S.S. Capilano Shipwreck
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Capilano Shipwreck provincial heritage site consists of the remains of the S.S. Capilano, which foundered in the northern Strait of Georgia on October 1, 1915. Built in 1891, the Capilano was a small steel coastal freight and passenger steamship (36.5 meters in length and 6.76 meters in breadth, 157 registered tons) in the service of the Union Steamship Company. The wreck lies in 37 meters of water on the south side of Grant Reefs, located between Savary and Harwood Islands in the Strait of Georgia, which separates Vancouver Island from the mainland of British Columbia.
The Capilano is valued as an excellent example of an early coastal passenger and freight steamer. The significance of the Capilano is reflected in the role that it played in the development of a reliable water transportation network for British Columbia coastal waters. As part of the Union Steamship Company, founded in November 1889, the Capilano was one of three steel steamers built in Scotland in 1891-92 to meet the increasing demand for cargo and passenger transport from Vancouver to the growing number of up-coast settlements and industries.
The Capilano is also recognized for the significant contribution it made to the province's fishing and construction industries in the 1890s. In 1894, the Capilano was chartered to the New England Fish Company and participated in the development of British Columbia's halibut industry. In the mid-1890s, the Capilano transported stone from quarries on Nelson Island and elsewhere to Victoria, to be used in the construction of the new provincial Legislature buildings.
When word reached the outside world of rich gold strikes in the Klondike in 1897, the Capilano provided an important link to the Yukon by transporting men and supplies to Dyea and Skagway, Alaska. On July 22, 1897, the S.S. Capilano, with a full load of passengers, cattle and horses aboard, became the first steamer from Vancouver to take part in the Klondike gold rush. After 1900, the Union Steamship Company reassigned the vessel to make scheduled runs to northern destinations, along with cannery and freighting work.
The Capilano is further valued as one of the best wreck dives on the British Columbia coast. Significant value rests in the fact that it remained relatively intact and undisturbed from the time of its loss in 1915 up until its discovery in 1973. The steel hull of the vessel, along with all its machinery and rigging gear, remain upright on flat sand/shell bottom five miles off Harwood Island.
Covered with plumose anemones, and home to large lingcod and yellow eye rockfish, the wreck of the Capilano is also valued for the profusion of sea life in and on it.
Source: Province of British Columbia, Heritage Branch files
The character-defining elements of the Capilano Shipwreck include:
- The location of the wreck off Harwood Island in the Strait of Georgia
- Identification of the wreck as a Union Steamship Company coastal steamer
- The intact quality and archaeological integrity of the hull with all its associated machinery and rigging
- The use of the wreck as a dive site
- The connection between the wreck and the sea life which it sustains, such as the plumose anemones covering the hull, and the lingcod and rockfish which live in it
Province of British Columbia
Heritage Conservation Act, s.9, s.13(1)(a)
Provincial Heritage Site (Designated)
1915/01/01 to 1915/01/01
1973/01/01 to 1973/01/01
1900/01/01 to 1915/01/01
1894/01/01 to 1894/01/01
1897/01/01 to 1897/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Extraction and Production
- Developing Economies
- Communications and Transportation
Function - Category and Type
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Province of British Columbia, Heritage Branch files
Cross-Reference to Collection