Ten years ago on March 22, 2006, at 12:23 am, passengers aboard the Canadian ferry, Queen of the North, were flung from their beds as the vessel veered off course and crashed into a rock at Juan Point off the coast of Gil Island. It was on its way from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. Ten minutes after the impact, the ship listed dangerously on the starboard side. One hundred and one passengers and crew were evacuated into life rafts, many were rescued by heroic Gitga’at First Nations people in fishing boats. At 1:40 am, the Queen of the North slipped underwater and disappeared. Passenger Graham Clarke, a marine service company executive, recalled the ancient maritime tradition of calling out three heartbreaking cheers, “Hip . . . Hip . . . Hurrah,” as she sank.
Passengers Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette were never seen again and were presumed to have drowned. The Queen’s navigation officer, Karl Lilgert, was convicted of criminal negligence. But questions still remain about what happened on that fateful night.
To read more, about passenger recollections ten years later, click here.
Don Douglass gives details on what happened that night, in Farewell to a Queen: The Mysterious Sinking of the Pride of the BC Ferries.
by Don Douglass
Having notched a number of life-threatening experiences over the decades, including a pitchpole aboard our sailboat, Le Dauphin Amical, near Cape Horn in 1975, I’m always interested in survival stories, and in maritime and aviation accidents. My book, Farewell to a Queen, explored the 2006 sinking of the Canadian ferry, Queen of the North—a tragedy attributable entirely to negligence on the part of the officers on watch (a man and a woman, who had been having an affair in the preceding months).
When Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 disappeared in February 2014, after making an inexplicable course change that apparently took it out over the Indian Ocean, I figured that human error—or possibly even deliberate action on the part of the cockpit crew—was also the cause of that tragedy, rather than mechanical failure. As the search for the missing jetliner continued for several months last year, I came up with a story that I believe may be an answer to the MH 370 mystery. I titled it Dilemma, and published it in May of last year as an eStory on Amazon. Based on the facts that were available at the time (flight paths and transcripts of radio communications), Dilemma is a fictional account of what might have happened aboard the plane, and ends with the aircraft crashing at supersonic speed into the Indian Ocean. If this is indeed what happened, I believe the wreckage would have been swept by currents into the Indian Ocean gyre. This speculation is not part of my original story, but now that a piece of aircraft wreckage—possibly that of MH 370—has been found washed up on a beach on Reunion Island, I now believe Dilemma may be closer to the truth than before. Dilemma remains available for purchase as an eStory, and we’re now about to issue it in paperback and print-on-demand formats, available through our website and Amazon later this month.
Don Douglass began exploring Northwest waters in 1949 as a youth. He has sailed the Inside Passage on everything from a 26-foot pleasure craft and commercial fishing boats to a Coast Guard icebreaker. Don holds a BSEE degree from California State University, Pomona, and a Masters in Business Economics from Claremont Graduate University. He is the author of Exploring Vancouver Island's West Coast and co-authored with Réanne the acclaimed Exploring the Inside Passage to Alaska, Exploring the South Coast of British Columbia, Exploring the North Coast of British Columbia and Exploring the San Juan and Gulf Islands. Don holds honorary membership in the International Association of Cape Horners. He has written several skiing and mountainbiking guidebooks and, as a father of the sport, was elected to the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame.