In the midst of the 1918 Influenza epidemic and World War One, another big marine disaster occurred in the cold waters of the Lynn Canal.
Capt. Charles John Bloomquist was a passenger on the night of the grounding of the Sophia. The story of the Princess Sophia loss on October 24, 1918 in a blinding snowstorm, has been well documented, with a number of White Pass employees onboard heading back to Victoria for the end of the season. One report in the Daily Colonist on November 3, 1918, stated that only 2 of the victims drowned, the rest suffocated in the crude oil spilling from the ship.
I was curious to know a bit more about the Swedish Captain Bloomquist. He was born in 1867 in Stockholm, Sweden and came to Canada in 1883. He lived with his wife, Catherine at Shawnigan Lake, a small farming community 28 miles north of Victoria. He was listed there in the 1909 directory of Vancouver Island, also he kept a room at the Dominion Hotel in Victoria. He left behind 4 sisters but no children.
He had worked for 20 years on the boats in the Yukon. He was the master of the White Pass Steamboat Dawson. Before that he had worked for the Canadian Government on the Quadra and the Sir James Douglas.
The Princess Alice brought many of the bodies back to Victoria on the 12 of November 1918. On November 15 he was buried in Victoria with the Victoria Columbia Masonic Lodge as pallbearers. Rev. F.A.B. Chadwick gave the service. Catherine is buried with him at the Ross Bay Cemetery, she died November 27, 1969 at the age of 92! Here is a picture that Anne Scott made of the grave in Victoria! Posted on Find A Grave for this story – Thank you so Much Anne!!!
from the Daily Colonist October 29, 1918
Here is another great old photo taken by Case & Draper in Skagway harbor in 1905. It too was sold recently for a few dollars, here was the description:
“The Alaska Steamship Company’s SS DOLPHIN Is shown arriving in Juneau August 17, 1905. Admeasured at 824 gross tons, the SS DOLPHIN was built in 1892 at Wilmington, Delaware. The ship was 225 feet in length with a 40 foot beam and displaced 1500 tons. She had twin screws turned by triple expansion steam engines. The ship originally carried the names AL FOSTER and THE FOSTER and was used as a club boat to carry fishing parties on Long Island Sound. Alaska Steam purchased the ship in 1900 and brought her to Alaska by sailing her around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America. This tumultuous voyage featured a 21 day passage from St. Lucia in the West Indies to Montevideo, Uruguay; a horrific storm off the Rio de la Plata; a confrontation with the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego who tried to burn the ship; and a mutiny by the steward’s department in Coronel, Chile. After the ship took on coal for her boilers in Coronel, six mutineers were left ashore in the local jail. The ship operated from Puget Sound to Southeast Alaska. She was able to carry 150 first-class passengers and 200 second-class passengers and 600 tons of cargo. The DOLPHIN was famous for carrying gold south from Skagway and for racing other steamers from rival companies through Lynn Canal. Alaska Steam operated the ship from 1900 to 1917 when she was sold. Eventually the ship was reported to have found her way back to Chile ending her days as a gunboat operated by the Chilean Navy.”
I found this neat picture on Ebay. This Case and Draper photo was taken in 1905 in Skagway harbor. The photo sold for a few dollars recently, here is the description:
“Two decks, two masts, 1075 tons. 213.1 x 31. 15.7 feet. 36 crew, 140 passengers Built in 1896 at Eureka, California. Operated on the Alaska route for many years.
The steamer Humboldt of the Humboldt Steamship Co Max Kalish, manager, piled up on Mouat Point, a rocky promontory on Pender Island off the Vancouver Island Coast on September 29. In charge of Capt. E. G. Baughman, the vessel was en route from Seattle to Skagway and other southeastern Alaska ports and was feeling her way through a dense fog. A wireless call for help was sent, and the fishing steamer Edith, Capt. Thomas A. Miller responded, removing all the passengers safely. Although her bow was crumpled back four feet from the stem, she was later refloated by J. E. Pharo’s Puget Sound salvage steamer Santa Cruz and, following repairs, resumed Alaska service.
The little Alaska steamer Humboldt, once famous as a gold carrier in the Puget Sound -southeastern Alaska run, was sold at auction in San Francisco to satisfy creditors’ claims. Thereafter she was little used, remaining in layup at San Diego until 1935.”
