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STEAMSHIPS IN TROUBLE:
Shipwrecks, Accidents, and Adverse Conditions in Alaskan Waters

[This exhibit was mounted in the lobby of the UAA Consortium Library from December 1998 to March 1999. The materials used in it were selected by Jeffrey A. Sinnott, Assistant Archivist on the staff of the UAA Archives and Special Collections Department.]

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Image from the Archives Collection

1. Wreck of the S.S. Olympia. Alaska. December 10, 1910.
(Photographer Unknown. McKeown Family Photographs, Alaska Historical Society Collection, UAA Archives.)

This Alaska Steamship Company vessel, built in 1887, was originally named the Dunbar Castle. The vessel was stranded on Bligh reef in Prince William Sound south of Valdez on December 11, 1910. The ship ran aground on the reef in a heavy gale and was a total loss. The June and Donaldson rescued all of the passengers and brought them to Valdez. Twelve of the passengers had previously been rescued from the wrecked S.S. Northwestern and were considerably upset with their involvement in the second wreck.

Image from the Archives Collection

2. Her Last Sunset. S.S. Edith. Alaska Coast. 1915.
(Thwaites photograph. McKeown Family Photographs, Alaska Historical Society Collection, UAA Archives.)

This Alaska Steamship Company iron freighter was built in 1882, was originally named the Glenochil (British), and came to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. In late August 1915, the Edith, on a southbound voyage from Nome to Tacoma with a cargo of copper concentrate loaded at LaTouche, was caught in a heavy storm. The cargo shifted to one side, endangering the ship and crew. On August 30, the crew of 37 abandoned ship and were picked up by the S.S. Mariposa. The floundering freighter eventually sank in the Gulf of Alaska.

Image from the Archives Collection

3. S.S. Mariposa. October 8, 1915.
(Thwaites photograph. McKeown Family Photographs, Alaska Historical Society Collection, UAA Archives.)

This Alaska Steamship Company steamer was built in 1883 at Philadelphia. While on a northbound voyage from Seattle to Cook Inlet, the Mariposa struck a rock ledge on upper Fitzhugh Sound. The impact tore a hole in the ship's bottom forward, and it was stranded near the entrance of Lama Pass. The 95 passengers aboard were safely landed on the beach and the freight steamer Dispatch took them to Ketchikan. The salvage steamer Salvor later refloated the Mariposa, and, along with the William Jolliffe, towed it to a drydock in Seattle for repairs.

Image from the Archives Collection

4. Al-Ki wrecked on Point Augusta, Alaska. November 1, 1917.
(Photographer unknown. Howard and Mabel Jonish Collection, UAA Archives.)

This wooden steamer was built in 1884 at Bathe, Maine, and was owned by the Border Line Transportation Company. The famous gold rush era vessel was stranded at Point Augusta in Chatham Straight on November 2, 1917. It was abandoned on the beach and left to disintegrate.

Image from the Archives Collection

5. Wreck of the Admiral Evans, Hawk Inlet, Alaska. March 9, 1918.
(Winter & Pond Photograph. Howard and Mabel Jonish Collection, UAA Archives.)

This Pacific Steamship Company steamer, built in 1902, was originally named the Buckman. The Admiral Evans ran aground in Hawk Inlet off Chatham Strait. The ship was lured off course by a stray buoy and suffered two holes in its hull. The passengers aboard were landed safely ashore by cannery tenders, and then brought to Juneau by the S.S. Princess Sophia. The steamer was later salvaged and returned to service.

Image from the Archives Collection

6. Last trace of Princess Sophia wreck. ca. October 25, 1918.
(Winter & Pond Photograph. Howard and Mabel Jonish Collection, UAA Archives.)

The ill-fated Canadian Pacific Railway Company steamer was built at Paisley, Scotland. On a southboaund voyage between Skagway and Vancouver, British Columbia, the Princess Sophia struck Vanderbilt Reef in Lynn Canal in a blinding snowstorm during the early morning hours of October 23, 1918. The steamer was positioned on the rocks with its entire hull out of the water at high tide. Heat and light were maintained on the ship, and the 268 passengers and 75 crew members apparently remained calm, waiting for more favorable weather to transfer to rescue vessels. At 4:00 P.M. on October 24th, the U.S. lighthouse tender Cedar received a radio message from the Sophia that it was taking on water. By that time there was a thick blizzard with gale force winds in the area, and all efforts to locate the ship were unsuccessful. Next morning, the Cedar located the ship, with only its mast above water. It was assumed that the Sophia had finally sunk at 7:30 A.M. on the morning of October 25th. All the passenger and crew, 343 in all, were lost. It was the worst disaster in the history of Northwest shipping.

Image from the Archives Collection

7. Northwestern ashore at Eagle River, Alaska. July 25, 1933.
(Photographer unknown. Howard and Mabel Jonish Collection, UAA Archives.)

This Northwest Steamship Company vessel was built in 1889 in Chester, Pennsylvania, and was originally named the Orizaba. In July 1933, on a trip south from Skagway, it struck the reef off Sentinel Island north of Juneau and tore a hole in its hull. The ship was then beached at the mouth of Eagle River. The 86 passengers aboard were taken to Juneau by a U.S. destroyer, and then on to Seattle by the S.S. Aleutian. The Nortwestern was repaired and returned to service.

Image from the Archives Collection

8. Men and women aboard S.S. Alaska lifeboat in Elliott Bay. October 27, 1940.
(Photographer unknown. Christine McClain Collection, UAA Archives).

The S.S. Alaska was the flagship of the Alaska Steamship Company. The steel vessel, with double bottom and collision bulkheads, was launched on June 2, 1923 to replace the first S.S. Alaska, and operated on a route between Seattle and Southeast Alaska with the steamships Alameda and Northwestern. Shortly after midnight on October 27, 1940, on a southbound voyage to Seattle, the S.S. Alaska ran aground at full speed on the rocky shores of Elliott Bay between Ketchikan and Prince Rupert, British Columbia. The captain feared a puncture in the ship's hull, and ordered the 278 passengers ashore. After the passengers evacuated into lifeboats, the S.S. North Coast brought them to Prince Rupert. The ship was refloated two days later, inspected at Kennedy Island, and arrived in Seattle under its own power on November 1st.

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