which is at 44km. The view is looking across the mouth of Juan de Fuca Strait and the point of land in the distance is the United States and Cape Flattery is just beyond the tip.

Juan de Fuca Strait

As a testament to how good Shipwrecks Off Juan de Fuca by James A. Gibbs is, you can still find it everywhere online.

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