7 West Coast Trail RatingThe second, or second to last campsite on the West Coast Trail is at Darling River. Located just 1.6 kilometres(1 mile) from Michigan Creek, the Darling River campsite has an alright, sandy beach and a truly wonderful waterfall. Darling Falls pour into a stunning, emerald coloured pool nestled against a short cliff. The falls only drop about three or four metres as they fill the pool at the base and flowing down to the ocean in an ever-narrowing torrent of water.

  • West Coast Trail ProCampsite is far less hectic than Michigan Creek
  • West Coast Trail ProBeach is a bit nicer than Michigan Creek
  • West Coast Trail ProDarling Falls hides in a perfect, idyllic setting
  • West Coast Trail ProSwimming at Darling Falls is wonderful & secluded
  • West Coast Trail ProDarling Falls & River is a fun obstacle course
  • West Coast Trail ProDarling Falls is missed by almost every WCT hiker
  • West Coast Trail ProDarling Falls hides in a world enclosed by the forest
  • West Coast Trail ConThe beach & ocean view are not very pretty
  • West Coast Trail ConLow tide reveals a slimy & ugly shoreline
  • West Coast Trail ConThere are not a lot of great tent sites

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 Hiking Route West Coast TrailDay 1 Pachena to Darling Hiking Route West Coast TrailDay 2 Darling to Tsusiat Hiking Route West Coast TrailDay 3 Tsusiat to Carmanah Hiking Route West Coast TrailDay 4 Carmanah to Walbran Hiking Route West Coast TrailDay 5 Walbran to Cullite Hiking Route West Coast TrailDay 6 Cullite to Camper Hiking Route West Coast TrailDay 7 Camper to Thrasher Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailPrologue Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail1: The West Coast Trail Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail2: When to Hike & Fees Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail3: Trailheads Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail4: Getting There Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail5: Considerations Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail6: Campsites Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail7: Shipwrecks Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail8: Routes

The campsite at Darling River is the best along this stretch of the West Coast Trail because of its wonderful waterfall. Michigan Creek is busy often chaotic. There are many aspects of this place that are beautiful. First it is a bit up from the beach and almost everyone passes it by unnoticed! Another is the emerald colour of the water is hemmed in by the deep forest that stretches over the small valley giving you a strange sense that you are inside something.  Until you look directly up as you float on your back in the water and see a narrow band of sky through the encroaching forest. On a sunny day, the sun penetrates the thick canopy only along a gap that appears to narrow by the minute. At the Darling River campsite, you are just five hours from the Pachena trailhead. That is at a reasonably good pace and including a short tour of the Pachena Point Lighthouse on the way. There are lots of areas along the beach that you can put up a tent amongst the driftwood logs. 

The Wild and Beautiful Darling Campsite

There are not a lot of amenities off the beach, except for the usual bear proof food boxes and West Coast Trail outhouses. One amusing thing you find here is the morale of the hikers that pass by. Heading to Michigan Beach, you see people on the last full day on the trail. Tired and plodding along to the last night before the end of the trail, not even walking up Darling River for a couple minutes to see the amazing waterfall!

Darling Falls West Coast Trail

Darling River Campsite Map

WCT Map IconThe Darling River campsite is located just before the 14 kilometre mark of the West Coast Trail. There is no forest trail between Darling River and Michigan Creek at KM12, and the beach route is nice and relaxing. At Michigan Creek the beach route ends and you climb back into the forest for 12km to the trailhead at Pachena Bay. In the other direction from Darling River you have both a beach route and a forest route for the next two kilometres to Tsocowis Creek where only a forest route is possible. From high up at the viewpoint at Valencia Bluffs, you will see why there is no beach route. The steep cliffs are over 100 metres high here and rocky reefs are scattered amongst the crashing waves. This brutal stretch of coastline is where you pass the most horrific shipwreck along the entire West Coast Trail, the Valencia. The Michigan and the Uzbekistan crews and passengers all survived because reaching the shore was not too difficult. The Valencia on the other hand, wrecked on a reef just a few metres from the almost vertical cliffs. Reaching the shore proved to be brutally difficult as the huge waves flipped the lifeboats or shattered them on the rocky shore. 

