The Loss of the Westbank Park

by Alan K Wilkinson 2016

Westbank Park

The Westbank Park the morning after driving ashore in a storm. (Photo from the Alan Wilkinson collection. )

My father, Arthur Kenneth Wilkinson, was a ship’s carpenter in the Westbank Park. She was owned by the Park Steamship Co, Montreal QC (managed by Seaboard Shipping Co, Vancouver BC). The Park ships were used to move war materiel during the Second World War.

On October 7th, 1945 the Westbank Park was stranded in Magdalena Bay, Baja California Mexico on a voyage from Newport to Vancouver BC while in ballast during a storm. They were over 20 miles offshore when they were hit by the storm and were unable to turn into the seas and were driven aground (stranded). This picture of the ship was taken the morning after she ran ashore.

I don’t recall if my Dad was the photographer or not. If I recall correctly the crew was rescued by an American fishing vessel. There were very steep cliffs where they went aground so no one was able to get off the beach. An interesting side note, my brother has the ship’s telescope that was given to my father by the ship’s master as a kind of reward for taking a lifeline to the beach through the surf after they ran aground.

Editor’s Note: There is a detailed account of the loss of the Westbank Park in the book "A Great Fleet of Ships: The Canadian Forts & Parks contributed by Lew Brewer who was the wireless operator aboard the ship during her final voyage and loss. The story tells of an unhappy and dysfunctional crew – that did not work the ship efficiently or effectively.

The ship was returning, under Captain George Wallwork, after a voyage to the UK via the Panama Canal. The ship encountered a hurricane off the coast of Central America. Holding the ship on course in the weather conditions proved impossible and she was slowly closing on the coast. She grounded in the heavy surf on a reef close to shore. Arthur Wilkinson distinguished himself swimming ashore with a line and with the help of two others secured in to a rock. A gantline and bosun’s chair was rigged and some of the remainder of the crew escaped to shore. All were dumped into the water and many of the crew were covered by heavy bunker oil escaping from the wreck. The crew members who elected to remain on board were lost as the vessel broke up.

Westbank Park crew

The crew of the Westbank Park from the article in the book. (Photo from the article by Lew Brewer. )

The rescued crew were carried to San Pedro California and from there by train to Vancouver BC. Nine members of the crew were arrested in Vancouver and charged under the Canada Shipping Act with unlawful and willful neglect of duty between August 28 and September 4th. All were convicted as charged, and five were imprisoned.

To quote from this article please cite:

Wilkinson, Alan (2016) The Loss of the Westbank Park 2016.


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