Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture

Pacific

On November 4, 1875 the side-wheeler Pacific steamed out of Victoria headed for San Francisco. On board were 277 passengers and crew, freight, horses and buggies, and a strongbox containing nearly $80,000 in gold. That afternoon the Pacific rounded Cape Flattery Light and headed into a gale blowing from the south. At 10 p.m. everyone on board was awakened by a crash. The Pacific had struck the sailing ship Orpheus.

Not realizing that the Pacific was in serious trouble, the crew of the Orpheus sailed on while working to repair damaged rigging and maintain control of their ship. Meanwhile, water poured into the Pacific. In a panic, passengers stormed the deck, preventing the crew from lowering lifeboats. Within minutes the ship sank. Of those fortunate enough to cling to debris, only two survived the night. Passenger Henry Jelley was rescued two days later, but died of hypothermia. Quartermaster Neil Henley was adrift for 80 hours before his rescue by the revenue cutter Oliver Wolcott.

The Orpheus was also doomed. Several hours after the collision she ran aground off the west coast of Vancouver Island. No lives were lost, but the ship was a total loss. As pieces of the Pacific drifted to shore along the Strait of Juan de Fuca it was discovered that the ship was filled with dry rot. Records revealed that 14 years earlier she had run aground and sunk near the mouth of the Columbia River. Eventually refloated, she served for another ten years and was once again retired from service. When gold was discovered in the Cassiar district of British Columbia in 1874, the owners of the Pacific gave her a new coat of paint and promoted her as the equal of a brand new ship. They were never held accountable for the deaths of almost 300 people.

The strongbox filled with gold has never been recovered.


Read about individual shipwrecks in the sanctuary:

Austria

H.M.S. Condor

Emily Farnum

Lamut

Leonore

Prince Arthur

Skagway

Southerner

St. Nicholas

Temple Bar

W. J. Pirrie

See Shipwreck Map



Contact for page content: George Galasso
Photo of peach coral
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