The Rocky Sailing of Princess May

July 14th, 2016

The steamship known as Princess May has a pretty rocky history.

On August 5, 1910, Princess May departed from Skagway, Alaska, destined for Vancouver, British Columbia. Unfortunately, the ship never made its voyage. Under the command of Captain MacLeod, the vessel included 80 passengers, 68 crew members, and a hefty shipment of gold. As Princess May made its way down Alaska’s Lynn Canal, heavy fog engulfed the passage, making visibility impossible.

At a speed of ten knots, Princess May went crashing into the jagged rocks protruding near the north end of Sentinel Island. Since it was high tide, the momentum of the ship from the swells of the ocean pushed Princess May onto the rocks, forcing the bow skywards at a 23-degree angle!

Thanks to the quick thinking of W.R. Keller, the wireless operator, a distress call was sent before the engine room was completely flooded. Keller was able to improvise, rigging together a makeshift electrical connection using the engine room’s telegraph battery.

Everyone was safely evacuated from the wreckage. However, the photograph of the 1,394-ton vessel perched atop Sentinel Island’s craggy shores rapidly spread among neighbouring communities. (From the collection of the Nanaimo Museum)

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