The “Tonquin” Shipwreck 1811 (Page 3)
THE TONQUIN SHIPWRECK 1811 Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
Now the fun part starts:
The Second Tonquin shipwreck search expedition:
Danny’s boss owned a very large company in downtown Vancouver called CashChek Savex. They occupied several floors of an office building on Burrard Street. His name was Bob Edwards; he was our age and a multi millionaire. Bob had made his millions from a shipwreck treasure he had recovered in Japan while on vacation after college. Needless to say I was suitably impressed. Bob was a very smart business man and was making millions with his new company. After I explained to him what we had learned from our research on the project, he assured me that money was not going to be a problem. He asked if he could become involved, and finance the next expedition to recover the Tonquin shipwreck.
Going into the discussions with Bob and his partner Garth, they explained that they were very busy expanding their business all across the country, but wanted to be kept informed as we planned for the new expedition. He wanted me to take control and he would supply the money, basically a blank check.
No more driving over hundreds of miles of back roads. I determined that we needed a float plane for transportation and Bob agreed, we went on the hunt for a good float plane that would be able to carry several passengers and lots of diving and camping gear.
We found a suitable float plane in New Westminster that was for sale and bought it. Now I needed a pilot.
I had a friend, Jake Penner, who I had traded stories with many times at my favorite watering hole. I knew he had gotten his license to fly small planes and asked him if he thought he could fly a float plane. His response was Sure no problem. I hired him then and there.
The next day we went out and inspected the plane. Jake said it looked Ok and we could start buying all the equipment we would need on the expedition. Jake took the plane on several take offs and landings on the river in practice while we got on to other things.
I spent the next several days with Vic Sherban and George Solomon, my new partners in the enterprise, shopping for diving gear and camping equipment. We discussed how we were going to choose our camping sites on the shoreline and where we would begin our exploratory dives for remains of the Tonquin shipwreck.
I had no idea what was involved in flying a plane but had operated just about every piece of large construction equipment known and some with twin engines. I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal for Jake if he already knew how to fly a plane. What I didn’t realize was that all pilots want to learn how to fly float planes. It costs quite a bit of money to learn. Here we were paying Jake to play with a float plane until we left, as well as all the time we would be up in Northern British Columbia. Bob had also given Jake an American Express card for the supplies he would need to buy and bring into our camp.
As I later found out, Jake had a lot of fun frequenting the bars on Vancouver Island, chasing the girls, and taking them for rides in his new airplane. Meanwhile, we were diving in ice cold waters, coming back to a land camp that was cold and damp, making supper over a camp fire, and sleeping in tents. When Jake flew into our camp he was usually dressed like Howard Hughes, silk shirts and flowing scarves, and always in a hurry to get back to the bars.
The first day of the expedition we loaded up and began to taxi down the river in New Westminster for our flight North, Jake said to hold on and I wasn’t sure we would get the plane off the ground because it was so heavy with all our gear. Jake was not looking too sure himself.
We got off the ground and several hours later arrived at the spot in Northern British Columbia where we wanted to set down and taxi to the shoreline to unload the plane. As Jake was setting the plane down on the water he killed the power as you do on a small wheeled plane when landing at an airport, but with a float plane in water you are supposed to pull back on the power to motorboat the plane and keep the nose up.
Waves were coming over the top of the cabin and we were almost swamped but Jake figured it out and gave her some power and pulled up the nose so everything was all right again.
Bunch of crazy yahoos going on a treasure hunt:
Things went all right for a few days as we got settled in and began looking for the Tonquin. We would send Jake into Port Hardy with the plane whenever we ran out of beer. It made things tolerable if we could sit around the campfire at night and have a few beers. We would discuss the days findings, or any new ideas we had on areas to search for the majority of the shipwreck.
The water was very cold and we had large waves to contend with as there was a trench that was very deep, not too far off shore. All of a sudden, as you got close to shore it became very shallow, about thirty feet deep. This caused the waves to build up and come crashing down on anyone who was diving in close to the shoreline.
The bottom area was composed of 2 inch stone that was washed up by the ton with every tide and wave. You could spot something one minute and the next minute it would be covered with several feet of stone so it didn’t make things very easy.
Jake flew in late one afternoon with supplies when we were already back at camp. He tied the plane with a rope to some heavy driftwood on the shore and walked into the bush for fifty feet or so to our campsite. We all sat down for a smoke and a cold beer which Vic had been keeping in the cold water just over the hill from camp.
We were discussing some very interesting finds of the day and beginning to get a little relaxed after several beers and noticed that it was getting dark; All of a sudden Jake jumped up and said i’ve got to get that plane into the air before it gets too dark and went running over the hill.
We heard Jake let out a loud yell and we all rushed over the hill to see what had happened.
The tide had gone out while we were gabbing and the plane was sitting high and dry on the rocks. It couldn’t be moved without damaging the floats. We had to wait for the next high tide later that night so the plane would float off the rocks. Jake could then taxi out into the water away from the high mountains that were blocking his radio signal and contact the tower at Port Hardy. He needed to let them know he was all right and hadn’t crashed in the mountains as they were probably thinking.