The SS Pacific was a Gold Rush-era vessel that sunk off the coast of Cape Flattery in Washington state in 1875. The ship was reportedly carrying a total of gold worth $5 million in today’s value. This real-life treasure ship was just found by a pair of men from the Northwest Shipwreck Alliance, according to the Daily Mail.
The SS Pacific was captained by Jefferson Davis Howell. Howell was the brother-in-law to Confederate president Jefferson Davis. While voyaging from British Columbia to San Francisco, she collided with another ship called the Orpheus. The incident occurred after second mate onboard the Orpheus mistook the Pacific’s lights for a nearby lighthouse’s beams.
The tragedy in the water was the deadliest at the time in the west. It took 325 lives as the ship sunk to the ocean’s bottom with $180,000 in gold. The Orpheus reached shore before sinking later that night. Thankfully, its crew managed to abandon the ship safely.
For over a century, the Pacific hasn’t been located. However, two men named Matthew McCauley and Jeff Hummel found the sunken steamboat from the Gold Rush.
The men from Northwest Shipwreck Alliance saw two circular depressions the previous week. They believed they saw the steamer’s wheel paddles sticking from the seabed. According to Alliance spokesperson Philip Drew, they slowly uncovered what they were looking at.
“The site required close and repeated examination with side scan sonar lines and remotely operated underwater vehicle dives to gather enough data and evidence,” he said. “Sure enough, we were able to image both paddle wheels with sonar and view the uncovered portion of them with the ROV in a nearby debris field.”
Gold Rush-Era Steamboat Roughly 23 Miles Offshore and 1,000-2,000 Feet Deep
The Pacific’s precise location hasn’t been publicly announced. However, the Alliance said it is roughly 23 miles offshore and at a depth between 1,000 and 2,000 feet. The organization was recently granted exclusive salvage rights, according to the Mail.
“The discovery was more of a slow realization than an a-ha moment,” Drew said. “And there’s still years of hard work ahead to excavate the wreck, taking the appropriate care to recover and preserve artifacts.”
However, they won’t be keeping the Gold Rush treasure for themselves. Rather, the Alliance wants to open a museum displaying artifacts from the ship. However, first, there will be a legal window for descendants of those associated with the Pacific to claim ownership of parts recovered.
“We believe the wreck is in an incredible state of preservation,” Drew said. “We expect and hope that the artifacts we recover will have considerable historical significance.”
“We’re also very much connected to the stories of all those who perished on the fateful day in 1875, which tempers our celebration of this discovery.”
Only two people survived the tragedy, according to the Mail. The ship was carrying members of the region’s elite. Moreover, miners returning home for the winter as well and 41 other Chinese men were onboard.
No human remains have been found at the site of the Pacific. They claim it is unlikely any will be found because of the powerful currents of the northwest Pacific, according to the Alliance.