Newspaper date March 25, 1972
Vanlene Travels Without Navigation
Equipment Across Pacific, Wrecks on Vancouver Island
Lo Speaks of the Wreck
Captain Lo Chung Hung of the freighter Vanlene has spoken
freely since the grounding of his ship March 14, 1972 on
Austin Island in Barkley Sound. Lo claims that “all
our navigation aids had broken down” and that “I
requested of the ship’s owner that it be fixed before
we left Japan, but this was the option of the owner.”
Registered in Panama, the 8354-ton vessel was shipping cargo
from Japan to North America with a crew of 38.
am very unhappy.” -Lo
“I am very unhappy about it
all,” continued Lo. It seems
that the young captain, at 29 years
of age, had made his way from Nagoya
by heading due east for California
with only two magnetic compasses,
compass and four repeaters. A
preliminary enquiry into the wreck
found that the radar, radio direction
finder, deep sea leader, taffrail
log and mechanical log were not
in working order.
Captain to Blame?
Was Lo a Master Captain of great skill and merit for guiding
the Vanlene so far with so little guidance, or a shamed
man for running aground? Is the captain ultimately to blame
for shipwrecks, regardless of the cause? Shipwreck Times
meteorological sources say a thick fog reduced vision along
Vancouver Island’s west coast at the time the Vanlene
neared Barkley Sound. If a deceptive spring fog had not
contributed to the navigational confusion, would the Vanlene
have gone down, or made safe passage to its port of call?
But land seemed
to sneak up on the Vanlene’s
were sighted on the starboard
side! Breakers to port! They had run
out of sea room, and the vessel ground
to a halt on the rocks, so gently
that the chief engineer did not realise
they had wrecked until the engines
were shut down.
Thought They Were Stranded in Washington State
Half an hour passed before Lo put
out the SOS call. He believed their
position to be somewhere on the Washington
State coast. “The ship’s
position was precarious, listing heavily
to starboard with the bow
on the rocks and the stern
awash. The sea was choppy and a storm
was blowing up” Lo told journalists.
When rescuers finally determined the
true location of the wreck, the Vancouver
Neva Straits arrived at the scene,
heaving a line to the distressed freighter
to evacuate the crew. The Bamfield
lifeboat also played a role in the
Lo explained that the engine room
quickly flooded, making the pumping equipment unavailable.
“There is nothing you can do when the engine room
of a ship floods. Nothing but abandon the ship. I had to
give this order for the safety of my crew.”
The Vanlene’s holds contained
Dodge Colts, 300 of them. The key
loss, however, was the damage caused
by 53,000 gallons of bunker fuel oil,
which began leaking from the punctured
and into the surrounding marine environment.
Boats stood by soon after the wreck
in preparation for oil spill clean-up,
armed with 2,700 feet of log booms,
a 600-foot deep sea boom, peat moss,
and specialised spill equipment such
Captain Lo, with 13 years of sea-going
experience and 4 years as a captain, took the blame for
the incident. In spite of the technical problems aboard
the Vanlene, “I am still at fault,” he said.
It is a sad day when a captain must leave behind his vessel
and take responsibility for its loss as he watches it descend
below the waves, cargo and all.