Give a Penny, Take a Penny… Diving near Vancouver


By Stephen Pearce. Another installment of our series on diving near Vancouver. This time Stephen explores the shipwreck SS Joan.

February 4th, 2013 was the day that Canada started to phase out the use of the ubiquitous penny.

But if we look back a hundred years ago it was the common unit of currency. And chances are, if you had one in your pocket, the copper used to produce it came from the mining town of Britannia Beach. During the 1930’s Britannia was the single largest producer of copper in the entire British Commonwealth.

Now, only a short drive from Vancouver down the spectacular Sea to Sky Highway, the Britannia Mining Museum – a national historic site – welcomes visitors from all over the world.

But Britannia also has treasures off shore that are of particular interest to scuba divers. A number of shipwrecks litter the bay and several are accessible to recreational divers. Several have yet to be identified and mapped.

The ship we were exploring was easily accessible from shore and thought to be the SS Joan – a twin screw wood hulled steamship built in 1892 and which caught fire and sunk in 1907. It was 180 feet in length.

We found it in two large pieces, with the hull partially inverted. The depth starts at 12 meters (40 feet) and goes down to about 25 meters (80 feet). Lingcod and crab populate the deeper sections with rockfish in the shallower levels.

One of the more whimsical moments happened during our ascent on the way back to shore when we found a wire-framed GBLT flag. My buddy took it for a brief ride before leaving it at the same location for the next diver.

diving near vancouver
Britannia Beach is easily located on the Sea to Sky Highway. Parking is best done on the point of land by the former Customs House – now an art gallery – on the other side of the railroad tracks.

Another great place for parking is by the Galileo Coffee Company – not a good place for diving the SS Joan – but there are other wrecks that are more easily accessible from that location. Plus you have the added bonus of nibbling on delicious homemade muffins and pastries. I’ll be back in a few weeks to check it out – I couldn’t think of a better way to retire my hard-earned pennies…

Check out the coffee shop at

And find information about Britannia Beach at



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