25 October

The helpless Sophia sinks on Vanderbilt Reef

Steamship Sophia Hits Reef and Founders

One of the worst sea disasters on the Pacific coast took place on October 25, 1918. The Canadian Pacific Steamship Sophia left Skagway, Alaska, bound for Victoria and Vancouver. On board were 343 people "going outside" for the winter. Some of them were characters from Klondike gold rush days, and they formed a happy crowd of travelers. They gathered in the Sophia's lounge to sing the old dance hall songs and listen to the stories of William Scouse of Seattle, who had hoisted the first bucket of gold at Eldorado Creek twenty years before.

The ship was commanded by Captain Louis P. Locke, formerly of Nova Scotia. As the Sophia steamed through the night, it suddenly struck a hidden rock known as Vanderbilt Reef. The ship did not sink, but was listing badly. Captain Locke sent out an S.O.S. which brought the U.S. steamer Cedar and a number of small boats to the Sophia's assistance during the day. Unfortunately the wind was gale force and it was impossible to take off the passengers; so the captain of the Cedar decided to stand by until the wind moderated. The passengers were brave, and as happy as possible under the circumstances. They continued their songs around the piano, defying the storm and their thoughts of dying.

Suddenly, about five o'clock in the afternoon, Sophia began to founder. Captain Locke sent out a wireless signal: "For God's sake, come and save us." Cedar tried to come close but could not make it because of the high seas and a snowstorm that reduced visibility to nil.

The last that was heard from Sophia was a wireless message: "just in time to say goodbye bag tied to her neck. The only survivor was a brown and white English setter that somehow swam to shore. It came into Tec Harbour two days later, its coat greasy with oil.


25 October

-1666    Radisson and Groseilliers had an audience with King Charles II who promised them ships for an expedition to Hudson Bay (see August 28).

-1768    Port La joie, founded by the French, was renamed Charlottetown in honour of the wife of George III.

-1780    Sir Frederick Haldimand, Governor of Quebec, protested that laws favoured merchants and not the inhabitants.

-1798    A boundary commission made the St. Croix River the southern border between New Brunswick and Maine.

-1920    Plebiscites in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia resulted in large majorities for prohibition.