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PODCAST: SS Pacific shipwreck from the B.C. gold rush found off Washington State

TODAY IN B.C.: Steamer sank claiming over 300 lives with gold aboard

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Jeff Hummel has been searching for clues to the SS Pacific since he was a high school student in Washington State.

On Nov. 4, 1875, the SS Pacific departed Victoria Harbor, B.C. and about 12 hours later, it was on the bottom. It had collided with a ship called the Orpheus, on its way to Nanaimo sinking in the first few hours of a 100-year storm.

Newspaper accounts at the time reported as much as 200 pounds of gold were onboard the SS Victoria.

In 2022 after a dozen offshore expeditions, the wreck has been found and Hummel’s company Rockfish Inc. has been granted salvage rights by U.S. Courts. Much of the technology required to find the wreck was built by Hummel and his team including the robotic dive vehicles.

“In terms of the ship itself, it is an incredible state of preservation,” says Hummel. “We expect to find items made of leather, items made of clothing, items made of wool, perhaps bottles of wine with the corks still in them. “It is beyond anyone’s imagination what’s actually there; it’s all there.”

A group of 45 subscribers has financed the project to date.

Hummel says they have spent about $2.1 million getting to this point and expects to spend $6-8 million to finish the project.

Once the recovery of the SS Pacific is complete, the Northwest Shipwreck Alliance, of which Hummel is a founder, hopes to create a museum dedicated to the SS Pacific.

“The Puget Sound area has a great maritime history to it, strangely enough, there isn’t a maritime museum, dedicated to that legacy,” said Hummel. “We want to build a large complex with a hotel and convention center. We have the right wreck to be the centerpiece of this project.”

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Peter McCully

About the Author: Peter McCully

Peter has been a broadcaster and publisher on both of Canada’s coasts and has owned a small newspaper and run an advertising agency along the way.
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