The Del Norte - Another Great Chemainus Wreck Dive

The Wreck of the Del Norte, October 27, 1868 - photo courtesy of University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, UW7724The wreck of the Del Norte is another great natural wreck dive for all experienced divers to consider and has made our list as one of Vancouver Island's Best dive sites.

Over 140 years ago, on October 21, 1868, the 60 meter (190+ feet) steam side-wheel schooner "Del Norte," which was on her way home from Nanaimo to Victoria, ran into Canoe Reef (or Islet) while traveling in dense fog.

After resting on the reef for several weeks, she mysteriously slipped into the darkness one night during a fall storm.

The reef is in Porlier Pass, which is the narrow body of water that runs between the southern end of Valdes Island and the northern tip of Galiano Island (part of the Gulf Islands) in the Strait of Georgia.

Map of Porlier Pass and the Del Norte dive siteIf you are traveling on Vancouver Island, it is between the town of Chemainus and the city of Nanaimo.

Even though the Del Norte is shallow and rests in about 12 - 25 meters of water (40-80 feet), it is another dive for intermediate to expert divers only, that should only be dove at slack tide, and with an experienced local operator.

As is typical of British Columbia dive sites that are located in the channels between our many islands or Vancouver Island and the mainland, there are strong currents that race through, forcing loads of nutrient rich water into the area.

Brass gear from the wreck of the Del Norte - Photo by Charles FoxYou can also get a general idea using this other on-line tide table.

If you do have the skills and training, this can be a very interesting wreck dive.

Given the age of the wreck, most of the wood is either gone or buried in the sand.

However, her large boilers, cylinder, paddlewheels, engines and other metal parts still remain and make for great pictures and a home to a great variety of marine life.

The nutrient rich waters once again provide us with great sea life, including huge ling cod and other rock fish, cabazon, abalone, red and green sea urchins, colorful soft corals, basket stars, plumose anemone, and a wide variety of other marine life.

It was re-discovered in the 1960's by a group of Victoria divers, and is now designated as a protected Historical Wreck so it is illegal to remove any artifacts.

The Chemainus 737 Airplane wreckOur recommended dive charter operator is Peter Luckham and 49th Parallel Dive Charters to dive the Del Norte and can be combined with another great wreck, the Chemainus 737.

This great review of the Del Norte and diving the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia provides you with more information from well known author and DIABC member Barb Roy.

Combine two great Chemainus wreck dives into one great day of diving.

Custom wreck trek dive charter packages, wreck penetration, drysuit, enriched air and other courses can also easily be arranged for you.

Contact us to help put these dives together with Peter for you.

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Dive the Wreck of the Del Norte