One of our more favoured dive sites is near Gowlland Harbour next to a place we like to call ‘Lone Tree Island.’ In a depth of about 30 metres lies the wreck of the Achates. She was a hundred foot long wooden steam tug built in Vancouver in 1908. Many vessels like the Achates spent their careers along the B.C. coast towing log booms, delivering barges, or servicing canneries. Her one claim to fame may be the rescue of the crew from the Shamrock which ran aground near Vivian Island in 1926. The Shamrock was a similar steam tug to the Achates which was caught late at night in nasty fog before she struck rock and began to sink. All nine of her crew were rescued the next day by the Achates.
The Achates was to meet her own fate just 4 years later when in June 1930, with log boom in tow, she settled in for the night behind Steep Island just 50 metres from Lone Tree. All the crew except the night watchman were tucked up for the night. At around 2300 hours the night watchman left the engine room briefly and when he returned he found the engine room engulfed in flames. He called all hands to the pumps but all attempts to save the Achates failed. Original reports indicated that she sank in ‘eleven fathoms’ of water. There is a bluff near the site which the Achates may have slipped over explaining why today she sits further down in 30 metres and lies upside down.
Despite a decision at the time to declare the Achates a total loss with no effort to be made at salvaging her, a group of salvage divers included Phil Nuytten made several attempts to find her and in the spring of 1963 successfully located the Achates. They spent several days with a salvage barge and recovered 18,000 pounds of brass and cast iron. Today the wreck is home to a host of critters including tube worms, anemones, Lingcod, rockfish, cabezon and corals making for excellent wreck diving. The local population of seals and sea lions also tend to visit from time to time.
During one of our dives on the Achates we found this oil lamp globe on the wreck. Now we’re wondering, could it have been the cause of the fire? HMMMM……………………..