Darling River Campsite Map v8

The Valencia Disaster

Rescue from the sea proved to be similarly difficult and the few attempts were cut short by rough seas and cowardly crews that left dozens of terrified people clinging to the remains of the Valencia shipwreck above water. Valencia survivors endured this nightmare for 36 hours before the ship finally broke apart and the remaining survivors plunged into the brutally cold and tumultuous sea, where they quickly drowned or were smashed against the jagged reef jutting out from the tall cliffs. Many others were dragged out to sea by the current to slowly succumb to exposure in the freezing water. Only 38 survived the Valencia shipwreck and an estimated 140 died. Had the Valencia wrecked a few hundred metres down the beach near Michigan Beach, Darling River or Orange Juice Creek, all may have survived. 

The Valencia Disaster

 Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail1. The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail2. The Voyage Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail3. The Boats Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail4. The McCarthy Boat Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail5. The Bunker Party Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail6. On the Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail7. The Rafts Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail8. The Turret Raft Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail9. The Rescue Ships Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail10. The Aftermath Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail11. The Survivors Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail12. The Lost 

The Darling River Campsite

WCT Campsite IconThe Darling River campsite is nicely laid out with a few clearings in the forest for tents as well as room for dozens of tents along the beach at the edge of the forest. There are food caches and the typically luxurious West Coast Trail outhouses. What sets the Darling River campsite apart from the nearby Michigan Creek, Orange Juice Creek and Tsocowis Creek campsites is the amazing Darling Falls. After hiking for hours it is an absolute paradise to dive into. The water flows from a narrow channel and pours into an emerald pool surrounded by forest. As most West Coast Trail hikers act like they are on a forced march and don't explore much, few take a moment to walk up Darling River and check it out. Because of this, you will often find this paradise pool deserted and serene.

Emerald Pool Darling Falls

Darling River to Darling Falls

The beach at the Darling River campsite is not terribly impressive. Compared with the beautiful sand beach at Pachena Bay, the beach here is a relatively thin band of nice sand at the tree line, then rocky down to the jagged reef extending into the ocean. The beach at Darling River is a bit better than at Michigan Creek which has a lot more reef and a lot less sand. 

Darling Beach West Coast Trail

From the beach you can follow Darling River as it meanders into the forest. The water is beautifully clear and the rocks in and around the river have been ground smooth by winter storms crashing in from the sea. Small and surprisingly large driftwood trees are scattered in and along the river and give an indication of how drastically the water level changes here. During periods of heavy rain, Darling River can go from serene and small to a huge and fast torrent crashing through the valley.

Darling River Toward Darling Falls

Huge driftwood logs lay across the river and this bizarre upside down tree trunk somehow managed to find its way into this improbable position. 

Deadfall in Darling River

Beautiful Darling Falls finally comes into view, crashing through a narrow channel and plunging into an emerald coloured pool.

Darling Falls in the Distance

Beautiful Darling Falls

Darling Falls has the feel of being in a movie set. Tranquil waterfall pouring into a crystal clear pool, surrounded by gorgeous rainforest and perfect rock ledges alongside the pool. A perfect, hidden swimming pool just a couple hundred metres from the ocean.

Spectacular Darling Falls

Darling Falls is a beautiful example of a chaotic tangle of driftwood and deadfall making an already beautiful place, somehow more beautiful. Swimming in a serene paradise, knowing that fierce winter storms blasted these huge trees in from the ocean. What an incredible contrast just a few months make in the weather here!

