SHIPWRECKS, PANDEMICS, and INTERNATIONAL DISTRACTIONS

You would think that shipwrecks and pandemics are unrelated but history shows the worst of the two tend to happen coincidentally. If the current Corona Pandemic is similar to the last pandemic we are in for some substantial tragedies here in the United States.

The Great Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 began in the spring of that year. The number of deaths from the flu spiked in early June but settled down in mid July. By September the numbers had been low for the summer and most thought the health disaster was about to be over. Unfortunately the numbers began to spike in mid-September and rose exponentially. The spike lasted into early December. When all was said and done, 25% of the U S population had suffered through the Spanish Flu and 675,000 had died. Worldwide it is estimated that 50 to 100 million people died. In Alaska complete native settlements were wiped out. The number of shipwreck and shipwreck deaths spiked at the exact same time as the Spanish Flu Pandemic.

The peak of the Spanish Flu Pandemic was October of 1918. October 24, 1918 was the worst transportation accident in Alaska History. That is the day the Princess Sophia piled up on Vanderbilt Reef and within 40 hours all of the more than 343 persons on board were lost. The Spanish Flu may have played a part in some way in this and many other disasters that happened during the peak periods of the epidemic. The following are disasters that happened in the United States coincidental with the last pandemic which happened in 1918:

  • June 22, 1918 a circus train wrecked in Hammond Indiana killing 86 and injuring 127. It was the largest train wreck in U S History at that time.
  • July 9, 1918 two passenger trains collided in Nashville, Tennessee killing 101 and injuring 171 people. It became the largest train wreck in U S History.
  • October 6, 1918 The HMS Otranto troop ship was rammed by another troopship killing 470 mainly U S Troops and officers. (Outside of the U.S. but significant)
  • October 10, 1918 the Cloquet, Minnesota wildfire began and killed more than 450 and injured 52,000 people. It was the deadliest wildfire in U S History at that time.
  • October 25, 1918 SS Princess Sophia sank in Alaska with all 343+ on board. It is the worst and deadliest shipwreck in Alaska history.
  • November 1, 1918 the Malbone Street subway wreck occurred killing between 93-102 and injuring approximately 250 persons. A subway train derailed on a sharp corner precipitating one of the deadliest train wrecks in U.S. and New York City History.

All of these disasters happened during the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. There were many others worldwide. I believe that these terrible events are an indirect consequence of so many people being sick at the same time. It is a danger that is not a “one on one” effect but more like a “million on a million” effect. These circumstances are extremely rare. Are we going to see transportation tragedies play out as a result of the Corona Virus Pandemic similar to those that occurred during the Spanish Flu Pandemic. I pray we are not. Even if it doesn’t happen, this is a good opportunity for everyone to learn the new “Pandemic Drills” just in case we really do get one that has the ability to effect a large percentage of the population at the same time.

FYI, my interest in pandemics and their consequences has been life long. I was named Warren Edward Good at birth after my Great Uncle Warren Edward Good of U S Army Company C Ninth Mounted Engineers. He died of Spanish Flu October 6, 1918 at Fort Bliss Base Hospital in Texas during the peak of the Spanish Flu Pandemic.

Scandies Rose Search Suspended – Names of Crew Released

From the United States Coast Guard :

JUNEAU, Alaska – The Coast Guard suspended its search Wednesday at 6:08 p.m. for five missing fishermen in the waters near Sutwik Island, Alaska.

The five missing are:

  • Gary Cobban, Jr. (Master)
  • David Lee Cobban
  • Arthur Ganacias
  • Brock Rainey
  • Seth Rousseau-Gano

The two survivors are:

•     Dean Gribble, Jr. 
•      John Lawler

The search spanned over 20 hours, 1,400 square miles and included the following assets:

•      4 MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews
•      2 HC-130 Hercules airplane crews
•      Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC 717)

“The decision to suspend an active search and rescue case is never easy, and it’s only made after careful consideration of a myriad of factors,” said Rear Adm. Matthew Bell, 17th District Commander. “Our deepest condolences to the friends and families impacted by this tragedy.”

Watchstanders at the 17th District Command Center in Juneau were notified of a mayday call via High Frequency radio on Tuesday evening from the fishing vessel Scandies Rose, which capsized and sank approximately five miles southeast of Sutwik Island.

MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and HC-130 Hercules airplane crews launched from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak. The Jayhawk helicopter crew arrived on-scene and rescued two survivors from a life raft. The survivors were taken to the hospital in Kodiak, where they are reported to be in stable condition.

After exhausting all leads and careful consideration of survival probability, the Coast Guard suspends an active search pending new information or developments. 

