The Graveyard

The Graveyard      by Mike Creasy



If you’ve ever fished from Port Renfrew, you probably have seen the eager hikers walking stretches of the famous West Coast Trail that runs from Pt Renfrew up to Bamfield along some very rugged shoreline. ​​ There are even worse parts of coastline to the north - around Brooks Peninsula, for example, where you can almost feel the rocks reaching out to you – waiting to pull your boat closer to the white fangs of a thousand outstretched rocks. ​​ That’s on a nice day! ​​ 

 The stretch from Cape Beale to Port Renfrew is relatively benign by comparison, with high cliffs and rocky beaches dropping off quickly to 100 feet or more. ​​ So why is this particular area known as the Graveyard of the Pacific? ​​ 

 Around the turn of the century, sailing ships and underpowered steamers regularly plied the routes from San Francisco – the major terminus of US railways – to Victoria and Puget Sound. ​​ Ships would routinely stay well clear of the Oregon and Washington coastline, since they offered no easy shelter if weather should go bad. ​​ Out of sight of shore, navigation was done with sextant and patent log. ​​ Ocean currents had not yet been researched and catalogued as they are today, and even if the sextant observation was accurate, the perfect charts of today were not even yet a dream. ​​ This is the NOAA chart from 1895 – things are only generally in the right position.