Mt Bolduc Plane Crash

(The following story is taken from the Cowichan Leader, dated May 1, 1944)

Bomber Plane Crash Kills Six Airmen on Lake Cowichan Peak

Six R.C.A.F. flyers were given a last resting place at the top of rugged peaks in mountains near Cowichan Lake where their plane crashed killing them all last Wednesday. They were on a navigational flight from a Vancouver Island Base.

On Tuesday, while two R.C.A.F. Padres read the burial service, comrades of the dead men reverently erected a cairn of stones over the bodies and left them to their last sleep.

The dead airmen are: FO Ambrose Moynagh, Souris, P.E.I; PO John E. Moyer, St. Catherines, Ont.; Sgt. Harry Maki, Sudbury,Ont.; WO1 Brinsley Palmer, Saskatoon, Sask., WO2 Lawrence Kerr, Millet, Alta.; LAC Murray Robertson, Patricia Bay, B.C.

Search for the missing plane and its crew was one of the most intensive carried out in this district. It was marked by the daring of those who searched from the air and by the hardihood of loggers from Lake Logging Company at Rounds, who risked death or serious injury in scaling the rugged mountain wall on Saturday and Sunday to reach the 3,500 foot peak where the aircraft crahed. An unusual feature of the search was the part played in it by a United States Navy dirigible ballon from an Oregon coast station.

Wide Search
Airplane search over a wide area began last Wednesday night when the plane failed to return to its base. Planes from Vancouver Island and northern Washington stations flew over many districts.

On the following day Mr. David Beech, skidder engineer, and Mr. J.G. Pappenberger, head loader, working on Lake Logging Co. operations, saw smoke arising from a mountain top approximately five miles southeast of Rounds. They notified the B.C. Police, who in turn notified the Aircraft Detection Corps. Immediately FO Godwin, R.C.A.F., flew in by sea-plane with a party of Air Force men.

The next morning, Friday, the flyers left their base at Honeymoon Bay and, accompanied by two guides furnished by the Lake Logging Co., climbed the mountain where it was believed the smoke had been seen. They found nothing so returned to their base.

That night FO Heaslip landed a sea-plane on Cowichan Lake and after receiving directions as to location of the smoke made a short search. He thought he had located a burned area on a mountain top but had to give up his search owing to darkness.

On Saturday, with Const. Andrew Grant, B.C. Police, and a wireless operator, he set out again in spite of extremely bad flying conditions, which were so bad that the wireless man became airsick.

Eventually the searchers spotted a swath cut through the timber at the top of a peak. It was about 200 feet in length. Risking disaster by striking tree tops the pilot followed this swath and on the top of another peak, one quarter of a mile away, he and his companions could make out the wreckage of a plane.

The party returned to Honeymoon Bay and made a report. FO Heaslip went on to Vancouver and came back the following morning. On Saturday night another plane, with a number of R.C.A.F. personnel, with equipment arrived at Honeymoon Bay.

On Sunday morning the airmen and 20 loggers set out for the mountain top where the wreckage was seen. Shortly afterwards a United States Navy “blimp” appeared over Lake Cowichan. FO Heaslip met it in the air and talked by radio with its pilot. He then led the balloon to the scene of the wreck, where the balloon hovered and dropped marker balloons.

The ground searchers arrived at a steep and almost perpendicular face below the mountain top. A party led by Mr. William Crapo and composed of Messrs William Green, Arthur Wayment, Peter Kachnia and Raymond LeFleur, all Lake Logging Co. employees, set out to scale this face, often clinging like flies to the steep cliff. At 12:15 noon they reached the summit to be met by a ghastly sight.

The wreckage of the big plane was still hot and smouldering. Bodies of two of the crew were found 30 feet in front of the demolished fuselage. Another body was found at one side and two more were discovered in the wreckage.; Later a sixth body was found to one side and 50 ft. distant. All must have died instantly.

After making a full investigation, Mr. Crapo and his men made the difficult descent to where the rest of the party awaited them and reported in detail. The party then returned to their separate bases at Rounds and Honeymoon Bay.

On Monday R.C.A.F. personnel, travelling by an easier but much longer route, went to the scene of the crash for further investigation which resulted in the decision that it would be practically impossible to remove the bodies for burial. It was then decided to inter them beneath a cairn at the mountain top.

Dr. Joseph Tassin, acting as coronerís physician for Col. J.H. Boyd, coroner, Lake Cowichan, examined the bodies. Following the burial service on Tuesday, the coroner held an inquiry at Rounds and declared that death of the flyers was accidental.

Operations of the R.C.A.F. at the scene of the crash after discovery of the wreckage on Saturday were directed by Wing-Cmdr. McNee. R.C.A.F.

Few Cowichan residents noted the arrival of the U.S. Navy dirigible in the district but on its return journey, about 1 p.m. Sunday, it attracted great interest and aroused much conjecture as to the reason for its appearance over Canadian territory. Few connected it with the search for the missing plane.

Webmaster Notes:
Not mentioned in the article was the name of the mountain. It is known as Mt. Bolduc.

Lake Cowichan – Surveys of the Region

(This account was adapted from a research report written by Ron Smith)
Because of the abundant fish resources and the importance of local plants, the native Indians, the Cowichans (Coast Salish), Nitinahts (Nootka) and Pacheenats, made extensive use of this area. Major fishing sites were located at nearly all the falls along the Cowichan River.

