The wreck of the side-wheel passenger steamship SS Pacific has finally been located by a team of local divers and historians after having been missing for almost 150 years.
The SS Pacific was on its way from Puget Sound and Victoria to San Francisco when it collided with a big sailing ship in the dark off Cape Flattery on November 4, 1875 and sank in less than an hour. The Pacific had an estimated 275 passengers and crew aboard of which only two survived, making the sinking the most deadly maritime disaster in Northwest history.
Only a handful of details of what happened came to light afterwards because there were only two survivors—one who floated around on debris for 40 hours, and another for 80 hours.
The discovery of the wreck, by exploration company Rockfish, is set to clear up decades of debate about how the ship sank and whether there is gold among the artefacts that went down with the ship.
“There was cargo that was insured, so yeah, we think it's likely,” said Rockfish founder Jeffrey Hummel who led the search in an interview. Hummel has been searching for the Pacific for about 30 years.
Hummel and his crew sent down remote-operated vehicles which took some images of the wreck and the debris field—which they say clearly shows the two sidewheels on the bottom—as if they broke off as the ship sank.
Now that Rockfish has located the wreck, it is focused on choosing the right equipment to excavate what is left of the wreckage over the next three years.
The next thing is to do more site analysis next year, Hummel told KIRO Newsradio.
“We’re planning on doing artifact recovery from the debris field next fall, so sometime like September, October of next year, we’ll do that,” Hummel said. “And the debris field is a few thousand square metres. And we’re going to develop some equipment to recover and preserve the artifacts from there.”
The exact location of the wreck is not available to the public. That being said, it is known that the wreck is somewhere off the coast of Washington, sitting in over 1,000 metres of water.
This ship is not to be confused with the SS Pacific that vanished in 1856 in the Atlantic.