Newspaper Date July 30, 1989
Coins, Divers and Dusty Records Save
Mystery Ship From Anonymity:
The Lord Western Is Revealed
Lord Western Braved Seas Around
It is telling the Lord Western did not go down on her voyage
to Mecca. Nor did she quail at journeys to Bombay and across
the Indian Ocean to China. Instead, the three-masted bark,
fitted with square rigging and a figurehead carved in the
form of a man, sank in the Graveyard of the Pacific. More
specifically, the remains of the Lord Western descended
to the bottom of Sidney Inlet, near Estevan point on Vancouver
It is not known if sailors grasped
at the mahogany masts in an agonizing
wait for rescue, or if the captain
was a seaworthy skipper during the
wreck. The local newspapers do not
have eyewitness accounts of crashing
waves, piercing rocks or burning timbers.
This story is narrated by worm-eaten
timbers, coins, dedicated divers and
Find Wreck Remains
In July of 1957, divers discovered the remains of a large
ship. The mystery had begun! The Canadian Navy arrived on
the scene in 1959 with the minesweeper HMCS James Bay and
the naval auxiliary vessel the Laymore. They carried a team
from the RCN diving school. The hunt was on, and the men
suited up to dive.
Mystery Wreck Intrigues Navy
The Naval divers returned in 1960, this time with the minesweeper
and diver tender the HMCS Mirimichi. These descents to the
wreck resulted in the raising of an anchor, a windlass,
a bronze gudgeon, copper sheathing, rivets and a capstan.
Yet, there were still no clues as to the name of the ship.
Intrigued, the circle of researchers grew wider, and they
turned to numismatics. Numismatics? What did the study of
coins have to do with a Vancouver Island shipwreck?
It seems that a copper penny had
been placed under the main mast. It
was a superstition among the English
to place a coin on the ship during
construction. Would this be the key
to the origins of the “Mystery
Wreck”? The coin was sent to
the Smithsonian Institution for identification.
The results came back. It was just
such a penny, minted before 1859.
Next, the timbers of the hull were
examined and carbon-14 dated. These were not English trees!
They were most certainly not Vancouver Island trees! It
was teak! The speculation began anew. Perhaps the vessel
was built in Asia— India to be exact. Then there would
be a silver nail to indicate the shipbuilder. Could divers
find a single, lonely nail amongst the wreckage and 100
years of silt? There was no nail. It was back to the scientists
The information piled up, experts
contributed what they could, and records
were scoured: Lloyds of London; the
shipyards of Rangoon; the Greenwich
Maritime Museum. There was no trace
of such a vessel, with hulls made
of teak and carrying a cargo of Douglas
Fir logs, listed in the records they
consulted. They despaired of ever
finding the identity of their wreck.
Archaeologists Take On Search For Answers
Who better to take over the quest for shipwreck knowledge
than underwater archaeologists! In 1987 and 1988, the Underwater
Archaeology Society of British Columbia swam into the fray.
They began to put the pieces into place. Research was their
most powerful ally! They discovered that a ship was built
in Scotland with hardwoods from Southeast Asia and launched
March 5th, 1840. Trade with India was to be the occupation
of the two-decked vessel. After years of work, it was condemned
and repaired, and eventually moved to a Pacific run. It
reported for a cargo voyage to take pilings, timbers and
salmon from Sooke to San Fransisco. But it never completed
the sailing! Lloyd’s List said this vessel “was
fallen in with near Nootka Sound, December 4, waterlogged
and abandoned, crew saved.” This ship had wrecked
in 1853. It was called the Lord Western.
Coins and dusty books have saved
the “Sidney Inlet Mystery Wreck” from being
anything less than the regal Lord Western.
Issue: The USS Saranac