Captain Voss and Tilikum

The circumnavigation of the world in a 38 foot long first nation dug-out canoe

Captain Voss

John Claus Voss (1858-1922) purchased a traditional First Nation canoe, modified its hull, added three masts and named it “Tilikum”, meaning “friend” in Chinook jargon.

In 1901 he set off from Victoria, British Columbia with journalist Norman Luxton to sail around the world. Luxton got off in Fiji, having crossed the Pacific and Voss continued the journey with a succession of mates, visiting Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil and finally arriving at Margate, England in 1904.

Tilikum at Canvey Island in 1911

Here, he and Tilikum were feted as celebrities… the boat being exhibited at Earls Court in 1905 and Voss being nominated for election as a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.  In time new owners installed an engine and used the vessel to cruise the east coast until it was finally abandoned on Canvey Island.

There in 1929 she was found in a sorry state  by a naval officer, who drew this to the attention of the authorities in British Columbia, who in turn arranged for its return to Victoria. Once there Tilikum was subject to renovation and was displayed in several locations until it found a permanent resting place at the Maritime Museum of B.C.

The book ‘The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss’ by John Claus Voss (1858-1922), photographs by Powell, H. Price first published in 1913 can be read here.

Comments about this page

  • WoW! I had heard this story but didn’t know a picture existed – I think it was by the sea wall next to Mitchells Avenue in Smallgains creek?

    By David Bullock (07/06/2011)
  • The picture is in the book Dave

    By Janet Penn (07/06/2011)
  • Brilliant! Got to join the ‘WoW’ club for this one. It’s the first time I’ve heard of this story and even more interesting we stayed with friends in Victoria B.C. obviously in ignorance of Canvey’s link with that beautiful city. Should have visited the Maritime Museum of B.C. Thanks Mark.

    By Graham Stevens (08/06/2011)
  • I will be releasing (September 2019) the first independent account of Captain John Voss and the Tilikum (Sailing Around the World in a Dugout Canoe). The Tilikum, of course, spent a lot of time at Canvey Island after the voyage and before she was shipped back to British Columbia. The book reveals much new information and brings the history of the vessel up to date today. It includes 100 pictures – many previously unpublished.

    By John MacFarlane (11/08/2019)

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