The Keel of HMS Amphion

by Robert Hanna and John MacFarlane 2017

HMS Amphion Monument

The Commemoration Plaque (Photo from the Robert Hanna collection.)

In Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park there is an odd marine relic which causes puzzlement when people see it. The commemorative plaque tells a bit of the story.

Crumpled Iron Has A History

On November 6, 1889, Lord Stanley, Governor General of Canada, embarked for Vancouver following a visit to Victoria. H.M.S. Amphion carried the Vice–Regal party and while travelling in fog, struck a sunken reef off Killett Bluff, Henry Island. The ship was extremely damaged, but returned safely to Esquimalt. The bilge keel or rolling chock was crumpled like a concertina as exhibited here.

Lord Stanley is better known to Canadians as the original donor of the Stanley Cup. Curiously there is a typographical error in the spelling of Kellett Bluff.

Captain E. Gray Hulton RN, was in command and no pilot was embarked. There was a very dense fog over all of the Strait. Just past Plumper Pass Light in Haro Strait, hidden in the fog, was Kellet Bluff where rocks lay underwater extending out from the shore. When the ship struck them both the inner and outer hulls were pierced causing water to flow into the ship, flooding four compartments. She came to anchor in Constance Cove and was drydocked in Esquimalt. Lord Stanley was driven to the Driard Hotel in Victoria.

In spite of heavy pumping the ship developed a 22° list to starboard. She entered the dry dock the next day and repairs were undertaken. The crumpled bilge keel was recovered and eventually found its way to Beacon Hill Park.

HMS Amphion Keel

The Crumpled Iron Keel of HMS Amphion (Photo from the Robert Hanna collection.)

The opening of the drydock in The Royal Navy’s Dockyard in Esquimalt marked the opportunity to carry out ship repairs locally. But the Dockyard was poorly equipped boasting only a lathe, a drilling machine and a casting furnace. There was no heavy lifting gear so all engine repairs had to be completed in situ. All boiler replacements were still carried out in San Francisco or back in the UK. Smaller engine work was carried out in Victoria at the Victoria Machinery Depot.

Normally such major work on a warship would have been done back in the UK, but this job set a new precedent when the decision was made to have permanent repairs done by the Victoria Machinery Dept. Thirty-five plates were removed to repair the punctures to the inner and outer hulls.

HMS Amphion Keel

The Crumpled Iron Keel of HMS Amphion (Photo from the Robert Hanna collection.)

HMS Amphion

HMS Amphion in Esquimalt Harbour about 1900. (Photo CVA 371–2046 from the City of Vancouver Archives .)

HMS Amphion, was a second class cruiser of the Leander class, built at Pembroke Dockyard in 1883. She was 91m x 14m x 6.3m (300’ x 46’ x 20.6’) Steel hulled 3,750 tons displacement. Besides her normal armement she carried two second class torpedo boats.

HMS Amphion was one of the first cruisers to be built by the Royal Navy in steel – previously they were constructed of iron. She was fitted with twin screws with two engine rooms.

Curiously, again in January 1902, HMS Amphion struck on a reef while on her way from Panama to Callao, was seriously damaged, and had to proceed to Valparaíso Chile for repairs.

To quote from this article please cite:

Hanna, Robert and John MacFarlane (2017) The Keel of HMS Amphion. 2017.

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