Group seeks salvage rights to shipwrecked steamer

Posted: Monday, August 25, 2003

ANCHORAGE - A group of Alaska divers filed papers in federal court seeking salvage rights to the SS Aleutian, a steamer shipwrecked off Kodiak in 1929.

The Aleutian was owned by the Alaska Steamship Co. and sank in seven minutes on May 26, 1929, after hitting a submerged rock in Uyak Bay near the town of Larsen Bay on Kodiak Island. Papers seeking salvage rights were filed Friday.

The ship is just "sitting in the mud, frozen in that moment of time from 1929 when it hit the rock," said Steve Lloyd, one of the divers who first located the wreck in August 2002. "The cargo's still in the hold. The furniture is still in the stateroom ... spittoons still in the gentlemen's smoking room."

"Portions of the superstructure have collapsed, and almost all the wood is gone," Lloyd told the Anchorage Daily News. "But sections of the deck were steel and are still there."

Of its 116 crew members and passengers, 115 survived.

The ship was 375 feet long and 50 feet wide. It had delivered a crew of several hundred workers to the Zachar cannery. When it hit the rock, it was attempting to find and deliver supplies to the Esther, an early version of a floating processor, Lloyd said.

It sank with 115 tons of cargo plus "three carload lots of copper ore," all of which came to rest in about 210 feet of water off the south end of Amook Island. Seven pouches of U.S. mail from Anchorage and the Interior bound for the Lower 48 were also lost.

Survivors later commended Capt. John Nord and his officers for getting the life boats launched quickly as the vessel listed heavily to port then tilted forward, raising its stern and propellers into the air before plunging nose-first to the ocean floor.

Crew member Manuel Dorras, variously described as a waiter and a janitor, was lost when tumbling furniture crushed him or when he went back for a lucky stone, or a lucky horseshoe, or an unfinished painting called "The Lucky Horseshoe," depending on which newspaper was quoting which survivor.

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