Amazing Darling Falls on the West Coast Trail

Beach Camping at Darling River

Most people camp at the edge of the beach where the forest spills over. The beach extends quite far, so there is quite a lot of room for tents to stretch down the beach. Old plastic floats washed onto the beach are hung from trees on the West Coast Trail to mark forest trail entrances and exits.

Darling Beach Camping West Coast Trail

The outhouses continue to be amazing at the West Coast Trail campsites. At Michigan Beach they looked like elaborate treehouses, here at Darling River, the treehouse look continues.

Luxurious Outhouse at the Darling River Campsite

Darling River Rainforest Trails

It is amazing how, just steps from the beach you are immersed in rainforest that surrounds you so completely that you can barely see the sky. In the picture below you can hardly make out the trail to the beach, despite it being frequently used. The silver box is a food cache box. Usually two or more can be found in the forest at most West Coast Trail campsites.

Darling Campsite Forest Trail

There are a few alternate routes to the beach and some of them stranger than others. This one emerges at a partly built driftwood shelter that is a welcome site when the rain starts to fall. 

Darling Driftwood Shelter West Coast Trail

When the rain falls, which it inevitably does on the West Coast Trail, a big tarp makes staying dry a lot easier.

Rain Camp Darling Beach West Coast Trail

Looking down the beach towards Michigan Beach from the driftwood camp at the Darling River campsite.

Driftwood Camp View of Darling Beach

Darling River Wildlife

Of all the campsites on the West Coast Trail, Darling River seems to be the most popular with bears. This one was digging in the rocks and driftwood next to Darling River on a rainy morning in May. We were at least a hundred metres away, but he kept an eye and ear on us until we left. One ear pointed at us, while his left ear angled away, listening for danger from the other direction.

Darling Beach Foraging Black Bear

Despite us being quite far down the beach, he didn't like the look of us and let us know by staring at us with a menacing look. His huge claws and surprisingly long legs were a reminder that if he wanted to he could run us down in a few seconds. We took the hint and backed away, down the beach and took one last picture of him from a long way away and through pouring rain. I love how my camera focussed on the driftwood and he was out of focus, making him even more scary looking.

Scary Bear Darling River West Coast Trail

In recent years they have actually had to temporarily close the Darling River campsite due to frequent black bear visitors. Maybe this guy is a longtime resident of Darling River and nobody is going to crowd him out.

Should you camp at Darling River?

Definitely. Darling Falls and Darling River make this mediocre West Coast Trail beach and campsite exceptional. Darling Falls is one of those rare waterfalls that you find in movies where our heroes stumble upon after getting lost. It is a hidden, emerald coloured world that entices you to throw off your clothes and dive into. Washing off the the sweat and grime of the day.

Shipwrecks Near Darling River

Shipwrecks Icon West Coast TrailThe Michigan's boiler is a visible remnant of that shipwreck near Michigan Creek, just a short 15 minute walk down the beach from Darling River. Darling River has a shipwreck of its own, laying at the bottom of the ocean where Darling River flows out. The Uzbekistan was a steel steamship of 2569 tons. Built in 1937 in France and became a shipwreck on April 1st, 1943. A Russian ship, the Uzbekistan was part of the lend-lease program during World War II, where the US shipped war materials to Russia. She left Portland for Seattle to pick up a load of war materials destined for Vladivostok. On April 1st 1943 the Uzbekistan encountered stormy weather and bad visibility, mistaking the light at Swiftsure Bank for that of Umatilla Reef. She steered toward what was thought to be Juan de Fuca Strait. Because of the strong northerly current, she was far north of her supposed location. At 11pm the Uzbekistan collided with the the rocky shelf just down from today's Darling River. The entire crew made it to shore safely and made camp. They then managed to hike their way to Bamfield and were eventually picked up by a Royal Canadian Navy ship. Today, if you are lucky you can spot the Uzbekistan's boilers and parts of her propulsion machinery at very low tide at the edge of the reef. You will more easily spot pieces of steel scattered around the mouth of Darling River.

