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THE CLALLAM DISASTER
8 & 9 Jan 1904 near Victoria, BC

On the 8th of January 1904 the Puget Sound Navigation Company ferry the 'Clallam' left Port Townsend, Washington just before 12 o'clock, noon, for Victoria, British Columbia. It had had a uneventful voyage from Seattle to Port Townsend earlier that morning and nothing seemed out of ordinary when they left for Victoria. After passing Point Wilson and entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca they were buffeted by a strong gale from the west. Water started to enter the vessel flooding the engine room extinguishing the fires. The vessel listed and floundered in the heavy seas without power. A small sail was hoisted but was of little use. Fearing the vessel was in immediate danger of sinking the captain, Captain George Roberts, decided to put the passengers ashore in the lifeboats. There was still daylight and they were within sight of Victoria but the gale was very strong and the tide was flooding. Three lifeboats were attempted to be lowered. Two, filled with women and children and a few men, left the 'Clallam' but were claimed by the sea with all lost. The third lifeboat became fouled in the tackle while being lowered and when cut loose spilled all those on board into the sea. Most drown. The remaining passengers and crew he managed to keep the 'Clallam' afloat for another ten hours by bailing the water before the vessel broke up and sunk about 1:15 a.m. on January 9. Heroic efforts by the crews of the tugboats 'Richard Holyoke' and 'Sea Lion' saved many of those who were in the water.

At least 54 people died, including all the women and children who were on board. Many questions arose in the inquiry held in Seattle by the United States Marine Inspection Service and the inquest held in Victoria by coroner Dr. Edward Charles Hart. Where did the water enter the vessel? Why didn't the ships pumps work properly? Why didn't the vessel carry distress signals such as rocket, flags or lamps? Was the ship properly inspected? Was the captain and crew competent? Where the lifeboats properly outfitted and maintained?

Presented here are mostly newspaper extracts of the event. Biographical material has been added. Photos will be added as they become available. continue to the story
The Princess Beatrice
from a post card mailed in 1914