Shelter Cove, CA Steamer COLUMBIA Disaster, Jul 1907 - Graphic Tale

Steamer Columbia


Third Officer Accuses the Male Passengers of Failing to Assist the Rescued


Not a Child Aboard Wrecked Steamer Was Saved - Company Official Makes Statement

Revised lists show that 97 persons were drowned when the steamer Columbia was sent to the bottom off the Mendocino coast early Sunday morning as the result of a collision with the lumber schooner San Pedro. Not a child on board the Columbia escaped death. A wonderfully graphic story of the disaster, in which the horror of it all stands out so plainly that one can almost experience it, is told by Mrs. O. Liedelt, one of the survivors, who reached San Francisco yesterday. Third Officer Hawso expresses the utmost contempt for the men who were in the wreck, declaring that they did nothing to aid the women. Sworn statements made to government officials by the crew of the wrecked steamer seek to place the responsibility for the disaster on the San Pedro, which, it is declared, did not respond properly to the passing signals given by the Columbia.

(Special Dispatch to the Journal)
San Francisco, July 23.
The most graphic story which has been told of the steamship Columbia disaster was brought to this city today by a woman, Mrs. O. Leidelt, one of the survivors, who arrived on the steamer Pomona from Eureka. Mrs. Leidelt was the only survivor from among the passengers on the ill-fated Columbia who came in on the Pomona, although the ship brought the members of the crew who were saved and who had managed to reach Eureka. When Mrs. Leidelt started down the Pomona's gang-plank, after the ship was made fast, she faced a great crowd of anxious friends and relatives of those who had been aboard the Columbia. Every passenger who had preceded her down the plank had been stopped by anxious ones who inquired, "Were you a passenger on the Columbia?". Not until Mrs. Leidelt debarked was an affirmative answer obtained to the questions, and at first the woman was so overcome by her emotions that she could not talk, and constantly murmured, "I don't want to talk. Please do not ask me to say anything."

Story Moved Men to Tears.
Clad in a dark brown ulster which had been furnished her by the relief committee at Eureka, and closely veiled, she made her way uncertainly through the crowd on the pier, seemingly still in a daze from the terrible experience through which she had passed. She was crying constantly, and her replies to newspaper men who besought her to make a statement of the affair were broken by sobs. When at last she was induced to talk she told a story so graphic that the hardened newspaper writers who listened to the recital were moved to tears. "I was asleep in my berth when the crash came," she said, "and the jar of the collision threw me to the floor. I managed to get out of the stateroom although I was too bewildered to know what I was doing, and made my way to the deck. I could only realize that something terrible had happened, and did not stop to collect any of my belongings, or to don my clothing.

Passengers in a Frenzy.
"When I reached the deck, everyone was excited." Men and women and children were running about, screaming, and calling for friends and relatives. The dark hulk of the San Pedro could be seen floating away from the Columbia, and the rush of the water into our vessel made a noise that was heard above the din of the crazed crowd. The crew was at the boats, cutting and slashing at the lashings, and doing their utmost to launch them while the frenzied passengers ran everywhere begging to be saved. Some kneeled on the deck and said their last prayers, men clasped their wives in their arms, and mothers gathered their children about them. We waited for the end which, by intuition, we all knew was at hand. "Only the captain remained cool among all that number. He stood on the bridge, his arms stretched wide, and above all the other noises rose the roar of his voice, begging the people to be calm and to permit the launching of the life-boats and rafts. He was a heroic figure, standing there along on the bridge in the gloom and darkness of the night.