Uzbekistan Shipwreck Darling River

Books About West Coast Trail Shipwrecks

Shipwrecks of Juan de FucaUnforgiving CoastShipwrecks off Juan de Fuca by J.A. Gibbs is one of the best books on shipwrecks particularly around Juan de Fuca Strait on the US side and the Canadian side. The book mentions both the Uzbekistan shipwreck and Michigan shipwreck. Both these shipwrecks were not terribly interesting as there were no dramatic rescues involved. The Valencia shipwreck on the other hand is written about in chilling detail by Gibbs in this wonderful book. He clearly did a lot of research to compile such a riveting story about the horrific events that took place during that tragedy. His retelling of dozens of shipwrecks is captivating and it is difficult to put the book down. Interestingly, some of the most interesting parts of the book involve the history of shipwrecks two, three, four hundred years ago and older. He points out that hundreds of years ago Chinese junks would have blown across the Pacific and wrecked on the shores of Vancouver Island. He even points to serious evidence that this occurred somewhat regularly for over a thousand years! A remarkable book and beautifully written. The Unforgiving Coast: Maritime Disasters of the Pacific Northwest by David Grover is another difficult to put down book on shipwrecks that include several along the West Coast Trail. The extraordinary Valencia shipwreck is hypnotically told and in detail that sends a chill up your spine.

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More West Coast Trail Campsites Near Darling River

Campsite Icon West Coast TrailYou encounter campsites at this end of the West Coast Trail much more frequently than the rest of the trail. Less than two kilometres from Darling River you come to the Michigan Creek campsite, which is the last, or first campsite on the West Coast Trail. It is not terribly nice, always busy, the beach is not very scenic and you don't have an enticing place to swim. Heading south from Darling River, after just one kilometre you come to the Orange Juice Creek campsite. This is a very basic campsite along the beach with no amenities like outhouses, food caches. There are a few clearings on the beach near the edge of the forest. The beach is often covered in quite a tangle of deadwood logs and Orange Juice Creek is darkly coloured by tannins from the forest which makes it not the most appealing place to camp. If you don't mind the log scattered beach, which is actually quite beautiful in a strange way, or the odd looking water, which is fine to drink of course, then it is actually a nice place to camp. Orange Juice Creek crashes down on the beach from a little, but violent orange juice coloured waterfall. Also, there is an interesting cave that extends under the cliffs a few metres and is interesting to explore or escape the rain in. Because this campsite is easy to miss and not terribly pretty, it is overlooked by other campers and a quiet oasis compared to Darling River or Michigan Creek. A shame because it is  Further down the beach another kilometre brings you to yet another nice campsite at Tsocowis Creek. At Tsocowis you have the usual beach clearings for tents, outhouses and food caches.

Michigan Creek Campsite at 12km

4 West Coast Trail RatingThe campsite at Michigan Creek is the first or last campsite you will encounter on the West Coast Trail. First if you begin your hike at the Pachena trailhead(hiking south) and last if you begin in Port Renfrew(hiking north). The 12.1 kilometres(7.5 miles) between the Pachena trailhead and Michigan Creek is fairly easy and flat. Compared to the rest of the West Coast Trail, this section is wonderfully relaxing. At a brisk pace, you should be able to hike this section in a little over 3 hours. At a more relaxed pace, and stopping at the Pachena Point Lighthouse, you will take 4 or 5 hours from the trailhead. Certainly the highlight of Michigan Creek is the extraordinary remnant of the Michigan shipwreck trapped on the rocky shelf revealed by low tide. The huge boiler of the Michigan is so large that it sits ominously in a depression on the rocky shelf near where it drops off to deeper ocean. From the sandy shoreline, this rusty hulk sits about 70 metres away as large waves constantly pound it. You can easily walk out to it when the tide is low and get a close look at just a couple metres away. Getting close enough to touch it will require a short and cold plunge into the ocean with swirling water all around. 

