More than a century after the SS City of Rio de Janeiro slipped beneath the chilly waters off the coast of San Francisco, taking 128 individuals with her, researchers have located the final resting place of the ill-fated vessel.
The steamer, carrying 210 people, struck jagged rocks while traveling through heavy fog near Fort Point, at the southern end of the Golden Gate Strait, near today’s Golden Gate Bridge, and sank within 10 minutes.
The disaster, called the Bay Area’s Titanic, is considered the worst shipwreck in San Francisco history.
New sonar maps show the mud-covered grave of the City of Rio 287 feet below the surface, according to Live Science.
Most of the passengers and nearly all of the crew were Chinese, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The 345-foot ship’s last voyage began in China, with stops in Yokohama, Japan; and Honolulu, Hawaii, before heading for San Francisco Bay. The Chronicle described the ship’s final hours:
Fog obscured the Golden Gate on the night of Feb. 21, 1901, so Capt. William Ward anchored the ship just off the Cliff House, in sight of San Francisco.
But before dawn, the fog seemed to lift, and after consulting with Capt. Frederick Jordan, the bar pilot, Ward weighed anchor and headed for the Golden Gate. The fog closed in again, however, and about 5:30 a.m. Feb. 22, the Rio ran onto the rocks.
There was tremendous confusion, according to accounts at the time. The officers and crew spoke different languages, and the lifeboats were never launched. The ship’s lights went out, and the ship drifted off the rocks and sank.
“Fishermen in the area, hearing the ship’s distress calls, helped rescue 82 survivors, many plucked from makeshift rafts and floating wreckage,” according to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which helped located the City of Rio. “The dead included Chinese and Japanese immigrants as well as the US Consul General in Hong Kong, who was returning to the US with his wife and two children. The entire family died in the tragedy.”