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.
From what I can tell there were at least three Frank Browns in Skagway. Frank W. Brown died on this day, June 19, 1907 in Skagway. Frank Edward Brown worked for White Pass in 1920. One Frank Brown was deported from Skagway after the Soapy roundup in 1898. But the most interesting story about Frank Brown is the one from 1988.
On January 26, 1988, the motorvessel Frank H. Brown, a 1965 Canadian cargo and fuel carrier was docked at the White Pass dock. This was one of the first container ships created but it must have lacked some safety features which are common today. That morning someone noticed the smell of gasoline and discoloration of the water around the stern tank of the ship. This tank had capacity of 124,000 gallons of fuel. Actions were immediately initiated to offload the tank to shoreside facilities. At the onset of the incident the wind was calm. However, by 10 a.m. the wind had built to nine knots from the north and continued increasing throughout the day. Response crews from the White Pass Transportation Co. initially boomed off the vessel but shortly thereafter opened the boom to avoid a fire hazard, on the advice of the U.S. Coast Guard. It was estimated that 2800 gallons of gasoline spilled into the harbor. Today Skagway still receives thousands of gallons of fuel and transfers it to fuel trucks which take the fuel to Whitehorse every day.
Seen above is the predecessor to the Brown, the Clifford Rogers as it unloads and loads containers (also invented by White Pass) to be loaded onto the train. This photo is from 1957 but is essentially the same as it was into the 1980’s.
USCG district 17. Government report 6547 online.
Fortunately the over 400 passengers and crew were able to climb ashore with no loss of life. The massive ship now rests on her port side in around 80-140 feet of water. Like the Sophia, limited visibility and strong currents frequent the wreck site. Located relatively close to Juneau, the site is a popular recreational dive destination. Since the sinking, periodic fuel releases and oil sheens have been noted in the vicinity. The vessel sits at an angle on its port side at a depth ranging from 52 feet at the bow to 134 feet at the stern.
Recent inspection of the ship’s integrity showed it to be coming apart since the rivets have mostly disintegrated.
Small amounts of oil will still be released at the site, since dive crews could not scrub the ship clean. The leaks will result in small oil sheens on the surface, as had been observed before the work.
The cost to recover about 110,000 gallons of bunker oil from the ship has surpassed $10 million and likely will cost more than $12 million, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.
Federal funding to pay for the oil removal project will come from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, the emergency fund discussed as a source for cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico associated with BP’s oil rig explosion.
Project coordinators with the U.S. Coast Guard and state officials consider the Juneau project a major success. Removing the oil eliminates the potential for a large environmental disaster, Alaska On-Scene Spill Response Coordinator Scot Tiernan said.
The price tag also is worth it, U.S. Coast Guard Response Chief Cmndr. Kurt Clarke said.
Juneau Empire article from June 13, 2010.