Alpha Shipwreck

The Alpha was an iron screw steamer built by Barkley, Cure, and Co. of Glascow in 1863 for Samuel Cunard, the principal of the Cunard Steamship Company.  She had three masts and was bark-rigged.  Her iron plates were fastened together with rivets.  She had four watertight bulkheads and was powered by compound steam engine manufactured by J & G Thomson.

The Alpha departed Victoria at 5:00 AM on December 15, 1900 bound for Union Bay to load coal for her trip to Japan.  The bearings overheated twice and the Alpha nearly drifted ashore in Active Pass.

By noon a strong southeast gale was lashing the Strait of Georgia.  The Alpha lumbered on, passing the Ballenas Islands at 4:15 PM.  After clearing the Ballenas group, the Alpha charted a new course for Yellow Rock (Chrome Island) at the entrance to Baynes Sound.

It was shortly after this that both the Chief Officer and Second Mate implored the Captain to turn the ship around and weather out the storm until the morning when they could see something and navigate safely.  The Captain stated he wanted to run through the Baynes Sound narrows and anchor in smooth water.

Yellow Rock lighhouse was sighted at 6:32 PM.  When the captain found he was too near the rock he ordered the helm hard to the starboard but to no avail.  The seas coming from the southeast had rendered the helm useless.

According to one of the survivors – an anonymous sailor – the vessel drove on at a speed of about eight knots and struck the rocks to the port side of the light with a tremendous crash at 6:45 PM. mountainous seas swept the decks from taffrail to the forecastlehead, wrenching away boats, combing, and other gear.

For more information on the Gulf Streams and other shipwrecks on the Sunshine Coast, go to: UASBC.Com. You can order the publication Historic Shipwrecks of the of the Sunshine Coast from the Underwater Archaeological Society of British Columbia publications.

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