The Sinking of the Passenger Ship Ohio

by John MacFarlane 2017


The Ohio (Photo courtesy of the MMBC. )

In 1872 she was built in Philadelphia PA USA by William Cramp & Sons. 343’ x 43’ x 32’ Iron hull 3488gt She was powered by Compound (later triple expansion) steam engine, single screw, with auxiliary sails.

In 1872 she was owned by the American Steamship Co. (a subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company). In 1873 she was transferred to management of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company’s other shipping line, the Red Star Line. The Ohio spent most of her career on the Liverpool–Philadelphia route she had originally been designed to service. After 25 years of transatlantic crossings, the Ohio was sold in 1898 for service in the Alaskan gold rush. In 1898 she was purchased by the Alaska Steamship Co. and arrived at Seattle on May 19, 1898 for service to Alaska. In 1899 she moved her base of operations to San Francisco CA USA. In 1901 her management was transferred to the Northern Commercial Co. She was owned by the Frank Waterhouse & Co., John J. Sesnon Co., the Northwestern Commercial Co. and other shareholders. In 1908 she was purchased by the Alaska Steamship Co.


The Ohio (Photo courtesy of the MMBC. )

On 27/08/1909 while travelling north at night from Seattle (Captain John Johnson in command) she struck a rock near Swanson Bay BC shortly after midnight. The Master returned to the bridge, ordered a course change and she struck a rock on the port side. The engines were ordered stopped but the ship passed right over the rock. She was sailed on in a very damaged condition as she began to sink. Unable to clear Bluff Point she altered course so that she would settle in shallow water in Carter Bay BC. The wireless operator sent a distress signal which was received by the Humboldt and the Rupert City.

The boats were lowered and all but five of the 213 persons were removed. Some passengers panicked and jumped off the ship into the sea. This forced a search for them by the lifeboats that had been lowered. The ship then began to slide off the beach into deeper water. The wireless operator was lost (trying to save a sick passenger) along with the Purser and Quartermaster. Two passengers were lost as well.


The Ohio's boats were employed by the workers attempting to salvage the steamer. Hardhat divers were employed to inspect the hull. (Photo courtesy of the MMBC. )


The Ohio’s hull was too badly damaged to allow a salvage. Before much progress could be made she slipped into deep water leaving only her bow exposed above the water. (Photo courtesy of the MMBC. Her bow was a prominent landmark in the bay for many years afterwards.)

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2017) The Sinking of the Passenger Ship Ohio. 2017.


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