The Pacific Coast
"Carte de la côte Nord Ouest de l'Amerique septentrionale depuis la Presqu'isle Aliaska jusqu'a l'entrée de Nootka d'apres les decouvertes des Russes en 1784 et de Portlok et Dixon en 17869 et 87" ca. 1788
Canada's Pacific Coast comprises the waters of the western seaboard from the Juan de Fuca Straight in the south, to Alaska in the north. Shipping for northern Canada follows a route through the Alaskan Panhandle.
The area is marked by deep waters with strong currents, rocky cliff faces and the narrow fjords created during the glacial retreat of the last ice age. In the south, these features can play havoc as tides rush through the straits around Vancouver Island, bringing ships disastrously close to the steep and rocky shore. In the north, the prevailing winds present a serious challenge as they bottleneck in the Lynn Canal and produce ferocious gales that can see ships deposited onto reefs. When the tide recedes, these ships are left stranded and damaged, and are often sunk when the water returns.
Large-scale shipping on the Pacific Coast was initially much more limited than on the Atlantic Coast, due to limitations in ship-building technology and a lack of commercial interest in the area. In the late 18th century there were less than two dozen seafaring ships in the region. After that time, the development of the sea otter fur trade and the quest to find the Northwest Passage saw a growth in interest and shipping. Passenger shipping increased considerably when the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-98 brought upwards of 100,000 people into the Yukon, often on ships that were pressed into service when they should have been scrapped.
The development of advanced navigational tools, such as global positioning systems, has meant that the number of shipwrecks on the Pacific Coast has declined dramatically, though strong currents and winds still pose a serious risk.
The Atlas of Canada -- British Columbia. Natural Resources Canada.
http://atlas.nrcan.gc.ca/site/english/dataservices/wall_maps/MCR0003.jpg/image_view (accessed September 30, 2005).
Graveyard of the Pacific: The Shipwrecks of Vancouver Island. Virtual Museum of Canada.
www.pacificshipwrecks.ca/english/hazards_geography.html (accessed September 30, 2005).
O'Keefe, Betty, and Ian Macdonald. The Final Voyage of the Princess Sophia. Toronto: Heritage House Publishing Company Ltd., 1998.