Michigan Shipwreck Boiler

Michigan Creek Campsite Map v3

Michigan Creek campsite continued here...

 Orange Juice Creek Campsite at 15km

5 West Coast Trail RatingJust a kilometre past the Darling River campsite you will come to another beach campsite at Orange Juice CreekOrange Juice Creek is not terribly pretty and gets its name from the intensely, orange juice coloured water that crashes through a tangled morass of driftwood logs. If you aren't keen on swimming and/or washing at Darling FallsOrange Juice Creek is a good alternative. Much quieter than Michigan Creek and a bit quieter than Darling River, you will find a more relaxed surrounding at the campsite at Orange Juice Creek. Another less obvious aspect of Orange Juice Creek that makes it worth camping at is the small, but very livable sea cave. Some find it charming, others find it spooky. At the very least it is worth a look. A small fire in the middle, surrounded by driftwood logs for seats, in horribly, wet weather, this cave is paradise! 

Orange Juice Creek Crossing

Orange Juice Creek Campsite Map v8

Orange Juice Creek campsite continued here...

Tsocowis Creek Campsite at 16.5km

6 West Coast Trail RatingThe Tsocowis Creek campsite at 16.5km has a decent beach with an excellent water source. There is plenty of room for tents along the beach amongst the driftwood logs. You have the same amenities here as other West Coast Trail campsites such as deluxe outhouses and animal proof food storage boxes. Tsocowis is home to one of the West Coast Trail guard cabin's. In 1940 the survivors of the Varsity shipwreck survived by crawling their way to the shelf below what is now called Valencia Bluffs. They now found themselves on a steep shelf that they could not climb. Out of the wreckage they managed to survive exposure and construct a ladder up the cliff and found the trail that hikers now call the West Coast Trail. The three survivors made their way to Tsocowis Creek and found the Tsocowis cabin occupied by lineman who fortunately was there. The three were later picked up from Tsocowis Beach. Today the shipwreck's huge metal winch rusts in a crevice at the foot of Valencia Bluffs. Hikers tend to pass this campsite and push on to the end of the trail(or the next campsite if heading south).

Tsocowis Creek West Coast Trail

Tsocowis Creek Campsite Map v7

Tsocowis Creek campsite continued here...

West Coast Trail Campsites

 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

Shipwrecks Near Darling River on the West Coast Trail

The Michigan Shipwreck Near KM12

Shipwreck Icon West Coast TrailOn the West Coast Trail at the 12 kilometre mark you will come to the Michigan. The Michigan shipwreck on the West Coast Trail is the first one you can see and actually touch, which is incredible since it is well over a century old. On January 21st, 1893 this 695 ton steam schooner was heading to Puget Sound from San Francisco. The strong northerly current that prevails in this part of the Pacific and would eventually cause dozens of shipwrecks, caused the Michigan to massively overrun her position. Instead of sailing into Juan de Fuca Strait, she collided with Vancouver Island in the middle of the night. The 25 people on board managed to get ashore after daylight.  The the seas calmed the crew was able to retrieve a boat from the wreck and was able to get to Neah Bay for assistance. A ship rescue was attempted, but was not successful. One death resulted from the attempt to hike over the old telegraph trail to Carmanah Point. A testament to how difficult it was then as compared to how relatively easy the now relatively easy West Coast Trail.  

The Michigan shipwreck continued here...

