Princess Kathleen part two

Gordon Newell wrote this very interesting narrative of the sinking of the Cruise Ship Princess Kathleen in 1952:
“Death of a Princess
The loss of the S.S. Princess Kathleen on September 7, 1952 was the most recent and best-remembered disaster to a large cruise ship in Pacific Northwest waters. It occurred in the waters of a notorious ships’ graveyard north of Juneau, not far from where the Island went down in 1901 , the Union Steamship Company’s Cutch in 1900 and the Princess Sophia that slipped off Vanderbilt reef in 1918, carrying all 343 persons aboard to their deaths.
It was three o’clock in the morning when the Kathleen, steaming at normal cruising speed through the light rain, struck almost without warning on the rocky shore. The first officer, who had charge of the watch, was unable to explain why the ship was a mile and a half off course.
The SOS was promptly flashed on the air, but on the wrong frequency. [What the ?!?!]
After two hours without an answer it occurred to someone to check on the situation and a ship-to-shore telephone call was placed to the Alaska Communication System, after which a nearby Coast Guard cutter hastened to the scene, arriving at 6 a.m.
Although the Princess Kathleen remained high on her rocky perch for nearly twelve hours after her stranding, no apparent effort was made to seal off her hull from the sea, nor was any of the passenger’s baggage removed. At 2:40 p.m. the incoming tide floated the liner briefly, but she filled fast, slipping back until she literally stood on her stern, then slipped under 90 feet of water.
The unhappy passengers filed damage suits for the loss of personal property-clothes, jewelery, watches, luggage, cameras-which all went down with the ship, the claims averaging over a thousand dollars per person. CPR attorneys, however, quoted that interesting provision of admiralty law which limits the liability of shipowners ‘to the value of the vessel at the termination of the voyage’ (which was zero, since the Kathleen was a total loss), plus her ‘pending freight,’ which consisted mostly of the fares paid by the passengers for a voyage that was never completed. [what clever attorneys!!]

Eventually the company refunded the fares paid and settled property losses at the rate of $200 per passenger. Although there were those who felt they had received their money’s worth in having taken part in a spectacular and much-publicized shipwreck, a good many of the Princess Kathleen’s passengers view her last voyage, to this very day, as an extremely high-priced lesson in the vagaries of maritime law.”

Newell: “Pacific Coast Liners” 1959.

Princess Kathleen

The Cruise Ship Princess Kathleen was built in Glasgow in 1924 and went through the Panama Canal in 1925 on route to her “triangle service” between Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria. The King and Queen traveled aboard Princess Kathleen en route to Victoria in 1939.
In 1949 she started her Inside Passage runs and was the preferred cruise ship that could carry 1800 passengers and 30 automobiles.
Unfortunately on September 7, 1952 the Princess Kathleen ran aground at Lena Point in Alaska’s Lynn Canal at low tide; it was later determined that radar was not operational at the time of the grounding. The United States Coast Guard was alerted two hours later and a rescue cutter arrived at 0630. The crew tried to reverse off Lena Point, however as the tide rose, her stern became swamped. All passengers and crew were transferred to lifeboats and ashore as she slid into deeper water and then sank.
The wreck of Princess Kathleen sits in approximately 50 ft -100 ft of water and is accessible to divers, however, tides and currents in the vicinity of Lena Point are strong. The wreck contains approximately 155,000 US gallons of Number 6 fuel oil and in April 2010 crews began operations to salvage the fuel in advance of a possible catastrophic leak.

The Glacier Queen

While on the subject of little warships, there is the case of the little Canadian HMCS (Corvette Castle Class) ship built in 1944 in England at Smith’s Dock Co. Ltd. She was the next to last ship of its class finished before the end of the war when the others were cancelled. Of the Castle class ships, three were sunk in enemy action but they sunk seven u-boats. They were underpowered and tended to turn into the wind despite everything the helmsman tried.
First named the Walmer Castle, she was renamed the Leaside before being sold to the Union Steamship Company of Vancouver where she was renamed the SS Coquitlam around 1955. Then sold to the Alaska Cruise Lines in 1958 where she was renamed the Glacier Queen. Here you see her at Skagway as a nice little cruise ship in the 1960’s.
In 1970 she was bought by Stanley M.J. and hulked as a floating hotel near Vancouver B.C.
On the 8th of November 1978 she sank at Anchorage off Seldovia Bay, but was later raised and scuttled by the U.S. Coast Guard about 100 miles west of Cape Elias.