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The SS Princess Sophia sank on the evening of 25 October 1918, after running aground on Vanderbilt Reef, in Lynn Canal near Juneau, Alaska. 343 people, including 75 crew members and 50 women and children, were lost.

 

The Lynn Canal was dangerous for ships due to its deep waters with strong currents, rocky cliff faces and narrow fjords. The Vanderbilt Reef rose 1,000 feet (305 m) from the sea floor and 12 feet (3.6 m) above the water at low tide, narrowing the channel to about 2.5 miles (4 km) wide.

 

Many have criticized Captain Locke’s decision not to evacuate the ship, believing all aboard could have been saved. The Ministry of Marine reached this conclusion in 1919 after hearing eyewitness accounts. Courts ruled that the decision was within the reasonable range of judgment of the captain, due to the dangers of evacuating the ship in a heavy snowstorm. As early as 10:20 on 24th October there were enough vessels on the scene to have effectuated a complete rescue, and the weather was showing signs of improvement. Historians believe that the memory of the wreck of the Clallam, in which all lifeboat passengers perished after a premature evacuation, may have influenced Captain Locke’s decision.

 

 

 

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