The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailThe morning after the wreck he survivors on the Valencia had no way of knowing that a few men had survived from the overturned boats of the previous night. Nine men had collected on the rocky shore about 300 metres north and out of sight of the Valencia.  They had been thrown onto the rocks by the crashing waves and crawled up to the edge of the cliffs beyond the reach of the water.  These nine men managed to survive the first hours of the Valencia disaster. 

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 West Coast Trail

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

Of the six lifeboats that were launched with about 60 passengers and crew on board, only these nine would live.  Two of the men Frank Bunker and Frank Campbell would lose their wives and children when the boats were caught in the surf and smashed onto the reef.  These nine men spent the night soaking wet, huddled together in darkness waiting for morning. When the morning arrived they managed to climb to the top of the cliff and found the telegraph line that runs from Cape Beale to Carmanah.  Believing to be south of Cape Flattery in the United States they decided to follow the line heading west toward what they thought was the nearest help to contact the outside world. 

This decision has been heavily criticized as had they instead followed the line in the other direction they would have come to the cliffs 100 feet above the Valencia and just 18 metres out from the bottom of the cliff. The captain would have then fired the Lyle gun to get a line up to the cliffs and the men would have been able to haul the heavy line up to the cliffs to fasten to a tree. This would have established a solid shore connection and a breeches buoy from the ship could be used to bring the survivors up to the cliff.  This criticism seems reasonable at a glance, however the more details of the story you understand, the more you realize how and why this didn't happen.

Bunker Party Decisions Understood

The common belief seems to be that they were so traumatized from surviving the boats and spending the night on the shore to have thought clearly enough to grasp this opportunity.  The actual explanation is much more straightforward than that. First, how many passengers of a cruise ship would conceive of a ship having a Lyle line-firing gun that can fire 1500 feet with a line attached? It seems likely that the passengers in the group would not have known that.  There were crew members in the group, though most did not speak English very well, so if they know of the Lyle gun, they did not convey the fact to the rest.  So believing that you would be helpless to do anything by reaching the cliffs above the Valencia, why would you bother?  The second, and most hard to comprehend reason is that if they did know about the Lyle gun and were determined to hike to the cliff above the Valencia they would have to hike through the insane forest of the West Coast of Vancouver Island.  In 1906, along what is today the West Coast Trail, was at that time an unmarked route through forest characterized as impenetrable.  The difficulty of hiking through the forest  at that time is nearly impossible to comprehend.  A single kilometre could take hours to get through and with no trail to follow and surrounded by walls of forest, there is no way to know if the direction you are hiking leads anywhere.  On top of that they just survived a brutal night, there was ankle deep snow along the coast and some of them had lost their shoes.  They desperately hoped to contact the outside world to send help, and the best way to achieve this would be to follow the telegraph line they found in the direction of what they expected was Cape Flattery Lighthouse.  

During the Valencia Inquiry in Seattle that took place following the disaster and George Beledhos and Frank Richley's testimonies appeared in the Victoria Daily Times on 2 February, 1906.  George Beledhos, a coal passer on the Valencia, his named always spelled wrong in newspapers.  In this article he is "George Belogous, a Greek coal passer. who escaped from the wreck in the first boat launched from the vessel."  They spelled his name hilariously wrong and he escaped on the fifth boat launched that night, not the first.  He testified that Bunker appeared to be the leader of the party, and when he suggested that they return to the ship after the telephone line had been reached the latter replied: "No, I'm going to follow this telegraph line.  I have lost my wife and two children, and now I am going to save my own life."  Beledhos continued, "I asked Mr. Bunker three or four times to turn back to the ship, but he refused, and he and the rest of his crew started off.  I let them get about a quarter of a mile ahead of me, and then I got afraid and followed."  

Frank Richley, a mess boy on the Valencia had a similar testimony, though contradicts Beledhos by stating, "No one offered to stay."  Which doesn't fit with Beledhos asking three or four times to go to the ship and staying while the other departed until they were a quarter mile ahead.  Richley had a sprained ankle and states this is why he stuck with the group.

