Saturday, 23 February 2013

The SS Islander Treasure

UPDATED : "Latest News: 17th August 2012

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The state has issued a permit allowing for archaeological work at the site of a sunken Gold Rush-era ship in southeast Alaska.

A permit application was filed earlier this month by David Miller, an archaeologist under contract with Kent, Wash.-based Ocean Mar Inc. The Associated Press obtained documents related to the project, including a copy of the application and work proposal, through a public records request.

Miller's application lists August as the start of the proposed work, with no definitive completion date, and the Alaska State Museum as the proposed repository of collected items. The permit expires Dec. 31 but can be extended.

"JUNEAU -- A Gold Rush-era mystery could soon be solved, with a recent federal court decision approving a Washington state man's plans to recover cargo from the sunken luxury liner SS Islander -- including any gold on board.

Theodore Jaynes and his company, Ocean Mar Inc., had been fighting since the 1990s for salvage rights to the vessel, which was carrying about 180 people from Skagway to Vancouver, British Columbia, when it sank off the coast of Douglas Island in the early morning hours of Aug. 15, 1901. Forty people died, according to a court of inquiry report for the Canadian government

Jaynes' expedition is hardly the first to try its luck at finding the treasure; perhaps the most significant and successful prior attempt came in the 1930s, when a salvage company raised about two-thirds of the Islander's hull. According to the 1992 report, it cost an estimated $200,000 to beach the ship, and the salvagers got about $50,000 in returns.

About 60 feet of the ship's forward section snapped off during the raising, according to court documents, and remained under water.

In a 2007 filing, Ocean Mar said its research had indicated that at least six tons of gold bullion in 25 to 30 wooden boxes was stored in a passenger cabin. It also said it had found what it believed to be bullion boxes near shore, no deeper than 200 feet.
The SS Islander was a 1519 ton, 240-foot (73 m) steel hull, schooner-rigged twin-screw steamer, built in Scotland in 1888, and owned and operated by the Canadian Pacific Steam Navigation Company.

She was built especially for the Inside Passage to Alaska and the lucrative Klondike gold fields, was reputedly the most luxurious steamer engaged on that run.
On August 14th, 1901 the Islander departed Skagway, Alaska for Victoria, British Columbia, filled to capacity with passengers and carrying a cargo of gold bullion valued at over $6,000,000 in 1901 dollars. Sometime after 2:00 am on 15 August, 1901 while sailing down the narrow Lynn Canal south of Juneau, she struck what was reported to be an iceberg that stove a large hole in her forward port quarter. Attempts to steer the foundering vessel ashore on nearby Douglas Island were in vain; within five minutes, the tremendous weight of the water filling the ship's forward compartments had forced her bow underwater and her stern, rudder and propellers completely out of the water.