Canadian Pacific Steamer Princess
on Vanderbilt Reef
Lyn Canal near Juneau, Alaska
after the Princess Sophia left skagway a
terrible snowstorm blew in reducing visibility.
Navigation through the icy waters of the Lynn
Canal was difficult in stormy weather, typically
a bearing would be taken from a known point and
those calculations would be used to guide the
steamer around Vanderbilt Reef.
Sophia was steaming along at cruising
speed at a few minutes past 2:00 a.m. October
24 when she ran aground at the center of Vanderbilt
Reef. The captain alerted the Canadian Pacific
office in Juneau, 20 miles to the south, requesting
Canadian Pacific agent was surprised by the
message from the Princess Sophia, as the
weather in Juneau was calm with light snow. Since
there were no steamers available to answer the
distress call, the Canadian Pacific agent organized
many small boats from Juneau to remove passengers
from the stricken vessel.
Captain of the Princess Sophia prepared
the lifeboats for evacuation of passengers, but
the gale force winds and rough seas, made it
impossible. Passengers aboard the Princess
Sophia waited patiently and hoped other boats
could eventually save them.
Trace of the Steamer
weather prevented the small boats sent out
of Juneau from getting close to the Princess
Sophia to unload passengers. The Captain
believed that when high tide returned it would
life the steamer free of the reef.
In the early evening hours of October 25, the Princess Sophia slipped off Vanderbilt
Reef and sank. All aboard were lost, 278 passengers and 65 crew. In total 343
men, women and children perished. All that was visible of the Princess Sophia
was the mast, the only survivor of this tragedy was a small dog which swam
to a nearby Island.
SOPHIA IS SUNK IN CANAL" was the headline
in the Dawson Daily News on Saturday, October
26, 1918. This tragedy was quickly dropped from
newspaper headlines as the ending of the First
World War took center stage.
Sophia tragedy had incredible impact
on the community of Dawson City as many local
professionals and business people were aboard
the ill-fated steamer.