A US-based firm has earned salvaging rights to the vessel that sunk off the Washington State Coast some 147 years back and may have gold worth about $10 million.
On 4 November 1875, the SS Pacific departed from Esquimalt and set sail for San Francisco in poor weather conditions. The paddle-wheeler was thought to be loaded with a minimum of 275 passengers.
Shortly after it set sail, the SS Pacific ran into a collision with another vessel and sank off the Washington State coast. There were two survivors, and it is considered one of the worst maritime disasters on the west coast.
Jeff Hummel, the president of Rockfish Incorporated, mentioned that he has known about the vessel for almost 40 years. So since he was in high school, he’d always thought that someone would be able to discover it and do something with the vessel before he did.
The Seattle-based firm reportedly won in a US District Federal Court recently the exclusive rights needed to salvage the vessel citing maritime law that permits discoverers of shipwrecks to recover whatever is possible. However, if there are members of the public who can prove their connection to possessions found onboard, they can file a claim and repossess it.
Hummel said that it involved heavy detective work and legwork. Making the best use of information from previous expeditions, Rockfish Inc. found a piece of coal in a vast search area of about 64 kilometres toward the south of Cape Flattery. A chemical analysis reportedly determined the coal matched that of what would have been on the vessel.
It was not until the paddlewheels were identified and looked at with the underwater robot that the specialists could determine that the ship was the Pacific, explained the firm’s president.
The vessel may be harbouring gold worth millions of dollars. Per a 2009 paper titled The SS Pacific, there was a loss of 275 lives on 4 November 1875; the passengers comprised prominent Victorians, affluent businessmen, an equestrian troupe, multiple gold miners, and 41 labourers from China.
The gold supposedly in private hands is worth $100,000 (at least), per author Daryl C. McClary. The gold today would hold a value of about $10 million.
The president has said that at least four individuals have come forward and claimed to be a descendant, including one from Vancouver Island. Hummel is hoping that more individuals will come forward, and that, according to him, is the exciting part of the story.
Collaborating with the non-profit firm named Northwest Shipwreck Alliance, a condition of their salvaging rights is that a museum needs to be established for displaying artefacts collected from the SS Pacific. Hummel mentions that he wants to open that museum near Puget Sound.
Divers are expected to begin the procedure in the fall of 2023.
Reference: chek news, vancouversun
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