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The Princess Sophia Disaster

Bruce Ricketts

At 10 PM, October 23, 1918, the Canadian Pacific passenger ship, the Princess Sophia left port at Scagway, Alaska with 298 passengers, men, women and children, largely from Dawson City, Yukon, and a crew of 65.  It was during a blinding snow storm.  By 2AM October 24, she was steaming into an area known as Vanderbilt Reef.  Problem was that the Sophia did not realize that they were so close to the Reef because they had not yet detected a navigation error that had them 2 miles off course.

The Sophia struck and became stuck on the reef (see picture at right).  The Sophia's Captain Locke, sent a telegraph message of their distress to the his Agent in Juneau, who, in turn, despatched two ships to effect support to the Sophia.  The two ships, the King and Winge, and the Cedar, arrived on scene but were unable to assist due to the heavy seas.  Both vessels anchored close by with their lights burning, to offer moral support to the Sophia.  By morning the storm had grown worse and the two support vessels were forced to leave.

When the support vessels returned the next morning, August 25, they were horrified to find that the Sophia had sunk.  All that remained to see was the Mast sticking up out of the water (see picture at left).  All the passengers and crew were lost!

The only survivor of the Princess Sophia was a small dog which had swum to a local island and was recovered a few days later.

08/09/2008

 

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