180 years ago today, the Beaver was launched into the Thames in London and then set off on a seven-month journey via Cape Horn to arrive at Fort Vancouver, on the Columbia River.

Built for the Hudson Bay Company, she worked as a floating fur-trade post for almost two decades before being chartered by the Royal Navy for use as a survey vessel, and then sold to be used as a towboat in 1874.

On the night of July 25, 1888, she was wrecked on her way from Vancouver to pick up a load of logs at Thurlow Island. Jim Delgado states in his book, The Beaver: First Steamship on the West Coast:

“Rumours that captain and crew were intoxicated were never confirmed, despite the fact that the entire group had just left the bar at the Sunnyside Hotel before sailing, and after the wreck hiked back to the hotel to have another drink. Rather, strong inshore currents sweeping along the point, as well as Captain Marchant’s close-in course, were the principal causes of the wreck.”

It became a popular spot for people to come and visit, have picnics at, paint and take part in their own ‘salvage’ hunts which included removing items such as Captain Marchant’s clay pipe, fittings, equipment and timber.

This auction mallet presented to The Legislative Assembly of British Columbia in 1898 from our collection is made out of timber from the wreck. We have a number of other such items, including the large boiler which sits outside the Museum next to the Ben Franklin.

Images & Artifacts: Vancouver Maritime Museum Archives and Collection

With thanks to James Delgado, The Beaver: First Steamship on the West Coast, 1993