The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailThe Valencia wrecked just before midnight on Monday, January 22nd.  Thirty-four hours later, at around 9:30am Wednesday morning the situation on the Valencia was horrific.  Battered by waves, the ship was breaking apart and sinking lower into the crashing ocean.  About 100 people remained clinging to the few upper parts of the ship still above water.

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

Rescue ships had appeared in the distance, however no attempt at rescue had been made.  Thomas Carrick, first assistant engineer on the Valencia later recalled, “The first ship that hove in sight was the Queen.  The weather was nice until that time, but the wind shifted and a choppy sea set in.  The Queen stood off about a mile and a half.  I saw two boats swinging from the davits as if they were in readiness to be lowered.”  Sam Hancock, the chief cook on the Valencia remembered, “The Queen came within a reasonable distance and stopped.  A short time after two other vessels came in sight.  The Queen apparently spoke the vessels and a tug came towards us, but turned around immediately and went away.  No boat was lowered by any of the vessels.”   Joseph McCafferty, a passenger would later testify in the Valencia inquiry, “When the steamers Queen, Salvor and Czar came in sight he thought that it would be a matter of only a short time before all were rescued.  He thought the Czar might have come within 200 yards of the ship at the outside and drifted a raft down the vessel.”  Knowing the ship could collapse under the waves at any moment, the crew decided to launch the last two life rafts and try to get to the rescue ships.  The rafts were launched about 20 minutes apart and suffered very different fates.  The first raft launched would become known as the Turret Raft and the second the Topeka Raft.  The rafts are designed to float and remain stable, however those on board would be constantly soaked from waves crashing over the sides.  The survivors on the Valencia were already freezing cold, hungry and thirsty and most refused to get on the rafts.

The first raft to be launched had only 10 men on board, though it could hold 18.  There were three powerful reasons for this.  First, it was doubtful the fragile and hard to maneuver rafts could survive in the churning ocean for long even if they could clear the breakers to get to the open ocean.  Second, boarding the rafts was terrifyingly difficult.  As the raft rose and fell in the enormous ocean swells it had to be kept a few metres from the Valencia to avoid it being smashed against the ship.  To get on one of the rafts, you had to jump from the ship from a considerable height into the freezing ocean, avoid drowning or getting thrown against the ship, and swim your way to a raft.  And third, many on the ship still hoped for outside rescue to come.

As the first raft departed, to ensure the ship in the distance, the Queen had spotted them, the captain fired the Lyle gun three times. Incredibly the clumsy raft broke over the breakers and out to sea with surprisingly little difficulty.  The second raft was lowered and six crewmen got on to keep it from smashing against the ship.  On the Valencia the crew tried to convince the women to go on the raft, but they all refused.  Thomas Carrick, first assistant engineer on the Valencia later recounted convincing a young lady friend of his to go, but upon reaching the rail and seeing the raft pounding against the sides of the Valencia, she went into hysterics and rushed back to the cabin screaming.

In an interview days later Carrick described the horrific scene on the Valencia before he jumped overboard to get on the raft, “The raft we left on was the last thing aboard the ship for anyone to get on.  The Valencia was broken up and the two parts of her were ten to fifteen feet apart, the stern working toward the shore.  The foremast was standing, but there was no one in the rigging.  The only persons washed overboard that I saw were a woman and her child.  The seas were very heavy and knocked us down unless we had something to hold to.  There was only about fifteen feet of the hurricane deck left for us to stand on, and I should judge that there were fifty to seventy-five persons on this.” 

The raft was then boarded by anyone brave enough to leap from the ship into the churning ocean and climb aboard.  Peter Peterson, second officer on the Valencia described those moments well, “We had great difficulty in keeping the raft out of the whirlpool at the vessel’s side.  The water was washing over the smokestack of the vessel, and at times the raft was tossed in the air.  When the captain gave the word, I made a jump, and succeeded in grabbing a line to attach to the raft.  I was already weak from hunger and exposure, and it was all that I could do to hold on.  I finally succeeded in pulling myself aboard the raft.”