The large settlement areas for the Cowichan people were in the lower reaches of the river and they made annual trips to the meeting places of the other tribes. Similarly, the Nitinaht people living along the southern coast of Vancouver Island from Jordan River to Pachena Point and inland along Nitinat Lake also used the upper reaches of the Nitinat River and Cowichan Lake as their major fishing area. There was quite likely some trading between the Cowichans and Nitinahts in the Cowichan Lake area.

In September 1857, the first authentic record of white men at Cowichan Lake was made by an exploratory party led by, crown surveyor, J. Despard Pemberton. Sent by Governor Douglas, their purpose was to make a rough survey from Cowichan Bay to Nitnat covering things like natural resources, nature of the terrain, natives and areas suitable for settlement.

They landed at Cowichan Bay and set out up the river to Cowichan Lake and from there to the Nitinat. Mr. Pemberton reported his trip as exceedingly interesting. He comments on the excellence of timber and particularly mentions the abundance of game: elk, deer, grouse and fish. His report was given in November 12, 1857 at Victoria and is in part as follows:

“In the valleys Douglas pines twenty-three feet to twenty-eight feet in circumference are not uncommon. Indians occasionally hunt and fish on the border of the large lake and the stumps of huge cedars cut down at its Western extremity show that they once manufactured their largest canoes there.”

After Mr. Pemberton, the next official record is Robert Brown’s expedition which left Victoria on June 7, 1864 aboard Her Majesty’s Gunboat Grappler. His report was much more detailed and reliable. He went up the Cowichan River, to the lake known as “Kaatza”, Brown recorded the following:

The lake at the head of the river is about half a mile wide gradually enlarging to two, three, five, and ten miles. I should say it is about 50 miles long. We proceeded to the extreme ends, keeping the northern shore, and found three large rivers. All these rivers sink down at some distance from the mouth. I suppose I walked three miles up the bed of one before I came to running water. In the lake are several islands. The land on either side is very high and heavily timbered. The country around teems with elk, deer, bears and racoons. The lake is full of salmon and ducks. There are also land otters-two of which were killed by the Indians during our stay. The lake must be nearly 2,000 feet above the level of the sea and I think a road to Victoria could be made not to exceed 50 miles in length.”

“On the 15th June we found the forest getting thicker, a sign that we were nearing the lake; and later the same day we camped by its placid waters. One cedar near this spot measured thirty-five feet in circumference at the height of five feet from the ground. In this country very valuable timber is necessarily useless at the present time, from the fact that in most cases there are no available means of transport to the coast, the rivers usually being tortuous, and blocked at intervals by accumulations of driftwood.”

After finishing exploring Cowichan Lake on June 23rd 1864, Brown’s party divided, one going southwest toward Port San Juan overland while he and four others struck out for the “Nitinaht River” which they ascended by raft, then on to the coast. At “Whyack” the fortified Nitinaht village, they met up with the local inhabitants who transported them down the coast to Port San Juan.

Gateway to Cowichan Lake - 1910It would be another twenty-one years, 1885, before a road ten feet wide began to wind its way from Sahtlam toward the lake. Completed in the following year, it opened the area to settlement and a number of individuals began to preempt parcels around the shore of the lake. One of the earliest, Charles Green, settled at the “Foot of the Lake” commencing to build the first very small Riverside Hotel in 1885.

While the initial intent of settlers was farming, it became very evident from the beginning that this economic endeavour would be of minor importance. The real wealth would not be in tilling the soil, but cutting the forest: The excellent stands of Douglas fir, hemlock and massive red cedars. Thus the agricultural aspects of the area remained small and today have all but disappeared. Communities as they now exist such as Youbou, Honeymoon Bay and Lake Cowichan were developing around lumbering activities. Initially they were lumbering camps, although Lake Cowichan, being more strategically located, did begin to attract a number of commercial enterprises.

Travel in the area remained almost exclusively by water in the early years. It was not until 1900, for example, that a trail was built from Honeymoon Bay to the “settlement at the foot.”

A second hotel, The Lakeside, was constructed in 1893 and soon became popular for fishermen and hunters as well as other travelers to the area. Over the next quarter century, the area became renowned as a sportsman’s paradise and people from all around the world began arriving to hunt elk, deer, grouse and ducks or to fish for salmon, trout and steelhead.

Logging actually preceded the arrival of the first settlers with William Sutton acquiring the first timber lease in 1879. This consisted of 7,069 acres with the logs going down the Cowichan River to their mill at Genoa Bay. In 1887 the Sutton interest were bought out by Hewitt and McIntyre and in turn were acquired by Mossom Boyd in 1897 to form the Cowichan Lumber Company.

E&N reaches Cowichan LakeA second firm, Victoria Lumber and Manfuacturing Company (VL&M), incorporated in 1889, also began logging in the area and between them “controlled the lumber industry at the lake.”

The arrival of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway (E&N) in 1913 marked the end of the initial phase of development. Now, not only was travel to the outside much easier but also the delivery of the logs to the coast considerably more reliable than the drives down the Cowichan River each fall. The railway extension was initiated after a large tract of the E&N land grant, some 54,000 acres, was sold to American interests that formed the Empire Lumber Company and set up operations in the Cottonwood Creek area (near Youbou), on the north side of the lake. At the same time, VL&M expanded their operations to take advantage of the railway.

After a period of sagging markets between 1913 and 1915, the industry started to pick up with new logging camps being established around the lake. By 1920 C.C. Yount’s Medina Lumber Company was milling at Cottonwood and soon a community began to be established.