The following extracts taken from early Victoria, British Columbia (BC) newspapers are credited to Leona Taylor for her excellent work in indexing the papers. Full information can be found here: “Index of Historical Victoria Newspapers“, 2007-09.
Clayoquot, Jan 19 – When interviewed today, one of the crew of King David said: “We left Salinas Cruz, Mexico, in ballast on Oct 1 and went along fairly well until we got off the Vancouver Island coast, and then we struck a series of southerly and southwesterly hail and snow squalls. We finally drifted into Nootka on Dec 10, and in trying to beat out again struck Bajo Point. All the crew got ashore safely. The sailmaker, Donald McLeod, who is over 60 years of age, went insane when the vessel struck. After getting on the beach 2 men were despatched to find signs of habitation. Returning after 2 days search, they reported meeting a man, who informed them there would be no steamers up the coast till Mar 1. On hearing this, the mate started out with 6 of the crew for Cape Beale to get assistance, and nothing has since been heard of them. It is thought that they may have been picked up by Pass of Melfort. On Jan 14 Queen City hove in sight and picked us up. On the 15th the sailmaker, who had never rallied, died aboard Queen City and was buried at Quatsino.”
When asked about provisions, he said they had been taken off the wrecked vessel. They were very thankful to see Queen City looming up. One of the survivors aboard Queen City is still very ill. King David was a steel vessel, full rigged, built in Greenock, Scotland.
British ship King David, a steel vessel of 2,240T, Captain Davidson, owned by the Glasgow Shipping Co, was totally wrecked after driving ashore on Bajo Reef, off Nootka Sound, West Coast Vancouver Island, on Dec 13, and 7 men are missing – Chief Officer A Wallstron of Oxford, New Zealand, and 6 able seamen, who left the camp of the survivors 8 days after the wreck in one of the ships boats to seek assistance at Cape Beale, 100 miles away, although there was a settlement within 8 miles, at Friendly Cove, Nootka, and at Clayoquot, which could have been reached after 12 miles sailing through open water to Clayoquot Sound.
If the theory held by the survivors is correct – and it is possible, if not probably – the missing chief officer and his boats crew may have been picked up by the lost steel bark Pass of Melfort. The missing seamen left Nootka Sound on Dec 21 for Cape Beale, and Pass of Melfort was driven to destruction at Amphitrite Point on Dec 27.
King David left Salinas Cruz, Mexico, in ballast for Royal Roads on Sep 30 – 111 days ago. She was on the overdue list and quoted for re-insurance at 80%, and 74 days out – over a month longer than the ship Brodick Castle, now loading lumber at Chemainus, occupied in coming from Salinas Cruz – she drove ashore on Bajo Reef, a broken line of rock, partly submerged, hence its name Bajo, the Spanish for underneath or Sunken Reef in English.
After leaving the Mexican coast King David had moderate weather, though she made a slow passage, until when nearing Vancouver Island. There a series of southerly and southwesterly gales with hail and snow squalls were encountered, during which the vessel was driven to the northward by the prevailing winds. On Dec 10 she drifted into Nootka Sound, and when endeavoring to beat out to sea the steel ship brought up with a shock which shook her every plate, on the submerged rocks of Bajo Reef. For 3 miles Bajo Reef stretches seaward South of Bajo Point and 2 miles North of Maquinna Point, where, on a rocky cliff, the great whale totem and the weather-broken sewing machines and rusted rifles mark the grave of Chief Maquinna, at one time chief of the Nootkas.
When the ship struck the reef Captain Davidson ordered all hands to lower the boats, which were provisioned and the entire company reached shore in safety. Donald McLeod, the grizzled old sailmaker, a man 60 years of age, became insane during the excitement following the wreck of the stout steel ship and was with difficulty held down in the boats. It took 2 of the company of one of the boats to hold down the old man while the others used the oars. The entire company landed at Bajo Point, a rugged part of Nootka I, whose entire coast is stern and forbidding, with rocky cliffs, heavily wooded almost from the water line and with an almost impenetrable undergrowth, mostly small bushes. It is only possible to get from point to point in the vicinity at low water, although there are some Indian trails, which would be difficult for a stranger to find.
After making a camp on shore, provisions were secured from the wreck and it was fortunate for the survivors of King David that this was done ere the heavy seas pounded the great steel hull into a wreck, for the unfortunate men were doomed to spend 33 days on the inhospitable rocks, sheltered as best they could under the tarpaulins and what canvas the wreck had afforded. Captain Davidson made his crew as comfortable as possible, but there was scant shelter, and the shipwrecked men suffered many privations, chiefly from exposure to the wintry weather.