In Ketchikan, in 1945, smoke billows from the steamship Prince George. The ship caught fire September 22, 1945. She was towed from the dock and allowed to burn when it became clear that the fire was uncontrollable.
Donor: Bert Libe, Courtesy Tongass Historical Society
When Captain Harry Barlow lost his ship the Port Admiral near Wrangel in February 1898 in a blinding snowstorm, he bought the little passenger steam launch Mocking Bird. He put it into use as the Skagway to Dyea as the ferry service in 1898. The little 20 horsepower, 72 foot long vessel was built in 1889 in Tacoma and weighed 38 tons gross. She was still registered in 1910 but then disappeared from history.
From Gordon Newell, Maritime Events of 1898 and H.W. McCurdy, Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. Wikipedia; transcribed from the Lloyd’s Register of British and Foreign Shipping
President Warren Harding visited Skagway on July 11, 1923. Leaving here, he re-boarded the USS Henderson on his trip south to San Francisco where he died. Another ship in the presidential fleet was the USS Seattle. Both ships were involved in accidents in the days that followed: the USS Henderson was rammed by the USS Zeiler in Puget Sound and the USS Seattle ran aground in the Sound. Barely two months later, one of the biggest disasters in US Naval History occurred which I will summarize briefly here.
On September 2, 1923 there was a massive earthquake in Japan, the resulting tsunami and strong currents reached the California coast just as a heavy fog further complicated navigation. On September 8, in the dark of night, the passenger steamer Cuba went aground on San Miguel Island. My husband and I lived on San Miguel once, 30 years ago, and the remnants of that shipwreck were still visible on the beach at certain times when we lived there.
Tragically, on that same day there were 14 new sleek “flush deck” destroyers that the Navy was testing at full battle speed on a mission from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The Navy was anxious to prove their worth since President Harding had been a staunch supporter of Navy funding, but with his death, the subsequent administration was not. Unfortunately, that night, at 9 pm, a total of nine destroyers plowed, at 20 knots into the California coast, at a place called the Devil’s Jaw near Santa Barbara. Seven were completely destroyed and 23 sailors died. The dramatic full story of the crash, heroism and tragedy can be read here:
One of the early ships to come to Skagway was the Steamer Mexico in 1894. It was captained by David O. Wallace who had been navigating the Inside Passage at least since 1888 when he piloted the Corona for the Pacific Coast Steamship Company. Then in November of 1888 he took the City of Topeka north.
Wallace was born in Newburgh, Fife, Scotland on January 22, 1853 and went to sea as a boy. He arrived in California in 1870 and his first command was the Idaho. He had also served as seaman on the Santa Cruz, the Los Angeles and the Ancon (until it sank) and later as captain of the City of Topeka.
He died on June 26, 1908 in Seattle at the age of 55.
from Lewis & Dryden’s marine history of the Pacific Northwest; WA death records; familysearch.
E. Hazard Wells took this photo of a ship sinking in Lynn Canal on August 6, 1897. He was aboard the Rosalie when he took this photo. But which ship was it?
I was re-reading the book “Dynamite Johnny O’Brien” by Herron and found this passage:
“The hazards of the trips to Alaska were suddenly intensified as ships ran ashore or simply disappeared forevere with no trace of t hem or their passengers. The Clara Nevada was one, and to the growing list of lost ships that he kept in his cabin, Johnny added during that dread year of 1898 the names of the Whitelaw, the Alfred J. Beach, the Momo, the Stikine Chief, Eliza Anderson, the Brixham, and eight others.”
Some of these I have never heard of, let alone the names of the people that went down with them.
Dr. Richard M. Allen was in Skagway in the winter of 1897 as seen in the photo above. He is in the dark outfit leaning on the post. His descendent, Natalie Gohrband kindly allowed me to post this previously unseen family photo. Family lore says he died on a shipwreck at the Kuskokwim River in 1899, but it could have been on the Jessie which sank there in 1898. It was described in a book by Gordon Newell titled the Shipwrecks of 1899, so that may be the source of the confusion.
The Jessie swamped in turbulent water at the mouth of the Kuskokwim River on June 28, 1898. Rev. Welsh and 18 miners from the Columbia Exploration Company were believed to have been massacred by the Yupik Natives or lost in the wreck. One person, a trader called Ling survived and sent word to St. Michael of the shipwreck.