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August 2004

HMS Panther with 49th Parallel Dive Charters.

I had never given the panther much thought, due to the lack of talk in the dive community, and the fact that it had gone down more than a Hundred and Thirty years ago.

As it happened we were expecting some visitors from Germany and planning a picnic somewhere in the gulf Islands, when I ran into a couple of the Hunter brothers on Thetis Island. Once divers themselves, many years ago they inquired about the diving and asked if I had dove the Panther yet, they recalled it from there days of diving as being interesting. Well enough said, a Picnic on Wallace Island was just the ticket, and get another new dive in.

Unfortunately no one could remember where she was and the stories of her sinking did not reveal much. So a best guess was to start out at the tip of the point where it would be shallow enough to snag a ship in passing.

Dropping into about 60ft of water on the west side and swimming North, we found the usual strewn boulders and rocks covered in Plumose, sea cucumbers, Anemones, a scattering of rockfish, crab, and Nudibranch. To my surprise about 20 minutes into the dive I find something very definitely man made, a steel pipe with a piece of wood attached. Ah ha I said, but then looking closer I could see paint, then the wood looked like plywood, now I know they did not have plywood or red Paint 130 years ago. Not the panther, but an old abandoned reef marker. Ah well swimming on a bit further revealed lumps of coal, now this was exciting, the Panther had to be around here somewhere, heading a little deeper found yet more coal until a sudden drop off revealed a plain old sandy bottom. Suprised by the sudden change I turned around and looked back towards where the drop off was, this revealed long copper plated wooden planks .

I had found her, swimming  along the hull revealed about 75 to 100 feet of hull buried in the sand. Swimming all the way forward found the bow curving up from the sand. Many ribs stuck up from behind the planks with plenty of copper sheeting to be seen. The hull lies with her starboard side completely buried and the bulk of her hull filled with sand and coal, Swimming along the top side reveals many bits and pieces of her super structure sticking out of the debris. 

This dive was nothing spectacular and would be easy to miss in poor viz, but the wreck has a historic feel about it that is well worth the time to look for her.