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Shipwreck Times

Newspaper date April 30, 1943

Russian Steamship Runs Aground on Vancouver Island in Wartime Blackout:

Crew Retrieved by Royal Canadian Navy

Uzbekistan: Full Steam Ahead Onto Coastal Reef
The Russian vessel Uzbekistan has steamed straight onto the Vancouver Island shore! Our sources, who gave us this wartime scoop, said that after mistakenly changing course in the late hours of April 1st 1943, the freighter ran aground at Darling Creek, just 4 kilometres south of the Pachena Point Light.

Sea-farers Undaunted
Shock filled the captain and crew as they felt the grind of a reef under the hull instead of open ocean. When the light of day broke, all 50 men and women on board made their way to land through low tide waters. But these sturdy seafarers were undaunted by their experience—their important mission had been to carry materials for the Second World War effort from the west coast of North America all the way to Vladivostok, Russia. The 2569 ton vessel, built in St. Nazaire France in 1937, was plying the seas between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington when she overran her course and met her fate.

Secret Sources Say Weather Not to Blame
Could it be that gales had pushed the Uzbekistan into the rocks? Or was some other force at work? Although the vessel was steaming well off its plotted course, our secret sources say weather was not to blame. “We’ve been under a black-out here on the west island, and that includes the lighthouses,” said one informant. “Ever since that Japanese submarine surfaced off Estevan Point and shells landed on the beach – well, we’ve been exercising caution and taking measures to protect the coast. That freighter didn’t have a chance without the guidance of those coastal light stations.”

Light Tender Estevan First on the Scene
The crewmembers of the Russian wreck were not the only ones staring into the face of mortal danger. We have been told here at the Shipwreck Times that the Estevan was the first on the scene of the accident. The tiny lighthouse tender, hearing the mighty distress guns and noting that the Uzbekistan was fully equipped with weaponry for her wartime voyage, turned over the rescue mission to the Royal Canadian Navy.

Navy Moves in For Crew Rescue
As a matter of national security, the details of the Uzbekistan wreck have not been released to the public, until now. The brave naval forces sent a minesweeper to the location, and the Canadian Army was posted to watch over the vessel. The R.C. N. picked up the wreck's survivors at Bamfield, after a rough hike along the coastal rescue trail.

Captain P. Ovchinnikoff has said little of the incident, but we do know that a number of documents have been recovered from the freighter's records, including a calendar and some unusual diagrams, as well as some ship’s cutlery.

Freighter Rolls in Storm: Looters Collect Remains
Rescue and salvage vessels stood by helplessly as the shoal waters of Darling Creek forced the freighter onto the rocks where the ocean overcame her. The Uzbekistan flooded, and a fierce storm moved in to roll the vessel.

A looter, who has requested anonymity, said, “Them waters was bad news for the skipper of that boat, but good for me! As soon as she started breaking up, I knew there was no hope of salvaging the whole thing, but there was lots of smaller bits for me to pick up! You can still see her boilers and some engine parts wedged on the beech at low tide there. Nothing you could haul in to sell, but a good reminder of that night she ran aground.”

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