The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailThe Valencia was a 252-foot-long passenger steamship built in 1882 in Philadelphia. She served as a passenger ship down the eastern coast of North America until 1898 when she was sold to the Pacific Steam Whaling Company and brought around Cape Horn to the West Coast. There she briefly operated as a troopship for the United States army in the Spanish-American War. She could transport 606 troops and 29 officers between San Francisco and the Philippines.

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The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailThe Valencia departed from San Francisco at 11:20am on Saturday, January 20th 1906, bound for Victoria and Seattle. She cruised roughly parallel to the coast at a variable distance that ranged from about 8 to 32 kilometres until she sighted Cape Flattery. The Cape Flattery Lighthouse marks the south end of Juan de Fuca Strait and is 1073 kilometres or 667 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge at the entrance to San Francisco Harbor.

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The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailThe 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 were also three life rafts on board which could reportedly hold up to 44 people, though one slid off the ship and was lost.

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The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailAll 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. Lifeboats No.1, No.4 and the working boat No. 7 were haphazardly released or cut free causing them to fall by one end and tossing the passengers into the water drowning all but one. Passengers watched in horror as dozens of people, many of them woman and children disappeared into the swirling ocean next to the ship.   

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The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailAll but one of the seven lifeboats were launched during the first hour of the Valencia disaster, between midnight and 1am, Tuesday, January 23rd, 1906.  Of the estimated sixty passengers and crew that boarded these six boats, only nine would live to tell about it.  It is not known how many woman and children were on those boats, probably more than half, all were lost.   One of the nine survivors, passenger Frank Bunker, recalled the events as the Valencia shipwreck turned into a disaster.

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The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailAfter the McCarthy boat was launched successfully and cleared the breakers at around 9am Tuesday January 23rd the captain, crew and passengers on the Valencia confidently expected men to soon appear on the cliffs opposite the ship. The Lyle line-firing gun was set up and ready to go on the hurricane deck. The Lyle gun was capable of firing three times. It could launch a harpoon with a quarter inch rope attached several hundred metres.

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The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailThe Valencia wrecked just before midnight on Monday, January 22nd, 1906.  Nearly 34 hours later, at 9am Wednesday morning the situation on the Valencia was horrific.  Battered by waves, the ship was breaking apart and settling lower with every crashing wave that slammed into her.  About 100 survivors remained clinging to the few upper parts of the ship still above water.

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The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailWhen 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 then first discovered by the outside world that another raft was still out there.  And more poignantly, the Topeka Raft survivors that barely escaped death after five hours, learned that the first raft was still in that hell. 

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The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailShortly 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 Island. The Queen, another Pacific Coast Steamship Company vessel was arriving in Victoria and it was ordered to rush to the Valencia to offer assistance. The call was put out to all tugs in the area to help, however none were available and ones that were available were at Neah Bay and the communication line was broken and they couldn’t be called.

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The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailA 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 San Francisco, who arrived by the tug Wyadda to search for his sisters body was interviewed about the experience. He described bodies found washed ashore terribly mutilated and decomposed. “One body was found yesterday, not identified. This brings the total number recovered to 28. Ten had been previously brought here and eight arrived last night.”

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The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailThere 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 different ways.  Nine of the survivors managed to make it through the first hour when all but one of the lifeboats were flipped in the surf or smashed against the ship.  These wet and freezing survivors gathered along the base of cliffs about 250 metres north of the Valencia.  

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The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailThis 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 Valencia after the wreck is pretty good, though quite a few names didn’t make the list.  For example, a significant number of children on the Valencia were not recorded as passengers.  A few adult passengers also do not appear on the lists and were only discovered in the days and weeks after the tragedy filled newspaper headlines.

