Wreck of the S.S. Portland found
06-01-2004 - Heritage
The S.S. Portland is best known as one of the "Ton of Gold" ships that helped launch the Klondike gold rush in 1897. Earlier, as the Haytien Republic, the trading ship was caught smuggling on more than one occasion in the West Indies and along the Pacific Northwest coast. After 1897, the increased traffic kept the ship serving Alaska ports. On November 12, 1910, the ship hit a rock and grounded near Katalla. All passengers and crew survived.
Last November, Gabriel Scott, a Cordova resident, reported shipwreck remains near Katalla to Mike Burwell, U.S. Minerals Management Service, who maintains a statewide shipwreck database. Because the remains are on state tidelands, Burwell contacted the Office of History and Archaeology. Dave McMahan, State Archaeologist, organized a field trip to the site that took place May 18-20. McMahan, Burwell and Scott, were accompanied by Karl Gurcke (NPS Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park archaeologist), John Jensen (marine historian/consulting nautical archaeologist), and a five-person PBS crew. The U.S. Forest Service manages the uplands adjacent to the site, and Linda Yarborough, Forest Service archaeologist, worked with the project team. Preliminary observations on cylinder size and vessel constructions, corroborated by archival records, suggest the wreck is the S.S. Portland. Readers should watch for the History Detectives segment, scheduled to air late this summer, for the verdict.