Panic and Delay
The wreck happened so quickly, and in such dense fog, that the lookout at the Fort Point Lifesaving Station, located only a few hundred yards away from the unfolding disaster was caught completely unaware. Only when a solitary lifeboat was seen emerging from the mist were rescue boats finally launched. A few survivors were eventually found, most clinging to the ship’s wreckage. The consul-general’s entire family died in the tragedy.
Just weeks earlier, one of the vessel’s Chinese crewmen allegedly broke into a passenger cabin and accosted two female passengers. Chained below deck, the prisoner supposedly loudly vowed that everyone aboard the liner would soon rot on the sea’s bottom.
The disaster’s grim final total: 135 passengers and crew dead, including Capt. William Ward. His body washed up on the beach near Fort Point in July 1902. Ward’s remains were identified by the watch chain wrapped around his rib cage.
For years, maritime historians and other had only a general idea of the shipwreck’s location. In 2014, the US National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Maritime Heritage Program finally documented the City of Rio de Janeiro shipwreck in 287 feet of dark, muddy water. The study was part of a two-year program to catalogue shipwrecks in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.
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