Sophia lingers in paintings, books, video and dive site

Posted: Sunday, June 08, 2003

Of the four wrecks near Juneau - the Clara Nevada, the Princess Sophia, Islander and the Princess May - the Sophia has captured the most attention, and its memory lingers on in a variety of art forms.

Clive Cussler has created a video documentary, "The Last Evening of the Princess Sophia," a documentary shown recently at history and culture workshops offered by the Juneau-Douglas City Museum to tour guides.

Painter Dan Fruits created "Images and Lamentations: The Wreck of the Princess Sophia," an hour-long show which debuted in Juneau in 1996. The show included 20 watercolors and pastels.

The performance included three readers - David Hunsaker, Dee Longenbaugh and Ward Serrill - who read from text about the Sophia and her sad end.

Fruits now splits his time between Juneau and Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

"I was first attracted by the Sophia disaster as an interesting local story that I thought contained useable images for art work," Fruits said in a recent e-mail interview.

"This simple story of a commonplace commercial boat trip with a storm and a couple of poor but understandable judgments made by a competent skipper near retirement leads to a drama worthy of a Greek tragedy of literature. Irony, metaphor, folklore and rich allegory abound," he said.

Poems, songs and at least two books also autopsy the Sophia disaster.

Perhaps the best known is Kenneth Coates and William Morrison's "Taking the North Down with Her: The Sinking of the Princess Sophia," available at the State Historical Library.

Cold water has preserved the wreck, which is marked on local maps as a dive site.

For those who shun cold water, the Juneau-Douglas City Museum's permanent collection includes a display about shipwrecks as well as a champagne bucket retrieved from the Sophia.

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