The Janet Cowan Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailThe Duchess of Argyle shipwreck lays at the bottom of the sea at the mouth of Cullite Cove near the 58 kilometre mark of the West Coast Trail. Cullite Cove is by far, one of the best campsites on the West Coast Trail. She was a huge, four masted barque with an iron hull and watertight bulkheads. By way of comparison, at 1700 tons, the Duchess of Argyle was almost four times as large as the Lizzie Marshall.

 

The Duchess of Argyle was sailing in ballast from San Francisco on October 13th, 1887, bound for Vancouver. She would pick up lumber and sail for Melbourne, Australia. Sailing up the coast from San Francisco, the good weather turned bad on October 16th. For almost two weeks a powerful gale hammered the Duchess of Argyle. When the storm finally let up, Cape Flattery was sighted about 20 miles away. The ship, unable to find wind, floated with the current, inching towards Juan de Fuca Strait. Soon a small tug boat arrived to assist the enormous becalmed ship through the strait. They lowered sails and got the hawser aboard to connect the ships. The captain of the tug quickly realized that his vessel was too small to manage such a huge ship rolling in the seas. Cape Flattery was still about 14 miles distant and concealed by fog much of the time. The Duchess of Argyle wallowed in the current until midnight when a strong eastward gale gripped the ship once more. They sailed for Cape Flattery until the wind died again and on November 1st the fog lifted revealing Cape Flattery just 3 miles away. Suddenly the fog returned again, thicker than ever. They crawled forward slowly hoping for the fog to lift again. The fog didn't let up and at 315pm on November 3rd, breakers were heard. First Officer W. Spurr ordered the helm hard down, but it was too late. The bow crashed into the rock shelf a few hundred metres from the shore at Cullite Cove. The Duchess slid back off the reef, but now they were caught. The huge ocean swells battered her broadside into the reef. Over and over she was thrown into the reef until water rose in the hold enough for the captain to order abandon ship. They safely rowed along the coast, 7 miles south to Port San Juan, which today is the town of Port Renfrew and the southern(Gordon River) end of the West Coast Trail.

The crew returned to the Duchess the next day to find the massive ship under water all the way up to the second deck at low tide. The stern, however, was entirely out of the water and the crew managed to salvage some clothing and personal effects. The crew was then brought back on a passing ship that happened by. A week later it was reported that the Duchess had sunk in a gale. Little was left to be salvaged, however, as the local natives looted the ship after the crew departed.

Duchess of Argyle Map West Coast Trail

Shipwrecks Near the Duchess of Argyle (KM58)

The John Marshall Shipwreck Near KM62

The John Marshall Shipwreck - West Coast Trail Graveyard of the PacificThere are a couple more shipwrecks relatively near the Duchess of Argyle. The John Marshall shipwreck lays at the bottom of the sea just off Camper Bay, 4 kilometres up the trail towards Port Renfrew. The John Marshall was an old eastern built, 3 masted ship of 321 tons. Sailing in from San Francisco with a crew of 10, she was heading to Seabeck, Washington in ballast to pick up a load of lumber. Off Cape Flattery the John Marshall met a raging storm that left her beached in front of Camper Bay. There seem to be few details of this shipwreck, however, local natives reported that two ships came ashore from the storm that night. It had been assumed that she foundered off Cape Flattery with no survivors. So it was quite a surprise to find her ashore at Camper Bay, with her hull visible at low tide and her masts, spars and rigging scattered on the beach. There are no details of deaths from this shipwreck, so it is assumed that there was no loss of life.

John Marshall shipwreck continued here...

The William Tell Shipwreck Near KM64

Shipwreck Icon West Coast TrailLess than a kilometre past the John Marshall shipwreck you will pass the William Tell shipwreck. Considerably larger than the John Marshall, the William Tell was a 1153 ton, 3 masted ship that wrecked in the Graveyard of the Pacific on December 23rd, 1865. She sailed straight into the reef in front of what is now the 64 kilometre mark of the West Coast Trail. The William Tell was built in New York in 1850. She sailed in the North Atlantic for a few years before branching out to more distant ports. On her final voyage in 1865, she was inbound from South Africa in ballast, heading to a port in the Puget Sound. She managed to sail into Juan de Fuca Strait, however stormy weather and strong currents moved her considerably far west. Blindly sailing in thick fog and the darkness of night, the William Tell smashed into the reef between Owen Point and Camper Bay. The crew of 22 men managed to scramble safely to shore and made their way to Owen Point where they lit signal fires. Their fires were spotted from the harbour of Port San Juan(Port Renfrew). They were picked up and later brought back to Victoria by a local trading schooner.

William Tell shipwreck continued here...