The Uzbekistan Shipwreck Near KM14

Shipwreck Icon West Coast TrailThe Uzbekistan was a steel steamship of 2569 tons. Built in 1937 in France and became a shipwreck on April 1st, 1943. A Russian ship, the Uzbekistan was part of the lend-lease program during World War II, where the US shipped war materials to Russia. She left Portland for Seattle to pick up a load of war materials destined for Vladivostok. On April 1st 1943 the Uzbekistan encountered stormy weather and bad visibility, mistaking the light at Swiftsure Bank for that of Umatilla Reef. She steered toward what was thought to be Juan de Fuca Strait. Because of the strong northerly current, she was far north of her supposed location. At 11pm the Uzbekistan collided with the the rocky shelf just down from today's Darling River. The entire crew made it to shore safely and made camp. They then managed to hike their way to Bamfield and were eventually picked up by a Royal Canadian Navy ship. Today, if you are lucky you can spot the Uzbekistan's boilers and parts of her propulsion machinery at very low tide at the edge of the reef. You will more easily spot pieces of steel scattered around the mouth of Darling River.  

The Uzbekistan shipwreck continued here...

The Varsity Shipwreck Near KM17.6

Shipwreck Icon West Coast TrailJust 4 kilometres past the Uzbekistan shipwreck you will pass by the final resting place of the Varsity. The Varsity was a small fishing boat of 90 tons, returning to Puget Sound from California on February 5th, 1940. In bad weather and stormy seas, she abruptly struck the shore, just a kilometre past, what is today, Tsocowis Creek on the West Coast Trail. The Varsity had overrun her position due to the fast northerly current. The crew were so hopelessly lost that they believed their position to still be in American waters, instead of way up on the coast of Vancouver Island. Unfortunately their distress call gave their position as several kilometres south of their actual position. Of the crew of seven, three survived by crawling their way to the shelf below what is now called Valencia Bluffs. They now found themselves on a steep shelf that they could not climb. Out of the wreckage they managed to survive exposure and construct a ladder up the cliff and found the trail that hikers now call the West Coast Trail. The three survivors made their way to Tsocowis Creek and found the Tsocowis cabin occupied by lineman who fortunately was there. The three were later picked up from Tsocowis Beach. Today the shipwreck's huge metal winch rusts in a crevice at the foot of Valencia Bluffs.  

Varsity shipwreck continued here...

The Valencia Shipwreck Near KM18

Shipwreck Icon West Coast TrailThe Valencia is usually regarded as the worst shipwreck disaster in the Graveyard of the Pacific and the final impetus for the creation of the West Coast Trail. The SS Valencia was an iron-hulled, 1600 ton passenger steamer built in 1882. Originally built for service between Venezuela and New York City, she later became a coastal passenger liner on the west coast of the United States. In 1906 she was wrecked off Cape Beale, near Clo-oose, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The captain did not take into account the strong northerly current that caused ships to overrun Juan de Fuca Strait by a considerable distance. Blinded by the weather and battered with strong winds and currents, the captain turned the Valencia toward the coast for its run into the strait. Just before midnight on the 22nd of January, she collided with the reef near Pachena Point on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. The high number of fatalities are estimated to have been about 140. Varying sources and speculation has resulted in a fair bit of uncertainty on those figures. According to the government report at the time, the official deaths numbered 136. Only 38 men survived the shipwreck and all the woman and children perished. The Canadian government rapidly began work on what would result in the West Coast Trail. A lighthouse was was constructed and regularly spaced shelters along the newly constructed trail. The Valencia shipwreck disaster happened in 1906, the Pachena Point Lighthouse was finished in 1908, and in 1911 the West Coast Trail was completed.  

Valencia shipwreck continued here...

The Valencia Disaster

There were just 38 survivors of the Valencia shipwreck.  An estimated 140 people lost their lives on the ship over the course of 36 hours.  The 38 survivors escaped the ship at different times and ...
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All six boats launched in the first frantic 30 minutes after the Valencia wrecked were smashed against the ship or flipped and smashed against the base of the solid rock cliffs along the shore. ...
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When the survivors on the second raft were rescued by the Topeka just five hours into their ordeal and so close to death that they could barely stand, one of them asked about the first raft.  It was ...
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This is a much more accurate list of the victims of the Valencia shipwreck than all the other lists currently found online and in print.  The passenger and crew list given by the owners of the ...
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