Sightline Daily, February 12, 2013
By Eric de Place
This post is part of the research project: Northwest Coal Exports
It was dark but it wasn’t stormy when the Salish Sea saw its first recorded sinking of a coal vessel. At 6:45 a.m. on November 21, 1886 the Barnard Castle, a freighter laden with 2,300 tons of Vancouver Island coal bound for San Francisco, struck the Race Rocks about 10 miles southwest of Victoria. The captain managed to beach the foundering ship in a shallow bay at nearby Bentinck Island. Workers were later able to remove much of the coal before abandoning the ship where it had lodged in the mud. It was eventually destroyed by storms.
The region’s second recorded sinking happened just five years later, on November 28, 1891 when the iron steamship San Pedro came to grief while carrying coal 4,000 tons of coal from Vancouver Island to San Francisco. In dead calm waters at about 8:30 p.m. the ship struck a submerged ledge near Trial Island just off Victoria. Rescue tugs arrived a few hours later and removed some of the coal before the vessel sank suddenly into shallow water. Much of the rest of the coal was later salvaged.