Campsites Near the Duchess of Argyle (KM58)

Cullite Cove Campsite at 58km

9 West Coast Trail RatingThe Duchess of Argyle sits hidden under the waves out front of Cullite Cove. Cullite Cove is a wonderful campsite on the West Coast Trail at the 58 kilometre mark. One of the nicest campsites you will find on the West Coast Trail. It has everything, a lovely wooded area with clearings for tents and campfires. Stunning views all around. A terrific, rocky beach, beautifully hemmed in by beautiful cliffs on either side. Cullite Creek pours into the cove, making for a stunning, albeit freezing swim into the surf. The campsite here is often very quiet as everybody seems to camp at Camper Bay just 4 kilometres away and doesn't even drop down the short detour off the main trail to Cullite Cove.

Cullite Cove Campsite is Amazing

Cullite Cove Campsite View

Cullite Cove Campsite Map v8

 Cullite Cove campsite continued here...

Walbran Creek Campsite at 53km

9 West Coast Trail RatingHeading north on the West Coast Trail, 5 kilometres from Cullite Cove you will come to the beautiful campsite at Walbran CreekWalbran Creek at 53km is home to possibly the best, and most unappreciated campsites on the West Coast Trail. It encapsulates so much that makes the West Coast Trail truly wonderful. The expansive beach which seems purpose built for enjoyability is flanked by scenic cliffs and creek on one side, the pacific ocean on the other, and backed by the emerald coloured Walbran Creek that flows through the jungle valley spanned by a cable car crossing! Of the list of pro's and con's for Walbran Creek, the list is hopelessly lopsided to the pro's. The campsite is nice and wild, with every tent looking out to a great ocean, creek view, or both. Far less busy than most other West Coast Trail campsites, Walbran Creek is a serene hidden paradise. The creek is great to jump into and there is a fair bit of interesting exploring along the beach.

Walbran Creek Campsite West Coast Trail

Walbran Creek Campsite Map v7

Walbran Creek campsite continued here...

The West Coast Trail by Day

Day 5 on the West Coast Trail is a stunning, very difficult and tremendously enjoyable day of hiking. Walbran Creek is gorgeous campsite to wake up to. Your tent will open up to a sweeping view of ...
Read more

West Coast Trail Shipwrecks

The Uzbekistan was a steel steamship of 2569 tons. Built in 1937 in France and became a shipwreck on ...
Read more
The Raita shipwreck is located off the reefs at about the 33 kilometre mark of the West Coast ...
Read more
The Uncle John was a 138 foot, three masted barkentine of 314 tons. Built in Eureka, California in 1881 and ...
Read more
 

The Valencia Disaster

Shortly after 3pm on Tuesday afternoon on January 23rd the Valencia’s owners in Seattle received a message that the Valencia had gone ashore somewhere west of the Carmanah Lighthouse on Vancouver ...
Read more
A week after the wreck of the Valencia, The Daily Colonist of Victoria ran a cover story about the aftermath of the disaster and the horrific scenes that continued to be found. Sydney Van Wyck of ...
Read more
The Valencia was equipped with six lifeboats and a smaller working boat. These seven boats could hold up to 181 people. Just enough to accommodate the estimated 178 crew and passengers aboard.  There ...
Read more
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 ...
Read more

Best West Coast Trail Sights

West Coast Trail Guide

The West Coast Trail is a very tough hike. About one out of one hundred hikers don't make it, they need to be rescued. That's why there are so many fees. By the time you are done preparing and registering, you laugh at how hiking got so expensive. Isn't hiking usually ...
Read more
There are 13 established campsites along the West Coast Trail. They are fairly well spaced out and all are located near fresh water creeks and rivers.  Amenities are kept to a minimum to keep the trail wild and beautiful, so you rarely see any signs or markers to ...
Read more
There are three entry/exit points for the West Coast Trail, however the midway entry/exit point at Nitinaht Narrows is for hikers only hiking part of the trail. The two main entry points are at Pachena Bay in the north(Bamfield) and Gordon River in the south(Port ...
Read more
The West Coast Trail hiking season is confined to just five months due to the dangerously stormy weather during the winter months. In the winter the days are short, tides are high and heavy rain and strong winds are frequent. Hiking the trail in the summer is tough ...
Read more

Amazing Whistler Hiking Trails

Explore BC Hiking Destinations!

The West Coast Trail

The West Coast Trail was created after decades of brutal and costly shipwrecks occurred along the West Coast of Vancouver Island.  One shipwreck in particular was so horrific, tragic and unbelievable that it forced the creation of a trail along the coast, which ...
Read more

Victoria Hiking Trails

Victoria has a seemingly endless number of amazing hiking trails.  Most take you to wild and beautiful Pacific Ocean views and others take you to tranquil lakes in beautiful BC Coastal Rainforest wilderness.  Regional Parks and Provincial Parks are everywhere you turn ...
Read more

Whistler Hiking Trails

Whistler is an amazing place to hike. Looking at a map of Whistler you see an extraordinary spider web of hiking trails. Easy trails, moderate trails and challenging hiking trails are all available. Another marvellous thing about Whistler is that Garibaldi Provincial Park ...
Read more