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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wreckage Found From Deadly 1888 Shipwreck in San Francisco Bay

Posted By on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 8:30 AM

  • via Daily Alta California 1888

Here's some more hard-to-believe news from the week: Federal ocean scientists have reportedly located the wreckage of a steamboat that sank in the San Francisco Bay more than 125 years ago -- a tragedy that killed 16 people.

We first read the incredible news on CBS this morning, which says three-dimensional images of the wreckage will be released later today.

The City of Chester, sailed off on Aug. 22, 1888, a day filled with thick fog, and was headed up the coast to Eureka with 90 passengers on board. Around 10 a.m., the ship collided with the Oceanic -- a steamer twice its size -- and sank near where the Golden Gate Bridge is.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's James Delgado tells the Associated Press that the disaster is the second-worst shipwreck to occur within the San Francisco Bay.

  • San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park K01.2.571PL

Per the NOAA website:

"The rediscovery of the wreck restores an important historical link to San Francisco's early Chinese-American community. Reports at the time initially criticized Oceanic's Chinese crew in the racially charged atmosphere of the times. Criticisms turned to praise, however, when the bravery of the crew in rescuing many of City of Chester's passengers was revealed. The wreck was then largely forgotten."

In total, 16 people died, and at the time, some blamed the crew from the larger ship for not assisting people on the City of Chester.

We found an excerpt about the disaster from the Daily Alta California from the California Digital Newspaper Collection:

The two vessels approached each other rapidly to certain destruction for one or both and no means of escape possible. The pasengers [sic] on the Chester stood there, with white, set faces and staring fixed eyes waiting for the crash which was to announce their doom. In another moment that crash came. The high, sharp bow of the hugh China liner struck the City of Chester about the fore hatch on the port side. She cut into the sides like a knife through paper, tearing away the upper: works and sending the cabins and woodwork flying into all directions. The two vessels did not immediately separate. They remained together for quite a time, the nose of the Oceanic buried in the hull of the other vessel. Then a scene of wild confusion and excitement took place. A panic took possession of all on board the Chester. Passengers and crew made a wild rush for the Oceanic. Shrieks and cries for help and half-uttered prayers resounded from all sides. With these were mingled the horrid sounds of tearing timber and snapping bolts, and above all the loud frenzied orders shrieked out by excited officers. The people clambered up the bows of the Oceanic like cats and over the sides.

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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