-USCG-

Scandies Rose Sinks

Coast Guard searching for survivors after boat sinks near Sutwik Island, 5 still missing

U.S. Coast Guard sent this bulletin at 01/01/2020 02:28 PM EST

  News Release   U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska
Contact: 17th District Public Affairs
Office: (907) 428-4181
After Hours: (907) 209-6509
17th District online newsroom

Coast Guard searching for survivors after boat sinks near Sutwik Island, 5 still missing

JUNEAU, Alaska — Coast Guard crews are searching for five people in the water Wednesday after their boat sank near Sutwik Island, Alaska.

Scandies Rose, a 130-foot crab fishing vessel homeported in Dutch Harbor, sank at approximately 10 p.m. Tuesday with seven crew members aboard. Two survivors were rescued, five crew members are still missing. The vessel’s last known position was 170 miles southwest of Air Station Kodiak. 

MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and HC-130 Hercules airplane crews launched from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak. The Jayhawk helicopter crew arrived on scene and hoisted two survivors from a life raft. Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC 717) was diverted from the Bering Sea and is expected to arrive on scene Wednesday evening. 

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Communications Detachment Kodiak received a mayday call from Scandies Rose over HF 4125 KHz at approximately 10:00 p.m. Tuesday and immediately relayed the distress call to the command center for search and rescue coordination. 

“We are conducting an extensive search in a 300-square mile area to locate the five missing persons from the Scandies Rose,” said Lt. Wade Arnold, command duty officer at 17th District command center. 

Weather on scene is in excess of 40 mph winds, 15 to 20 foot seas and one mile visibility. 

-USCG-

 I found the following information in my files: The Scandies Rose was built in 1978 at Bender Shipbuilding and Repair of Mobile, Alabama as the Enterprise. Her current statistics as seen on the U S C G Marine Information Exchange are Length 116.6, Breadth 34 and Depth 11.3. She registered as a crabber when she arrived at King Cove, Alaska in 1978. She sailed with the name Enterprise until 1987 when she became the Scandies Rose.

On February 25, 1994 the Scandies Rose rescued five crewmembers of the Jody Ann from their life raft northwest of St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea. The Jody Ann had developed an out of control flooding problem from her lazarette forcing the crew to abandon ship. The Jody Ann sank shortly after the crew took to the life raft. On scene weather for the Jody Ann was 40 knot winds, 20 foot seas and a temperature of 19 degrees F.

-Captain Warren Good-

2020 ALASKA SHIPWRECK Calendars

The 2020 ALASKA SHIPWRECK Calendars are now available.

ALASKA SHIPWRECK calendars and books can be ordered individually or in bulk at LULU.com by searching “Alaska Shipwrecks” or “Captain Warren Good”. The partner book “ALASKA SHIPWRECKS – 12 MONTHS OF DISASTERS” is also available at the same site. The book is a month to month accounting of some of the most significant shipwrecks with first hand stories as they were told by survivors of some of the disasters. Also on the ALASKA SHIPWRECK calendars, each day of the month has a notation for the worst Alaska shipwreck of that day in history. If we continue to remember these disasters it may help avoid them in the future.

The first month of the 2020 ALASKA SHIPWRECK CALENDAR

The books and calendars are printed on demand so be sure to allow plenty of time for your orders.

October 2019 Shipwreck Calendar

In the Lower 48, winter officially begins December 21st. In Alaska, it starts some time in October. October is the worst month for maritime casualties and very high on the list for vessels lost with all hands.

The Princess Sophia disaster of October 25, 1918 is the worst shipwreck in Alaska history. Mother Nature has many tricks and very few treats in October.

August Shipwreck Calendar 2019

August is the month with the most shipwrecks in Alaska maritime history. Ship fires, groundings (mostly from falling asleep at the helm), and capsizing (mostly hauling fish aboard) are three common causes. August is also the month with the most shipwreck survivors compared to the number of shipwrecks. Survivability goes up when the air and water temperatures are up. August is generally the warmest month. It is interesting to note that most of the wrecks occur toward the second half of the month. This could be because crews are so worn out from the summers endeavors. It could also be because the weather begins to freshen toward the end of the month as fall approaches.

The upper portion of the 2019 ALASKA SHIPWRECK CALENDAR
The name, year, location and crew losses for the worst wreck of each day of the month of August is shown above. There have been nearly 4,000 known wrecks in the past 250 years in Alaskan waters through the full 12 months of the year. This means that roughly 10 wrecks have happened on each calendar day of the year (365X10).

Alaska Shipwreck Statistics

This is a chart detailing some of the statistics I have accumulated over the past 40 years. On this website is information on every wreck included in these numbers.

These numbers represent the number of vessels lost, people lost, major wrecks, vessels with no survivors, recorded survivors of wrecks and cannery fires.