Thetis Island

Local heritage shipwreck gets fresh marker

From BC Local News

A century to the day after running aground and sinking just north of Thetis Island, one of B.C.’s most significant shipwrecks received a ‘re-plaquing’ March 4.

In 1911, the Robert Kerr, a 190-ft. barque first launched in 1866 by the Hudson’s Bay Co., was running coal for the Canadian Pacific Railway, which had converted the sailing vessel to a barge in 1888.

Heavily laden and running behind a towboat on March 4, 1911, the ship struck a reef and was abandoned once much of the coal was removed.

Last Friday’s underwater installation — replacing a plaque originally placed in the early 1980s, — will be conducted by the Underwater Archaeological Society of B.C.

Among the handful of divers taking part is David Hill-Turner, Nanaimo Museum curator and president of the UASBC, who said the Robert Kerr would have been a familiar sight in Departure Bay during its coal-hauling days, taking payloads from the Wellington mine and later bearing coal from the Extension mine out of Ladysmith Harbour.

“There was a fleet of these things travelling to and from Vancouver,” said Hill-Turner, adding that of the hundreds of wrecks in the waters around Vancouver Island, the Robert Kerr is one of just seven recognized under B.C.’s Heritage Conservation Act.

It is also one of the most spectacular and most intact, said Peter Luckham, a Thetis Island-based dive master and guide who regularly visits the site.