On a calm night in 1891 both San Pedro’s pilot Captain Christensen and master, C.H. Hewitt, were on the collier San Pedro‘s bridge. The Brotchie Ledge marker was unlighted and, as the night was calm, the ledge’s bell bouy was silent. Christensen’s dead reckoning failed him and San Pedro was lost with two holes in her hull. A crumpled plate of the San Pedro can be seen as part of the Beacon Hill park sign at the intersection of Douglas and Southgate.
Despite experts’ belief that she would never sail again, her owners and salvors tried repeatedly to raise the Pedro as she was only nine years old and said to be the fastest collier on the West Coast. Although both her sisters, San Pueblo and Tacoma, had also been lost, her owners thought it cheaper to run risks than pay insurance premiums.
For six years the hulk rode Brotchie Ledge as a warning to vessels in the roads of Victoria’s harbour. Each evening a man would row out and hoist a lamp from the San Pedro’s rigging.
A board of inquiry censured both pilot and master but placed the real blame for the wreck on the practice of requiring large, deep sea vessels to all but enter Victoria Harbour to pick up and drop off their pilots. The commissioners recommended a larger pilot boat, that ships might be met farther out to sea, a practice that continues to this day.
A diving mecca
The wreck was deemed an eye sore due to the fact that it was not completely submerged and after many salvage attempts the ship was blown up in 1897. Elements of the wreck, combined with area having served as the Victoria garbage dump for a number of years makes it a favourite dive site.