After 20 years as a transport ship, SS Valencia was sold and reclassified as a second-class passenger steamer. In 1906, Valencia was pressed into service as another ship need to go undergo repairs. On January 20, the small ship began a long journey from San Francisco to Seattle with 9 officers, 56 crew and at least 108 passengers. After travelling 320 kilometres, the ship passed Cape Mendocino on January 21. The weather went from excellent to terrible and strong winds, stormy weather and poor visibility engulfed the ship.
Unable to use the stars for navigation, Captain Johnson relied on dead reckoning to identify their position. However, he did not consider the strong northerly current. Blinded by the weather and battered with strong winds and currents, the captain turned Valencia toward the coast. Just before midnight on January 22, the iron hull of the Valencia collided with an uncharted reef near Pachena Point on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. The bow of the vessel was pointed out to the open ocean and the stern was less than 100 yards from the shoreline that had a 100-foot-high cliff.
The story of how those aboard perished and those who survived is a harrowing tale. You can learn more about this shipwreck at the Washington State History Link website.
SS Valencia. VMM Item Number: LM2000.1000.1327
The sinking of Valencia and loss of lives forced the government of Canada to create the Dominion Lifesaving Trail in 1907 and the Pachena Point Lighthouse in 1908. It took three years to complete the 75-kilometre trail from Pachena Bay to Port Renfrew. For every eight kilometers, the Government built emergency shelters. Each shelter was equipped with a telegraph and instructions with multiple languages, provisions and directions on how to navigate the trail.
With the advancement of radar equipment, the wireless radio and more detailed charts, the area known today as the West Coast Trail is more commonly enjoyed by recreational hikers.