Ship Safety

Prince Robert overtaking another steam ship at the First Narrows. VMM Item Number: 2000.1001.564

What to be Aware of

When traveling by water it is important to have a safety plan and emergency supplies. It’s important to be aware of animals, floating objects, reefs, rocks, and more. Even with the best intentions accidents and shipwrecks may still occur. 


It may be critical to observe how the tides and currents are moving, as well as to watch for floating objects that may sweep a vessel aside or even turn it over. A falling tide can strand a boat quickly, and a floating log could damage a vessel’s hull. 


Depending on where a ship is travelling other water transportation vessels could be nearby. From canoes and kayaks to huge tankers and cruise ships, the use of today’s radios, radar, and satellite navigation can help passing boats to communicate with each other.

Distress Calls

The Canadian Coast Guard monitors VHF Channel 16 and recommends the following guidelines for life-threatening situations only. 

Repeat “Mayday” three times before stating the following: 

  1. Name of your vessel 
  1. Your position 
  1. The nature of your distress 
  1. Your radio call sign 
  1. The number of persons on board 
  1. The assistance you need

Learn more about these instructions and other boat safety information by visiting the Transport Canada website.

Do shipwrecks affect marine life?

There are numerous times when a shipwreck can be detrimental to a marine habitat. When a shipwrecks and sinks, everything aboard it often goes down as well. This can include radioactive substances, plastic and human waste, fuel, oil, mercury, and other toxic pollutants. The material of a ship may also create and impose harmful effects on the ocean’s ecosystems. For example, a steel hull will corrode and release into the ocean.  


In some instances, sunken ships can serve as important habitats for marine life. Over time different organisms, such as plants and corals grow on a vessel’s surface. The wreck becomes an artificial reef providing shelter and protection of fish and crustaceans from predators.  


The Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia is a Vancouver non-profit that aims to create sustainable artificial reefs and enhanced marine environments. Visit the Artificial Reef Society website to learn more about the nine artificial reefs that can be explored in British Columbia.

The video below gives a step-by-step demonstration on successfully firing a lyle gun.

Designed by Langara Design Formation students Casey Castaneda, Tori Clarke, Ram Dhoot and Rupert Jasper in collaboration with the VMM curatorial team