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A LOOK BACK: The schooner ‘City of Alberni’

Travel back in time with the Alberni Valley Museum’s photographic archives
In this photo, circa 1939, longshoremen work to load large slats of lumber onto the “City of Alberni” schooner along the Port Alberni waterfront. This photo is one of 24,000 contained in the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives at (PHOTO PN12683 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)

The Alberni Valley Museum’s online archives are full of historical photos of the different types of ships and vessels that have plied the waters of the Alberni Inlet since settlers first brought their ships up from the west coast of Vancouver Island.

In this photo, longshoremen load large slats of lumber onto the deck of the City of Alberni schooner, circa 1939.

The City of Alberni, according to the Vancouver Maritime Museum, “was a 1,600-ton [1452 metric tonnes], five-masted topmast schooner built by the George F. Matthews boatyard in Hoquiam, Washington, in 1920.” The schooner was 241 feet (73 metres) with mast heights of 170 feet (52 m).

The City of Alberni was originally named Vigilant by the E.K. Wood Lumber Co., the first of three owners. The Vancouver Maritime Museum has the ship being renamed to City of Alberni in 1940 after it was sold to the Canadian Transport Company (the third and last owner).

The ship’s final voyage was in November 1942, an unsuccessful attempt to transport lumber to South Africa. The ship was unable to make it around Cape Horn and was eventually condemned.

A couple of interesting facts:

• The City of Alberni was the last foreign-going deep-sea commercial sailing vessel to sail under the Canadian flag.

• In 1977 the federal government honoured five-masted schooners like the City of Alberni with a commemorative 12-cent stamp featuring Capt. Joseph-Elzéar Bernier with a sailing ship in the background.

There are 24,000 photos in the online archives, found at

RELATED: A LOOK BACK: Longshoremen at Port Alberni’s waterfront

RELATED: A LOOK BACK: Tall ships on the Port Alberni waterfront

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Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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