Disaster Strikes…

Shortly 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.

The Canadian Pacific Steamer Princess Sophia on Vanderbilt Reef in the Lyn Canal near Juneau, Alaska.

The Princess Sophia was steaming along at cruising speed at a few minutes past 2:00 a.m. on 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 assistance.

The 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.

The 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.

Bad weather prevented the small boats sent out of Juneau from getting close to the Princess Sophia to unload pass