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Tales of Hope and Courage

Shipwreck Times

Newspaper date November 30, 1915

Last of the Windjammers Goes Down:

Valliant Rescue Attempt Quashed by the Mighty Sea

Graveyard of the Pacific Claims Another Victim!
The Graveyard of the Pacific has claimed another victim! On November 25, 1915 pitiless waves pummeled the Carelmapu. The three-masted ship struggled nobly, until her back broke off Gowland Rock, Schooner Cove, on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Captain Fernando Desolmes had guided the ship from Valparaiso, Chile, to the Strait of Juan de Fuca in ballast. They were uncertain of the ship’s position as they approached the Vancouver Island coast in darkness and rain. The bow lookout cried out that land was near! The Carelmapu was just offshore! They drifted closer and closer to the breakers as dangerous weather approached.

Captain Desolmes Takes Action
The captain thought fast. The only tools at his disposal were the sails, which wagged useless from the yardarms after shredding to tatters in the high winds. But wait! There were still the anchors! The order was given, and both anchors were dropped, catching on the ocean floor. They strained against the fury of the ocean to hold the ship away from the reefs lining the shore.

Princess Maquinna Arrives for Rescue Attempt
The 24 souls on board the Carelmapu flew the distress flags high atop the masts and sent up rockets, hoping against hope for rescue. Winds lashed at the rigging, and the vessel dragged towards the shore. The storm could only spell her doom— was all hope lost? But what was that approaching through the squall? It was the Princess Maquinna, Captained by Edward Gillam!

200 yards were all that stood between the CPR steamer Maquinna and the Carelmapu as the brave seamen pulled in close for the rescue, risking themselves and their passengers. Captain Gillam hove a line towards the distressed vessel and her crew. It missed the mark. Again, the rescuers fired a thick hawser, what could prove a life-line, to the Carelmapu, but this plan was not in the cards. Gillam cried out to Desolmes. “Launch a boat and we’ll stand by to pick it up.”

Perilous Escape Foiled
Two lifeboats hung from their davits off the stern. The captain and his crew crowded around. The first group of men piled in and swung off, suspended over the waves. Calamity! The seaman working the ropes lost his grip! Suddenly, all aboard went tumbling downwards, to be gobbled up by the voracious waves. Another boat struggled to shove off, and was making its way to the Maquinna. Their perilous escape was foiled. Waves closed in over the boat, choking off life with a salty wail.

The Carelmapu convulsed in the relentless seas of a southeastern gale, then disappeared over a reef. There was no sign of life amid the wreckage, and the Princess Maquinna headed for shelter. The Government wireless relayed the despair-filled message from a coastal radio post: “She went by the board.”

Survivors Make the Beach, Meet Ship’s Dog
That storm was the death of the crew, almost to a man. But not quite. Captain Desolmes, still lashed to the Carelmapu as his men attempted escape, cut the ties that were keeping him from being washed overboard. All the time thinking that his end was near, he struggled on as the waves played with his cold, tired body, sometimes dropping him to the bottom, sometimes whipping him through the waters. Utterly spent, he finally made the beach, where, miracle of miracles, he discovered other survivors! The ship-owner’s son and two sailors! As they warmed themselves with a fire, another crewmember staggered into their midst. Even the ship’s dog struggled to shore. They had won back their lives from the sea!

The wind-powered “windjammer” ships saw their last with the wreck of the Carelmapu. But a mighty wreck it was.

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