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The West Coast Trail Guide

When shipping in and out of Juan de Fuca Strait rapidly increased in the mid 1800's and an alarming and costly number of ships were lost, the need for a inland trail was realized. It would take decades, and many more brutal and costly shipwrecks in the waters leading to
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The West Coast Trail is incredible. Everything about it is amazing. From the wildly, incomprehensibly enormous trees to endless jaw dropping views. And it's tough.  Very tough.  It is a trail that shouldn't exist. Hiking trails always form out of the easiest route worn ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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There are lots of options to getting to the West Coast Trail. The trail is linear so you have to arrange to get to the trailhead as well as from your exit trailhead. Most West Coast Trail hikers drive to one trailhead then bus to the other and hike back to their car. ...
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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 ...
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West Coast Trail Shipwrecks

The Alaskan was a small, wooden hulled steamship of 150 tons built in Oregon in 1886. She was owned by a Vancouver freight company and was on route to Kildonan in Barkley Sound with 100 tons of box ...
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The Skagit, a 3 masted barkentine of 506 tons was wrecked on the reef in front of Clo-oose on what is now the West Coast Trail. This 156 foot ship was built in Port Ludlow, Washington in 1883 and ...
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Less 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 ...
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The Raita shipwreck is located off the reefs at about the 33 kilometre mark of the West Coast Trail. Located just offshore and most remnants of this wreck are hidden under the waves. Some of the ...
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West Coast Trail Campsites

Just a kilometre past the Darling River campsite you will come to another beach campsite at Orange Juice Creek. Orange Juice Creek is not terribly pretty and gets its name from the intensely, orange juice coloured water that crashes through a tangled morass of ...
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The Bonilla Creek campsite at 48km on the West Coast Trail is easy to miss, as it looks very unassuming from the beach. Most hikers pass by Bonilla Falls, which is nestled against a small cliff at the edge of a suddenly deep forest. And the forest hides a nice ...
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Walbran Creek at 53k is home to possibly the best, and most unappreciated campsites on the West Coast Trail. The Walbran Creek campsite encapsulates so much that makes the West Coast Trail truly wonderful. The expansive beach which seems purpose built for ...
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The campsite at Klanawa River is quite nice because of its lovely, swimmable river, expansive beach and serenity relative to other West Coast Trail campsites.. Though the beach is a thick, tangle of driftwood, you can still manage to find cleared areas perfect for ...
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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 ...
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Books About West Coast Trail Shipwrecks

SOS North Pacific by Gordon R. Newell, published in 1955 is a well written account of many of the most interesting shipwrecks that happened in the North Pacific from Grays Harbor in the United States up to Alaska. The only shipwreck along the West Coast Trail he ...
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West Coast Trail A to Z

Juan de Fuca Strait is the 154km long and 16km to 32km wide stretch of ocean that separates Vancouver Island from the northwest corner of Washington State. The international boundary between Canada and the United State runs down the centre of the strait. It was named ...
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Owen Point, at about the 67km mark on the West Coast Trail is home to a stunningly colourful and well hidden area of sandstone caves carved out by the ocean. Centuries of crashing waves have gouged out huge, circular openings in the cliffs jutting out into the ...
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Explore BC Hiking Destinations!

The West Coast Trail

The West Coast Trail is incredible. Everything about it is amazing. From the wildly, incomprehensibly enormous trees to endless jaw dropping views. And it's tough.  Very tough.  It is a trail that shouldn't exist. Hiking trails always form out of the easiest route worn ...
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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 ...
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Clayoquot Hiking Trails

Clayoquot Sound has a staggering array of hiking trails within it.  Between Tofino and Ucluelet, Pacific Rim National Park has several wilderness and beach trails, each one radically different from the last.  The Islands in the area are often Provincial Parks on their ...
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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 ...
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Squamish Hiking Trails

Squamish sits in the midst of some amazing places to hike. Garibaldi Park sprawls from Squamish up and beyond Whistler. Tantalus Provincial Park lays across the valley to the west and the beautiful and desolate, by comparison, Callaghan Valley to the north. Add to ...
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