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This Week in History

"Graveyard of the Pacific"

This story was initially published in 1999

On January 22, 1906, the S. S. Valencia wrecked off the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Two days of stormy weather made rescue impossible, and 126 passengers and crew died at sea. Shocked by the loss, the Canadian government built the West Coast Trail to guide shipwrecked sailors to nearby towns.

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
© Parks Canada

For at least 4300 years people have been living along the Pacific Rim. At one time, 23 Aboriginal groups lived along this coast. Overflowing with resources, the sea and the forest provided for all of their needs. European contact dramatically altered life along the coast and all but six of the Aboriginal groups disappeared. Eventually most remaining villages moved further inland.

Europeans came slowly to this isolated area. At first, whaling stations and hunting outposts were built. Later, fishing and forestry companies came to the coast. As most of the work was seasonal, few Europeans lived there permanently. Ocean storms and rocky reefs made getting to the Pacific Rim very dangerous. The S.S. Valencia was only one of more than 240 ships to sink along the Island's west coast, earning it the nickname "Graveyard of the Pacific."

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
© Parks Canada

After it was built, the West Coast Trail and the lighthouses along it helped to save many lives. But with improvements in navigation, it became less important and fell into disrepair. In the 1970s, the Canadian government began repairing the trail and adopted the surrounding area as a national park. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve includes three distinct areas: Long Beach, the Broken Group of Islands, and the West Coast Trail. Each area offers visitors unique features such as beaches, temperate rainforests and archeological sites. For seasoned hikers, the West Coast Trail is one of the toughest hikes in North America.

Last Updated: 2010-11-02 To the top Important Notices