SS Sardonyx in Victoria Harbour in 188- Courtesy of BC Archives A-00141

SS Sardonyx in Victoria Harbour in 188- Courtesy of BC Archives A-00141

Sardonyx was a steamship of 404 tons out of Victoria. She was named after a variant of onyx in which the colored bands are sard (shades of red) rather than black.

On June 05, 1890 Sardonyx sailed from Victoria on a coasting voyage to the Naas River, stopping at a number of way ports. On her return she called at Fort Simpson then reached the open sea by way of the un-surveyed channel between Zayas and Dundas Islands. The weather was thick part of the time as she steamed for Skidegate. On June 13 she was wrecked off the Queen Charlotte Islands.

A Commission of Inquiry was established in London, England to investigate the cause of the wreck. Among their findings was that if the ship’s compasses had been corrected, the course steered would have taken the ship clear of all danger, but observations had not been taken and there was no compass deviation card found on board. Further, the patent log had never been used, no soundings taken, and no reckonings were found in her log. Though Sardonyx carried the latest charts and the current edition of the British Columbia Pilot Directions, it was determined they’d not been read.

Though the sea was comparatively calm no endeavour had been made to save anything of the vessel or cargo. She was virtually abandoned within hours after she struck. When the crew returned, nearly 48 hours later, a strange boat was alongside with men on board stripping her.

At the time of the wreck there were 36 people on board. Though some were natives of Queen Charlotte’s Islands, none had been consulted about navigation.

Given the Commission’s findings it seems curious that no justification was found to request any of the ship’s officers to surrender their certificates.