Walter Raymond, a messman on the Valencia remembered nearly drowning in his attempt.  “I made a jump for the raft, and it seemed to me I would never again reach the top of the water.  I had just sense enough left to not breathe and all the time my lungs kept paining until I thought they would break.  Everything got black to me.  This I know now, I was losing consciousness when, all of the sudden I popped up into the air, and, oh, what a relief it was.  I someway did not seem to realize my position.  When I did I looked for the raft and it was fully fifty feet from me.  I gave up then for the first time since the Valencia struck.  I was numb through and I never could have swum the distance.  I was lifted by a gigantic wave and fiercely hurled through the air.  I landed squarely on top of the boys on the raft and they grabbed me.”

The raft was packed with at least 20 men and set off about twenty minutes after the first.  It is unknown how many men boarded the raft in the hectic moments where they were jumping off the ship and piling on board.  It appears that at least one man was on the raft when it departed and disappeared when they hit the breakers.  It is possible others fell of and drowned as well.  What is known for sure is that 19 were on board after the breakers and later rescued.

Thomas Carrick, first assistant engineer recalled, “When we put off from the ship on the raft I called to my oilers in the rigging to come with us, but they refused.  All the forward part of the vessel was under water at this time.”  On the Valencia all the passengers crowded to the rail and wished them Godspeed and Thomas Carrick recalled the last words Captain Johnson said to him, “Goodbye Tom.  For God’s sake try to save your passengers and crew.”

Carrick remembered the awful first minutes on the raft, “We had a fearful struggle getting clear of the breakers.  We were about 300 yards from shore.  So many were on the raft that we all stood waist deep in the chilling water.  The breakers roared and crashed over us.  We worked our way seaward as the Queen came on.”

Passenger Cornelius Allison, on the Topeka Raft recalled losing his friend probably when they hit the breakers.  “I don’t know which was the worst experience – that on the ship or that on the raft.  Both were terrible.  One of the saddest things to me was the losing of my comrade Erickson.  We had been together many years and both lived in St. Paul.  Erickson and I were taking the trip up the coast on pleasure.  We were both to go out on the raft and he was with me when I got on board.  Where he went I do not know.  After we got through the breakers I looked around and he was not with me.”

Carrick continued, “The oars had previously been lashed to the raft, but were useless under water.  We cut them loose and two men were placed face to face, the oar placed between them, thus forming a human row-lock.  These two men were braced by others pushing against their backs and sitting on their feet.  I was on the stern of the over-freighted raft, attempting to steer.  Buffeted and tossed about by the unrelenting sea, we continued toward the Queen.  Hope was high, and everyone worked and shouted with might and main.  The Queen rapidly drew away from us and finally disappeared from view.  Most of the passengers were crushed with despair.  Some of us did our best to keep up the spirits of the down hearted.  Those not pulling an oar were becoming benumbed and chilled through with the intense cold and the washing of the sea.”

Rescue Ships Perspective

On board one of the ships, the Salvor was a Daily Colonist reporter who witnessed the events from the perspective of the ships.  In the January 28th edition of the paper he described how he was on the salvage steamer the Salvor, trailing behind the tugboat Czar and ahead of them and first ship to locate the Valencia was the Queen, a large ship, somewhat similar to the Valencia. The Queen spotted the Valencia at about 9:30am and stood by until the Czar and Salvor arrived.  Captain Cousins saw survivors on the hurricane deck and in the rigging, but the Queen, a large 300-foot vessel with a 21-foot draft, was unable to approach closer than a mile. The ocean bottom was uncharted in this area and the sea was too rough.  The Czar, a small ocean-going tug, made a run toward the wreck but started shipping water and withdrew.

On the Salvor the reporter wrote, “It was still raining hard and the shore was very indistinct, but it was not long before Capt. Ferris called out “There she is.”  Many eager eyes were strained to catch a glimpse of her, but only at times was she to be seen, as the breakers were continually dashing entirely over her.  A terrible sea was running and through the glasses the spray was seen to cover even the masts.  The Queen stood out from the shore and the Salvor went in closer, while the Czar was still closer.  From the Salvor all that was seen of the wreck was her two masts and her derrick. 

