watery graves
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FIFTY-SIX FIND WATERY GRAVES
from the Victoria Daily Colonist, 10 Jan 1904, pg.1

Steamer Clallam Founders Off Smith's Island And Forty-Six of Her Passengers
And Ten of Her Crew Perish in the Waters of the Straits


Life Boats Containing Women And Children Capsize In Tremendous Seas And All Are Drowned
Waves Stove In Deadlights And Flood Engine Room.


Death rode on that southwest gale which blew at a rate of forty miles an hour in the Strait of San Juan de Fuca on Friday. The steamer 'Clallam' a new steamer which has been running for six months on the Victoria-Seattle route foundered in the storm after the seas had beat her deadlights, and fifty-three lives were lost. Among the dead are many well-known Victorians, and the city is plunged in grief in consequence. The 'Clallam' is gone. She lies deep in her grave six miles to the west of Smith's island, the point being shown in the accompanying map, and the greater number of the victims of the disaster found death much nearer home.
Sketch Showing the Scene of Wreck
It was about four o'clock on Friday afternoon, when Victorians who were anxiously awaiting friends and relatives to arrive by steamer, watched the disabled vessel wallowing in the big seas rolling from beam to beam, as she drifted away before the wind, that most of the lives were lost. Then all the women and children were drowned. The steamer had drifted toward Discovery island and was about two miles away from the near-by island at four o'clock in the afternoon, when her local agent was strenuously striving to get a tug or steamer to assist her, failing because of the terrible unfortunate chain of circumstances which had taken the tugboat fleet from port, or left the vessels in port with their fires out. She was laboring heavily and the waves broke in through the shattered deadlights and the broken timbers forward, slushing in along the decks as the seas gush in among the shore rocks, drowning the fires, and leaving the vessel well nigh helpless, for she had only the jib set forward.
Capt. Roberts was aware of the danger. Ashore men watched the vessel wallowing in the seas, realizing that she was fighting a desperate battle with the elements, though none dreamed that such a tragedy was being enacted almost at the gateway of the port. Realizing the great danger which threatened the idling vessel, the great seas continued to slush in along her decks and add to the growing depths which swirled in the hold as she labored from beam to beam, Capt. Roberts decided to put the women and children in the steamer's boats and get them to the wooded shores of Discovery island. Where the ranchers and Indians would provide shelter. This shore was two miles away, and it was though that the boats, with experienced seamen in each would reach the shore in safety.

Two boats slid easily down the falls and were filled quickly with women and children. Experienced seamen took the oars and tillers, and there being still room when the women and children were in their places, some of the male passengers climbed in, all thinking to reach the shore that lay two miles away in safety. A third boat was being lowered but she caught in the falls and being tangled was not got into the water. The two boats, filled with women, children and men passengers and officers were oared for six hundred yards through the sweeping seas, when they were seen to slow around into a cross sea heavy tide rip and cross currents prevail at all times in that vicinity and both were capsized and everyone drowned in full sight of those still on the ill-fated ferry.

All the women and children the steamer carried and the men who had gone with them in those two boats were hurled into the breaking seas and all were lost. Beaten and battered in the swirling seas the bodies may be washed ashore in the vicinity and, while searchers will patrol the beaches to-day the tug 'Albion' will leave at 7:30 a.m. to scour the straits for the bodies of the lost. None reached shore alive.

Death had begun to take its tax of the company of eighty-six souls who had set out that morning from Seattle. With the sight of the horror in their minds, for it was heartrending as seen from the 'Clallam', this upturning of the boats and the sudden drowning of all that large number of men, women and children, mostly women, who had left the steamer in the hope of reaching safety, the battle with the elements continued. Ignorant of the efforts being made ashore without result, hoping against hope that, as the shadows deepened quickly into night, assistance would come, the officer of the steamer continued to drive out into the Straits of San Juan de Fuca, drifting before the wind.

