Smith Island, WA Area Steamship CLALLAM Sinking, Jan 1904

SS Clallam WASH.jpg

The Clallam Sinks Off Coast of Washington.

Every Woman and Child Perishes—

Three Lifeboats Swamped and All On Board Are Lost.

VICTORIA, B. C, Jan. 9.—The steamship Clallam of the Seattle-Victoria fleet went down early this morning, midway between Smith Island and Dungenness, in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Fifty-one persons were drowned.

Every woman and child aboard the Clallam perished.

The Clallam, which plied daily between this port and Seattle, had made moderately good progress across the straits, bound for Victoria, until Trial Island, off the entrance to Port Townsend (Washington) harbor was abeam. Then a terrific cross sea was pelting the vessel, retarding her progress and making life uncomfortable for those aboard.

Little fear-was felt, however, until word came up from below that the vessel was leaking. Investigation showed that the waves on the windward side had stove in a deadlight, through which the water rushed in volume, resisting all efforts to stop It.

Bravely the officers and crew of the helpless hulk worked to save the boat and the souls aboard her, but in vain.. Stanch as she was, the Clallam could not stand the terrific onslaughts of the seas, and just before darkness began to fall It was decided to make an attempt to save the passengers at least by the boats. Two boats were launched, and in these some of the passengers were entrusted to the waters.

The first boat contained only women and children, three deckhands from the Clallam, and Capt. Lawrence. The boat was overwhelmed ___ -feet from the Clallam and its occupants shrieked in vain for aid from those aboard the steamer. Not a hand could be raised to aid them.


A second lifeboat was filled with male passengers and in command of Second Officer Currin was probably lost a few minutes later. Aboard the Clallam watchers saw waves sweep passengers from their hold on the seats and hurl them into the waters. Though the lifeboat was righted later, diligent search has failed to find a trace of her.

More lives were lost when an attempt was made to launch a third boat. The boat was swamped immediately and all in it were lost. They all were men.

All this happened yesterday afternoon. The doomed ship did not. sink until late that night. After the third boat was lost, those on board the Clallam devoted their attention to trying to save the ship. The few
passengers left joined the remnant of the crew in their desperate efforts to keep the sinking vessel afloat. The pumps were impotent, and three gangs of bailers were set to work. It seemed for a time that the Clallam was to be saved. But the hull began to give way before the terrific assaults of the waves.


All seemed doomed to perish, but unexpected aid was near.

When the Clallam broke down yesterday afternoon she was within twenty minutes of her dock in this city. People who watched her from the shore say she suddenly stopped steaming and slewed around, drifting broadside on before the wind, which was blowing at the rate of thirty miles an hour from the southwest. She reeled heavily from beam to beam then.

The local agent was notified, and he endeavored to get a local tug to go to her assistance, but tailed, owing to the absence of the vessels of the tug fleet, and no steamer had steam up. Then he telegraphed to Seattle, and tugs were dispatched to her from there.

The Richard Holyoke, in command of Capt. Robert Hall, was the first to reach the Clallam, which had by this time careened partly over from the inrush of water which had put the engines out of commission.

The Holyoke reached the Clallam about 11 o'clock last night, and succeeded in getting a hawser aboard, with which she started to tow the ship to safety.

The Clallam took a heavy lurch, and those remaining aboard were compelled to climb up the side to safety, finally reaching the roof of the pilothouse.

Without a moment's hesitation the tug's boats were lowered and the work of rescuing those remaining on the sinking ship was commenced. At this point the tug Sea Lion. Capt. Hunter, arrived, and also rendered
assistance. By heroic efforts the crews of the two tugs saved the lives of nearly all who remained aboard the Clallam.

A few were swept away and perished in the blackness of the storm. At 12:30 the Clallam went on her beam ends and began sinking rapidly. At 1:07 she settled and the tow lines were cut. A few minutes later she lurched and disappeared beneath the waves.

The closing scene was eight miles north of Protection Island, only a short distance north of Port Townsend and approximately 30 miles from Victoria. The Holyoke picked the Clallam up on Smith's Island.

The survivors of the wreck were taken to Seattle to-night on the steamer Dirigo.


W. H. Grimes of Redmond, Washington, aboard the Clallam, bound for Victoria, gives a concise statement:

"The weather was pretty rough," said he, ' but we had no suspicion of danger until some one forward said something about life preservers. I went forward to investigate, and there learned that the Clallam was making water rapidly. The boats were promptly manned and launched, and the women and children, and such passengers as desired to leave, were placed in them competent crews being in charge.

The boats made off from the steamer safely, but one after another they capsized and we were helpless to render them any assistance. They simply drowned before our eyes.

"In the meantime crew and passengers were busy bailing and trying to stop the leak, but without success. The balling was kept up. however, and soon we were overjoyed when a big tug took hold of us. The towboat started, and made pretty good progress until it became apparent that the Clallam was careening under us; then all hands went on deck, and as the Ill-fated packet listed we gradually crawled upon her exposed side, from where the brave fellows from the Holyoke rescued most of us.”

The New York Times, New York, NY 8 Jan 1904