Friday, April 15, 2016

The desperate drift of the SS Dora in the wild North Pacific

Built 1880 by Mathew Turner, San Francisco, CA.
112' x 27.2' x 13.2'. 
Compound single-screw engine, driven by boiler-produced steam
14 NHP (7.5knots) 
Full set of sails.
Coal bunkers and storage holds for at least 100-tons of cargo.
Lost: 1920.

  On a routine voyage to Western Alaska and the Aleutian Island villages, the DORA left Valdez, 27 Nov 1905. Heavy weather dogged the little vessel and the night of 30 December found her at Cold Bay. She went to Chignik Bay, but because of gales, could not make the dock, so she turned around. As she headed out to sea, rolling and pitching in the heavy comers, the steam pipe between the boiler and the engine broke, leaving the vessel without power.

      Then began a 63-day drift in the trackless Pacific of the little Alaska passenger ship, that carried her far out of the shipping lanes.

      Back and forth went the DORA, at the mercy of the elements. She wandered over the Gulf of Alaska; at one time she reached a point below the Columbia River.

      Provisions ran low and soon the DORA was desperately short of drinking water. A limited amount of water was doled out each day, with rain from the sagging boat-covers saved. Finally, the mail pouches were opened in search of newspapers and other reading material.

      There was no wireless in those days, and strange as it may seem, not a vessel sighted the far-rambling DORA, that was carried in a zig-zag course by wind and wave for more than two months.
      Finally the DORA was recorded in the list of missing ships.

      Then on 23 Feb 1906, the DORA arrived in Port Angeles, having made a voyage from off Kodiak Island under makeshift mainsail, foresail and staysail, rigged by the crew.

      Capt. Zim S. Moore, master, telephoned J.F. Throwbridge, general manager of the NW Steamship Co, owner of the DORA, telling him that the vessel was safe, and soon the Seattle waterfront was thrilled by the news.

       All aboard the DORA had been given up for lost, and Lloyd's of London was preparing to pay the insurance money to the owners of the vessel.

It was a long and lonely journey that the passengers and crew would never forget, nor want to repeat.


  1. Good story, CW! Will have to find more info on that one!

  2. Why didn't they use the sails?