Darkness came on quickly, the wind hissed and roared, the seas swept staggering over her and the water continued to break in and slash along her deck, filling her gradually. And she still rolled, pitched and rolled helplessly. Men staggered about the decks wearing life preservers, asking each other eagerly what could be done to patch the broken deadlights and holes forward where the water slushed in and gurgled and splashed along the main deck. They knew the steamer was settling. Before long, doubtlessly, she would founder and all grabbed buckets and all manner of things to bail. In three gangs all hands bailed, but it was a hopeless task, for as fast as they bailed - even faster the sea poured in.

Then it seemed that relief had come. The tug 'Richard Holyoke', which had been ordered from Port Townsend on receipt of advices from Agent E.E. Blackwood in Victoria, came. Through the murky night with the hissing and roaring of the elements drowning her engines thrumming, the company of the 'Clallam' saw the triangle of red, green and white lights that told them that a tug had come. Safety seemed assured for the survivors of the disaster but no. After a line had been put on board the 'Clallam' from the 'Holyoke', which ran up alongside the shattered steamer, the tug started to tow. This made matters worse, for the 'Clallam' could not stand the strain. She began to part her timbers when the tow started, and the waves broke in through many broken places in her timbers.

As the tug continued to haul her, making good headway through the heavy seas the 'Clallam' careened more and more, and by 10:30 p.m. - the tug had picked her up half an hour before - she was over on her beam and filling rapidly. All those left on board hurried to the main deck, for the broken steamer was settling into deep waters of the straits under them. Vainly they shouted to the tugboat which strained on the hawser ahead, dragging the breaking steamer through the seas which buffeted her so terribly. All their shouts were drowned by the hissing and roaring of the wind and the noises of the pounding seas which rolled against the vessel. All ignorant of the pending fate of the vessel the 'Holyoke' continued to tow, making good headway, while the water crept up on the unfortunates who were huddled on the upper deck. It looked as though they would go down with the steamer beneath their feet while the tug still hauled on her.

For nearly two hours the tug towed while the water deepened in the steamer and she settled lower. Then the tug 'Sea Lion', which had been scouring the Straits seeking the 'Clallam' came. She steamed alongside in the night, and Capt. Manter shouted to Capt. Roberts who at once told him of the extremity in which the 'Clallam' was placed by the buffeting she had received. The 'Sea Lion' - one of the fastest of the Puget Sound tugs - then steamed ahead and notified Capt. Hall of the fate of the 'Clallam'. He cut the hawser that held her and steamed back along side. The 'Clallam' soon rolled over on her beam ends, and all who could crawled over on to the exposed side, and clinging there with the seas breaking over them they awaited rescue. From there the brave fellows of the 'Holyoke' and 'Sea Lion' risking their own lives saved the most of the unfortunates.

Seven men were taken from the pilot's bridge of the 'Clallam' and others were rescued from the waters, whither they were thrown as the vessel began to founder. Mate Hickman and a deck hand of the 'Holyoke' worked like heroes. With a boat from the tug which was hardly expected to live in such a sea, they picked up one man from a plank and others were taken from the "Clallam'. But many were drowned. After an ineffective battle, a struggle to reach safety, they sank down into the seas.

It is reported that the engine room staff who were on duty were drowned by the flooding of the vessel in the first instance, although the survivors do not seem clear on this point. Some say that Second Engineer Smith, three firemen and an oiler, were lost in the engine room when the steamer foundered, others that they were drowned when the water flooded in through the deadlights, forward in the first instance, which seems more probable, as none could have lived below after the water poured in through the deadlights.

The tugs stood by until daylight, hoping to be able to rescue some of the drowning, and the 'Bahada, and 'Magic' which had also been despatched, arrived on the scene. The 'Holyoke' proceeded to Seattle with Capt. Roberts and twenty-two survivors. Later the 'Sea Lion' arrived with nine others. All who were saved had stayed by the wreck until the last. Later the 'Bahada' arrived, coming into Port Townsend yesterday afternoon with five bodies, all unidentified, which were found floating amongst the detached upper works that came up from the hull as it foundered. The bodies were all those of men. Two were wedged amongst the wreckage on the saloon deck, and another was so fast wedged amongst the wreckage that it could not be taken from the wreck. The 'Sea Lion' and 'Holyoke' and two other tugs afterward returned to the scene to seek further victims, and this morning the tug 'Albion' will go from here to scout the straits for floating bodies.
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