After having stood in as close to the wreck as possible with regard to her own safety the Czar turned out and reported to both the Queen and Salvor that there were signals flying but whether any person was in the rigging it was impossible to say.  The Czar made another trip to the Queen and back to the Salvor, and it was decided by those on the Salvor that it would be impossible to save anyone from the wreck from the water as to attempt to send in a boat would have undoubtedly resulted in the loss of a number of the rescuers.  It was practically understood that the Queen would stand by the wreck and the Salvor and Czar would make for Bamfield Creek and send a party in over the trail.”  It was reported later that the two ships departed at 10:15am, just a few minutes after the second raft left the Valencia. 

After the Salvor and the Czar departed the weather worsened and fog came in and the Queen could no longer see the Valencia. She was now two to three miles from the Valencia and had yet to launch any boats to go to the wreck.  At around 11am the Queen was steaming seaward abandoning the Valencia. She passed another steamer, the City of Topeka also owned by the Pacific Steamship Company and company officials on board ordered the Queen to return to Victoria and back to work as a cruise ship.  Frank Bunker, in an interview posted in the Victoria Daily Colonist on January 31st, 1906, learned of the conversation between the Topeka and the Queen. Captain Paterson of the Topeka asked the captain of the Queen if they had seen anything of the wreck. The Queen responded that she is in near shore, saw life aboard, people in the rigging and she is about three miles west of the big waterfall. Paterson then ordered the Queen to proceed to Victoria, and take up your passengers. The City of Topeka then cruised along the coast but in no time came within sight of the Valencia.

Agonizing Hours on the Second Raft

Carrick described the scene on the Valencia’s second raft after four agonizing hours, “Some of the men began blubbering and many were frothing at the mouth.  It seemed that many were losing their minds.  An incoherent shout from one of the passengers drew our attention and following his pointed finger we saw what afterwards proved to be the Topeka.”

Freight clerk Frank Lehn recalled the excitement at that moment. “How we did work at the oars; every man strained at them for his life.  The cold waves washing over us and the sleet beating on our heads was forgotten.  Nearer and nearer we came to her and we shouted with all our strength, but as the wind was against us we could not make ourselves heard.  The steamer was stopped and let drift with wind and current.  Suddenly she started and turned out to sea.   We almost gave up.  If she had gone away, we would have died right there.  But she came nearer us every moment.  We had one of the men standing in the centre waving a boat hook with a shirt on it.  At last their whistle blew as a token that they had seen us.  How we shouted for joy.  But by that time we could hardly move.  The cold went through us and the rain seemed to pierce our very marrow.  Finally, the steamer put out a boat, and when they at last made fast a rope and started to tow us to safety, I think I must have collapsed like everybody else on the raft.  That’s a rough sketch of the wreck of the steamer Valencia.”

Carrick also remembered how desperately close to death they were. “It seemed as though her arrival was a merciful messenger from God.  In a few minutes she was alongside, but some of the men lay inert and powerless to grasp lines cast from the Topeka.  Finally, all were hauled aboard and every attention was shown us by the rescue party.  We were rescued at 1:30 o’clock, having been in the water over four hours.  If the Topeka had not arrived when she did we would probably have been lost, all of us were rapidly succumbing to the intense cold.” 

The 19 men picked up by the second raft, which became known as the Topeka Raft were: passenger Cornelius Allison, first assistant engineer Tom Carrick, fireman William Doherty, baker Charles Fluhme, passenger George Harraden, passenger A.H. Hawkins, waiter Charles Hoddinott, third cook John Johnson, coal passer W.D. Johnson, first assistant freight clerk Frank Lehn, passenger Joseph McCafferty, waiter P.V. O’Brien, second officer Peter Peterson, fireman P. Poivner, messman Walter Raymond, fireman John Segalos, quartermaster Martin Tarpey, waiter John Walsh, and passenger James Willits.

After their rescue, John Walsh, Walter Raymond and P.V. O’Brien were interviewed for the January 27th Daily Colonist and revealed their thoughts on boarding the raft.  “In the first confusion more lives were lost than at any other single time.  The waves washed everyone from the deck who failed to cling to something substantial.  We went on the raft as a last hope and to our own surprise succeeded in reaching the ship.” Continued: 8. The Turret Raft

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 

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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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 ...
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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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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 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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