How the Bunker Party Formed

The nine survivors that became known as the Bunker Party came from two lifeboats, the No.3 and No.6.  The No.3 lifeboat, the fifth boat launched, managed to get away from the Valencia for a short distance with fifteen people on board.  After one of the oars was lost, the boat veered towards the surf and flipped over, drowning eight.  Somehow seven men survived and ended up along the shore at the base of a near vertical 100 foot cliff, north of the Valencia.  The seven survivors were Frank Campbell, Tony Brown, George Beledhos, Yosuki Hosoda, Michael Hone, Charles Samuels, and Albert Willis.  Among the drowned were the wife and 16 year old stepdaughter of Frank Campbell. These seven were joined by Frank Bunker and Frank Richley from the No.6 lifeboat that also flipped and killed all but two on board.  These nine men huddled together, soaking wet and freezing at the base of a 100 foot cliff until daylight.  Later dubbed the Bunker Party after passenger Frank Bunker who was somewhat of a driving force of the group.  This is a picture of what the Bunker Party would have faced.  Taken very close to the wreck site of the Valencia, it is almost certainly within a few hundred metres of the actual place the Bunker Party woke up to that horrific morning.  Though you have to picture this scene under a few centimeters of snow, in the dark, sleet falling and a winter storm raging, sending enormous waves crashing in.

Similar to What the Bunker Party Faced

Frank Bunker Remembers

Frank Bunker recalled the events of that night vividly a few days later in an interview.  “In the morning I found a place where by difficult climbing we could get up the bluff and get from the water into the bush.  Then I found a man who had been thrown up on the rocks, with his face smashed and he was crazy, and had to abandon him. I then struck back into the bush thinking to get into the interior – I had no knowledge of the country – and reach some place and give the alarm. I struck a telegraph line and reasoned that I could get to some habitation. I and the others with me followed the telegraph line for several miles, until we finally reached a telegraph lineman’s hut at the side of Darling Creek. The snow was ankle deep and it was difficult to walk on the logs, and it was dangerous crossing the slippery logs over the creeks. Two of the men were without shoes and one had his ankle sprained and badly swollen, causing him great pain. In the telegraph hut we found a receiver in a box. There were no directions, but I got it fixed on the wire and succeeded in calling up Mrs. Logan at Clo-oose and when she called her husband, Lineman Logan, I notified him of the wreck and he telegraphed to Lightkeeper Paterson at Cape Beale who gave the news to the world.”

The Bunker party collapsed in exhaustion in the afternoon of Tuesday, January 23rd in the Darling River hut which was located near the KM14 mark of today’s West Coast Trail. The Valencia lay wrecked near KM18.  Lineman Logan was in Clo-oose near KM34 and the Carmanah Lighthouse is near KM44. Far in the opposite direction is Pachena Bay which is near KM0 and a few kilometres beyond is the Cape Beale Lighthouse.  In 1906 all of these points along what is today the West Coast Trail, were at that time along an unmarked route through the forest generally characterized as impenetrable.  The difficulty of hiking through the forest along the West Coast of Vancouver Island at the time of the Valencia disaster was nearly impossible to comprehend.  A single kilometre could take hours to hike through and with no trail to follow and surrounded by walls of forest, there is no way to know if the direction you are hiking leads anywhere.  This is the forest the Bunker Party first entered after spending the night wet and freezing.  Some of the party had lost their shoes and set out into the forest through ankle deep snow.  They were lucky to find and follow the telegraph wire that led them out of the forest and onto a beach which they had much less difficulty hiking to reach the Darling River hut.  The Bunker Party had arrived at the Darling River hut in the afternoon on Tuesday, January 23rd and two days later, in the afternoon on Thursday, January 25th a rescue party from Bamfield finally reached them by hiking in with food and clothing.  At about 3:30pm they started the long hike back out to a ship waiting for them in Pachena Bay.  Continued: 6: On the Valencia

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 

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 ...
Read more
The 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 ...
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
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 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 ...
Read more
The Janet Cowan was a steel sailing vessel, four-masted, bark rigged, of 2498 tons built at Glasgow in 1889. She was wrecked at about the 19 kilometre mark on the West Coast Trail with several lives ...
Read more
Just as you pass the 49 kilometre mark of the West Coast Trail you will pass the Wempe Brothers shipwreck. A 4 masted, wooden schooner of 681 tons, quite a large sailing vessel for her time. The ...
Read more
The Puritan was a 4 masted schooner of 614 tons sailing inbound from San Francisco in ballast. She was heading for Port Gamble in Washington to pick up a load of lumber when the crew failed to ...
Read more
The Uzbekistan was a steel steamship of 2569 tons. Built in 1937 in France and became a shipwreck in Graveyard of the Pacific on April 1st, 1943. A Russian ship, the Uzbekistan was part of the ...
Read more

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
Read more
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 ...
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
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
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. ...
Read more
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