Princess Sophia — Slow-Motion Disaster - Ocean Liners Magazine

Princess Sophia — Slow-Motion Disaster

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On 24 October 1918, at approximately 3 a.m., Canadian Pacific Line’s Princess Sophia, bound from Skagway, Alaska, to Vancouver, British Columbia, ran aground on Vanderbilt Reef in Alaska’s Inside Passage, near Juneau, during a blinding snowstorm.

Princess Sophia teetering on Vanderbilt Reef.

Princess Sophia teetering on Vanderbilt Reef.

Princess Sophia was a small, but tough liner: just 245 feet long and 2,320 GRT. Built by Bow, McLachlan and Company in Paisley, Scotland, she was constructed out of steel and featured a double hull. Yet the coastal liner’s durability was pushed far beyond its limits on her final voyage.

The events that followed the grounding can best be described as a slow-motion disaster. Rescue ships were unable to assist Princess Sophia due to the ongoing storm, so the stranded liner—teetering on Vanderbilt Reef—continued to be battered by wind and water for over 16 hours as her passengers and crew sat helpless.

Princess Sophia finally dislodged and sank on the night of 25 October. Of the 343 passengers and crew on board, the only living survivor found was a pet dog.

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