The mission of the Port Alberni Maritime Discovery centre is that we aim to preserve, promote and present maritime heritage in Port Alberni and the West Coast of Vancouver Island.
We hope that through our exhibitions our visitors can understand why we work so hard to protect this history!
Our rotating exhibit area is currently showcasing the story of "The Vanlene; Bamfeilds Vehicular Grave". Recounting the 1972 tale of Captin Lo Chung Hung, and the crew's, attempt to navigating the ship from Japan to Canada with nothing but a compass. The crash, rescue, cleanup, and lasting impact are recounted alongside original artifacts and photographs. Come check out our exhibit on this Vancouver Island local legend
The Ship Model Exhibit is a collection of ship models that reflect the maritime connection to Port Alberni from the earliest white exploration days when the Spanish were exploring our coast, up to the twentieth century when the CPR , the Royal Canadian Navy, Lumber companies and European traders all had influence and contact with our West Coast and particularly Port Alberni. The Santiago is representative of the Spanish exploration, the Princess of Alberni and the Princess Maquinna are representative of the CPR business actiivity. The HMCS Alberni is representative of Canada's naval contribution to the Allies in WW 2 when Flower class corvettes were all named after Canadian towns. The City of Alberni is lumber schooner which was typical of the ships being built here in the early twentieth century to carry BC lumber across the world. The small square rigger in the wooden case is typical of the kind of sailing ships built in Europe in the nineteenth century that traded from European ports out to the west coasts of North and South America.
NAVIGATING THE GRAVEYARD
The Pacific Ocean is a treacherous and harsh environment with thousands of shipwrecks up and down the coast. Navigating these dangerous waters has been no easy task over the last few hundred years. Discover the permanent exhibit in the Hutcheson Gallery, which presents the history of navigation through the tools and equipment used by sailors to help them find their way and chart their course. The exhibit will also examines the exploration of the West Coast of Vancouver Island.
THE UCHUCK VESSELS AND THE LADY ROSE
Turn back the clock to a time when the principal means of transportation along the West Coast were ships.
They carried anything that would fit on deck, including machinery, supplies, and people. The Uchuck Vessels and the Lady Rose were fixtures of the Alberni Inlet and the Barkley Sound area for decades. This exhibit explores the different vessels, the crew, and undeniable mark these vessels left in this area which is even still visible today through the MV Frances Barkley.
Just after midnight on March 28th, 1964, Port Alberni experienced the repercussions of a 9.2 magnitude Alaskan earthquake. Coming up the Alberni Inlet was a 16 foot-high wall of water which would destroy dozens of homes and businesses and forever alter the history of the Alberni Valley.
We explore the timeline, the clean-up, the aftermath, and personal experiences of the citizens and heroes who survived this great natural disaster. Our computer display also reveals what the Alberni Valley has done to prepare itself if another tsunami ever happens again including the construction of a complex dike system and the creation of tsunami evacuation sites. Come discover how history has affected the Alberni Valley in the past and how it will guide us in the future.
LIGHTHOUSE PIER PANELS
Near the Lighthouse and Hutcheson Galleries, these panels present fascinating facts about the history of the Alberni Valley. Whether you're interested in ships that once sailed the harbour, the bygone industrial landscape, or even the wildlife, there's a panel for you.
Sitting outside our Gallery is the Swan, a steamboat that was used for almost sixty years in our community. The Swan was brought up from the bottom of Sproat Lake in 1994 after spending over 40 years submerged. The Swan was an 11 meter Victorian-era passenger steam launch with the engine located in its stern and was given her name because from her profile, as she looked like a swan gliding across the water.
Outside sits a proud vessel that sailed in our waters for a couple of decades. The Tatoosh, named after a prominent First Nations family local to the community, was a boom boat. An essential on our waters with moving lumber, you can still see these boom boats working today.