Humboldt Bar, CA Steamer CHILKAT Capsized, Apr 1899
The members of the crew saved were: PETER JENSEN, mate; WILLIAM PACKWOOD, chief engineer; CLYDE LIGHTNER, first assistant engineer; T. C. BOHALL, steward; WILLIAM GRIEF, fireman; PETER HANSEN, fireman; WILLIAM BLACK, seaman.
Of the seamen who were lost the name of one, the captain, is known. The record was not kept here, though it is possible that they are recorded in the San Francisco office. Captain B. E. ANDERSON was master of the vessel. His home was in San Francisco, at the corner of Fremont and Harrison Streets. He had a wife, but no children. Of the people saved six got away in the boat that was picked up by the North Fork. They were carried on to San Francisco. The other three washed ashore on wreckage. They were taken out of the water by three women at the life-saving station and are now in this city. They are Mate JOHNSON, Fireman HANSEN and Passenger MORSER.
These brave women of the life-saving station, whose husbands even then were risking their lives in a fruitless attempt to save the passengers and crew of the vessel, went to the beach to follow with their eyes the boat that bore their loved ones. Their fears for their own did not blind them to the needs of others, and when the half-drowned men from the wreck were sighted floating in toward the beach they rushed bravely into the surf and dragged them out, one after the other. These heroines were Mrs. Hennig, wife of Captain Hennig of the life-saving crew; Mrs. McLain, wife of one of his brave boatmen, and a sister of Mrs. McLain. The three men had been in the water an hour.
The tug Ranger was sent for and quickly responded, relieving the North Fork, which had stood by the wreck. No bodies have yet been washed ashore. The wreck is now drifting southward. Wreckage is coming ashore. The cargo consisted of boxes of butter, hides, shingles, lumber, condensed milk and apples. It is scattered on the beach.
This was the third time within a year the Chilkat has met with a mishap on Humboldt bar. Once her sternhouse was stove and next her side was punctured. She was originally a fishing tender tug used at the canneries in the Oregon rivers, and was built at Astoria in 1890. Her dimensions are: Length 105 feet, beam 20 1/2 feet and depth of hold 7 1/2 feet. With the lofty housing built on her, when she was placed in the passenger trade, she measured 215 tons gross and 187 net. The Chilkat was originally put on the Humboldt trade about five years ago, running between San Francisco and Eel River, but for the past two years she has been exclusively engaged in the trade with this port under her late captain, who succeeded Captain Dunham.
One report is that the Chilkat, which was following the North Fork out, attempted to head her off and get started down the coast first by taking a short cut around the end of the south jetty, instead of following out to sea before turning south.
This route at times is practicable, but when the bar is in the condition that it was in today the short cut is extremely dangerous and in this case it proved a fatal undertaking for the little vessel. Fortunate it was for those who were saved that the people on the North Fork were watching the Chilkat's perilous attempt, for immediately after the Chilkat capsized Captain Basch of the North Fork put his vessel about and made for the wreck at full speed. In the meantime boats were being cleared away and manned so that when the North Fork neared the wreck they cast off. Upon receiving news of the disaster Agent Baird of the steamer dispatched the tug Ranger and the ferry-boat Alta to the scene with physicians and willing helpers.
In the past ten years there have been numerous mishaps to vessels and several lives have been lost on Humboldt bar, but this was the first wreck and the first heavy loss of life there since the schooner Fidelity turned over while being towed in by the tug Printer on November 16, 1889. In this accident all hands aboard the schooner were lost, eight men, including Captain Christopherson, his two mates, a cook and four sailors. The vessel did not sink, but, like the Chilkat, floated around on the bar for some time, then went to sea with the tide and finally came ashore on the north peninsula back of Fairhaven, where her bones lie buried in the sand.
San Francisco Call California 1899-04-05