The Wreck of the Uzbekhistan

by John MacFarlane 2012

Uzbekhistan

The Soviet Second World War Freighter Uzbekhistan Ashore on Vancouver Island 1943 (Photo from MacFarlane collection.)

The Uzbekistan, a steel freighter was built in 1937 in France by Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire de St. Nazaire and turned over to the Soviet Government (Northern Soviet Supply Service) under a lend-lease arrangement. (10,000 tons 326.3' x 48.1' x 22.9'). She had been rebuilt in Portland Oregon and fitted for ice breaking.

All navigational lights on the coast were ‘blacked out’ after the shelling of the Estevan Lighthouse by the Imperial Japanese Navy in June 1942. On April 30, 1943 the Uzbekhistan went aground just west of the mouth of Darling Creek 2.5 miles east of Pachena Point 30/04/1943 on the west coast of Vancouver Island. She had been travelling from Portland Oregon to Seattle Washington.

It was a calm clear night and there was no obvious reason for the accident except navigational error by the crew. After she grounded she began firing her guns to attract attention from shore. The gun fire could be heard in nearby settlements but based on the shelling the previous year at Estevan Point it was assumed by local residents that a Japanese landing was taking place.

At daylight the crew was able to step ashore carrying their personal gear. They set up a camp and waited several days for rescue. Then the crew decided to walk out to civilization on the Lifesaving Trail that runs up the coast to serve ship-wrecked mariners in the exact situation that they found themselves. They walked the twelve miles in spite of having operational ship's boats that could have covered the distance more easily.

Uzbekhistan

The Uzbekhistan Breaking Up in Heavy Surf (Photo courtesy Maritime Museum of British Columbia collection.)

An armed guard was placed on the wreck. In spite of this there was widespread looting and vandalism. The ship quickly broke up into three pieces in the heavy surf on the coast. The ship's boilers and machinery can be seen at low water at the edge of the reef and on the beach at the mouth of the Darling River.

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