Raincoast Chronicles

Latest issue, West Coast Wrecks and Other Maritime Tales, doesn't disappoint

Looking into the bow of the Cape Horn windjammer (three masted ship) Melanope (launched Liverpool, 1876) at Royston, B.C.

Since 1972, Raincoast Chronicles has been providing coastal British Columbians with enthralling stories of the West coast’s vivid history and folklore. The latest issue West Coast Wrecks & Other Maritime Tales, by Rick James, does not disappoint.

Rick James, writer, maritime historian, photographer, and field archaeologist, puts his 20 years of research into shipwrecks to good use, covering B.C.’s coastal shipping disasters from 1869-1947. He also includes a biography of Fred Rogers, “B.C.’s diver Emeritus,” and the history of the Easthope marine engine to round out this venture into B.C.’s history of shipping and wrecks.

Each story contained within this slim volume’s pages is littered with details, news clippings and accounts of each vessel’s life and fate. In the hands of some authors, this much information could mean a dry and difficult-to-read tale, but James pulls the reader through the facts of each case with a free and easy narrative that will keep history buffs and laymen alike turning the page.

James first encountered the mystery of sunken ships at the Comox Logging and Railway Company’s old hulk breakwater at Royston. The 15 ruined ships scuttled there piqued James’ interest and started his search for their histories, leading his career documenting them.

Many shipwreck stories have crossed James’ desk, but one of the few that has remained unresolved for James is the tale of the Geo. S. Wright, the boat featured on the cover of West Coast Wrecks. The American scooner-rigged steamship disappeared off of Cape Caution in January of 1873 with 21 officers and crew, and 11 or 12 passengers. Parts of the vessel washed ashore for months and there were no signs of survivors. In the four years that followed, rumours spread that the natives had murdered or enslaved survivors of the Geo. S. Wright and eventually ended with a Canadian warship levelling a native village.

That’s just a taste of the intrigue and mystery you’ll get with West Coast Wrecks. So consider picking up this jaunt through B.C.’s nautical history and find out what lies beneath the turbulent blue-green waters of our beautiful coast. M

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