History

The SS Princess Sophia of the CP Steamship Company met her ill-fate in October 1918 when she hit Vanderbilt Reef in the Lynn Canal along the coast of Alaska. She sat on the Reef for 40 hours in rough seas and raging storms until she eventually slipped off the Reef into her watery grave, taking all human life on board with her.

Before that stormy night, the Princess Sophia served as a passenger liner along a key route that connected otherwise remote communities in BC, Yukon, and Alaska. She also served as a troop transport vessel in WWI, moving soldiers down the west coast in the first leg of their journeys on their way out east to the fronts in Europe. She was only in service in her multiple roles for six years before she met her fate, but during that time she touched many lives throughout the Pacific Northwest; the news of her tragic ending sent the whole region into mourning for the lives lost and the ship that had connected them all.

Though those connected to the Princess Sophia remember her tragic tale, the world quickly got swept up with the excitement of the armistice being signed that ended the Great War less than a month after the Sophia’s sinking, and the fear of Spanish Influenza, which was quickly sweeping its own deadly force around globe. As such, the story of the Princess Sophia got pushed out of the news until eventually, 100 years later, it has become known to those who still remember the tragedy as the “unknown Titanic of the West Coast”.

The following pages take a closer look at the backstory to Sophia’s sinking, as well as the circumstances around the tragedy and those who perished and those who were left behind in the aftermath.

Photo: Alaska State Library, Winter and Pond Collection,  ASL-P87-1708