Two of the stranded seamen were sent by Captain Davidson to seek for some signs of habitation, and after 2 days search they returned and reported having met a man, seemingly a prospector, whose knowledge of the country had been as limited as their own, for he told them erroneously, that no Steamer would visit the coast until the beginning of Mar. Had the shipwrecked mariners known anything whatever of the coast on which they had been cast ashore, however, they would have known that not more than 8 miles away there was shelter in a row of Indian lodges on the shingle beach at Friendly Cove, the village of the remnant of the Nootkas, with the well stocked general store of Stockham & Dawley, capable of supplying the wants of 100 men, much less 25 men. They would also have known that, after sailing through but 12 miles of exposed and open water, a boat could reach Clayoquot Sound, which held a large settlement on its sandy spit, with stores, hotels, sawmills, etc, and a telegraph line over which their predicament could have been made known.
Ignorant that assistance was obtainable so close, Captain Davidson sent his chief officer, A Wallstron, with 6 men in a ships boat to Cape Beale. It is ever the way of the seaman to send to the nearest lighthouse, and the new lighthouse at Lennard I was presumably not within his knowledge. He knew there was a light at Cape Beale and sent the boats crew thither on Dec 21, 8 days after the wreck occurred, in the hope of securing assistance. The boat and her human cargo has not been heard of since. They never reached Cape Beale, and all settlements on the West Coast between Nootka and Cape Beale have been telegraphed to, without news of the missing men being received. At Clayoquot some of the survivors stated to an interviewer that Wallstron and his crew were probably picked up by the ill-fated Pass of Melfort, which at the time was in the vicinity of their course to Cape Beale, and afterwards, drove to destruction near Amphitrite Point.
On her last trip to Quatsino and Cape Scott, Queen City, must have passed the wrecked seamen without having learned of their misfortune, but when bound to the westward on her long trip, on which she left Victoria on Jan 10, she saw the signals of the shipwrecked men at Bajo Point on Jan 15, and sent boats ashore to pick them up. The insane sailmaker was in a bad way, and others of the crew were ill, one dangerously. The men had all suffered, though they still had provisions, having taken a sufficient supply from the wreck to feed them during their stay on the rocks. Although Captain Townsend of Queen City and his officers and crew did all possible for the wrecked men, the old sailmaker did not rally. He died on board Queen City when she was leaving Kyuquot on the following day. The body was carried to Quatsino where the burial took place at Winter Harbour’s little cemetery on Tues last.
The good food received on board Queen City soon had its effect in reviving most of the unfortunates, but one man is still very ill. The 16 are expected to reach Victoria where those needing medical attention will be at once conveyed to the Marine hospital on Queen City tonight, if the Steamer is not delayed too long at the whaling station of the Pacific Steam Whaling Co, at Sechart where she is to load a full cargo of whale oil and fertilizer.
The scene of the wreck of King David is a notoriously bad one. Bajo Reef stretches 3 miles to seaward. It is a series of submerged rocks on which the sea breaks in heavy weather. Between the dangers there is deep water in places, deceptive, with its great patches of kelp. Some years ago the sealing Schooner Oscar & Hattie, with Captain W Delouchrey on board was caught there and almost driven ashore when her master sailed the vessel between the sunken rocks for although the kelp was so thick in places as to almost stop the progress of the Schooner, there was sufficient water. The reef lies 8 miles to the westward of Nootka Sound and 3 miles southward of Bajo Point, and 2 miles North of Maquinna Point. It has never been surveyed. The reef was named Bajo Reef, which in English means “underneath”, or in other words, Sunken reef, by Captain Alexandro Malespina, a Spanish naval officer, while lying at Nootka with his vessels, in Aug 1791. Extension Reef lies off Bajo Reef, the whole vicinity being exceedingly dangerous to shipping.
Nothing was reported from West Coast ports by correspondents of the Colonist to indicate the condition of the ship, other than the statement that she drove ashore and is a total loss, Captain Davidson wired “Have left ship on Bajo Reef. Coming on Queen City”. To what position the vessel was is unknown, although it is stated by all who are familiar with the spot that any vessel which drove on Bajo Reef would not remain long intact with the pounding seas which break over that place in the winter months, and which seem to have been very frequent during Dec. The salvage Steamer Salvor of the British Columbia Salvage Co was kept with steam up from the time the news was received yesterday and if Captain Townsend wires from Alberni early this morning that there is any chance of salvage or of saving those missing Steamer will leave without delay for the scene of the wreck… [Colonist, 1906-01-20]
(. . . to be continued in Lighthouse History – 25)