Last Voyage

After the wreck of the Princess Sophia, a navigational beacon was placed and maintained on Vanderbilt Reef. Three members of the Rouch family,whose names were Garner, perished on this voyage.   After the wreck of the Princess Sophia, a navigational beacon was placed and maintained on Vanderbilt Reef.

Princess Sophia departed Skagway, Alaska at 10:10 p.m., more than three hours behind schedule, on October 23, 1918. She was due to stop at Juneau, Alaska and Wrangell, Alaska on the 24th, Ketchikan, Alaska and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, on the 25th, Alert Bay, British Columbia, on the 26th, and finally Vancouver, British Columbia on the 27th.

After leaving Skagway, the ship steamed down Lynn Canal towards Juneau. Shortly after 2:00 a.m. on October 24, the Princess Sophia ran up onto Vanderbilt Reef in the middle of the canal, and got firmly lodged.

The area is an extremely dangerous one for boats. It has deep waters with strong currents, rocky cliff faces, and narrow fjords. Tides regularly bring ships dangerously close to the shore. In bad weather, winds in the Lynn Canal quickly become gales.[1]

The crew and passengers were unable to be rescued due to poor weather conditions, resulting in the rescue to be aborted for the day. The rescue vessels departed early in the afternoon of the 25th. By then, the ship and all aboard had been stranded at Vanderbilt Reef for a day and a half. Around 5:00 that afternoon, the ship started to sink. No one knows exactly what happened. Although the last SOS from the sinking ship was heard at 5:20, there is evidence that the ship stayed afloat until well after that, because many watches worn by the victims weren't stopped until almost 6:00. When the rescuers returned the next day, all that was left was the mast in the water, having sunk overnight. The loss of life of everyone onboard was the result of suffocation from the bunker oil (fuel) on the water. The only survivor was a small dog, believed to belong to a wealthy couple aboard, that was able to swim to a nearby island and recovered a few days later.

Copyright © 2006-21 Claud "Sonny" Rouch, all rights reserved. Website by OACYS Technology. Cover photo by Roberts Engineering.