Steep Point, AK steamer Ohio sinking, Aug 1909


The Steamer Ohio Sunk Off the Coast of Alaska.

Struck a Rock and Went Down in Three Minutes.

All of the Passengers Escaped From the Vessel.

Five Members of the Crew Drowned. The Wireless Operator Stuck to His Post.

Seattle, Wash., Aug. 27. - Five lives were lost in the sinking of the Alaska Steamship Company's steamer Ohio, off Steep Point, Alaska, early to-day. There were 128 passengers on board, but all escaped, the victim being from among the crew. The loss of the steamer and cargo is total.

The drowned: Purser F. J. Stephen, Seattle; Wireless Operator George E. Eccles, Winnipeg; two seamen, names not given; quartermaster, name not given.

A wireless dispatch says the Ohio sank in three minutes. This probably means that she was on the reef a considerable time and that the passengers were all off before the ship slid into deep water, which she did so speedily as to carry down five of the crew.

Some passengers were taken ashore in lifeboats and picked up by the fishing-boat Kingfisher and taken to Swanson Bay. Others were taken on the Humboldt and Rupert City. The Humboldt's passengers were landed at Ketchikan, and the Rupert City is taking her passengers to Vancouver.

Early reports said that fifty or more lives had been lost, but the steamship company fixes the list at five on the strength of wireless dispatches from M. J. Heney, railroad builder, who was taken off by the Humboldt.

Purser Stephen and Operator Eccles stuck to their posts and gave their lives to save the passengers.

The Dolphin, another Alaskan Steamship Company boat, due at Ketchikan to-night, was ordered by wireless to stand by in Swanson Bay and give assistance.

The Ohio was insured for $220,000. Captain John Johnson, her navigator, was regarded as one of the most skillful on the Pacific coast.

The Wireless Operator on the Steamer Ohio Perished.

New York, Aug. 27. - The United Wireless Company, one of whose operators, G. E. Eccles, of Winnipeg, perished in the sinking of the steamer Ohio off the Alaskan coast to-day, received an account of the disaster from Operator Booth at Ketchikan, Alaska, to-day. Booth says in a dispatch to headquarters of the company here:

"About 1 a.m. I was sitting with my receivers clasped to my ears, having just finished working with Operator Eccles aboard the Ohio, when I was starteld by hearing him call 'C. Q. D., C. Q. D.' I immediately answered, and he sent the following message: 'Ohio struck a rock, steamer sinking, send aid immediately or everybody will be lost.'

"The steamships Humbolt and Rupert, of the McKenzie Brothers Steamship Company happened to be near at the time, and they both called the Ohio, asking for her latitude. Eccles gave it immediately, and the Rupert flashed back that they would change their course and stand by the Ohio as soon as possible.

"In the meantime Eccles sent another message, saying: 'Ohio sinking fast, cannot hold out. Passengers being taken off in small boats. Captain and crew will stick to the last.'

"The Humbolt and Rupert both replied that they were headed for the Ohio, and would pick the passengers up. Then came the final message from the stricken vessel. It was never finished: 'Passengers all off and adrift in small boats,' it said. 'Captain and crew going off in the last boat, waiting for me now, good-by.'

"I was unable to get him again," concludes Booth, "and I knew he had gone down with his ship."

The Times Picayune, New Orleans, LA 28 Aug 1909