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LOOK BACK: The wreck of the freighter ship Vanlene

Freighter ship was carrying 300 cars when it was grounded in Barkley Sound

On the evening of March 14, 1972 the freighter Vanlene, bound for Vancouver from Japan, ran aground at the entrance to the Barkley Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The vessel was carrying 300 Dodge Colts from Japan, bound for Vancouver. A lack of working navigational equipment, combined with the thick fog surrounding Vancouver Island, meant the vessel was unknowingly steered into the Barkley Sound instead of the Juan de Fuca Strait.

The Vanlene, as seen in this photo from the Alberni Valley Museum, was grounded on rocks off Austin Island, at the southwestern end of the Broken Group Islands in Barkley Sound.

The entire 38-man crew was rescued and transported to Port Alberni.

After the crew was evacuated, salvage efforts for the stranded cargo of Japanese cars began. Only 131 cars could be saved by helicopter, and the ship was abandoned except for scavengers who attempted to salvage treasure from the vessel.

Over the next few years, the ship broke apart and sank entirely. The Valene still remains a popular spot for divers to this day.

About the Author: Alberni Valley News Staff

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