July 23, 1907 – Eureka – While churning its way northward through smooth water and under the mantle of a calm summer night the passenger steamship Columbia, bound from San Francisco to Portland, was rammed at midnight, on Saturday by the lumber laden steam schooner San Pedro.
The Columbia sank within eleven minutes, but such good use did Captain P.A. Doran and his officers make of that brief respite that of the 249 souls on board the Columbia when the coasters came together the lives of 182 have been saved. Captain Doran went down with his steamer. His last words were, “Good-by; God bless you!”
Of the 67 missing persons some may be alive, as all of the Columbia lifeboats are not yet accounted for. The steamer George W. Elder arrived at this port today towing the waterlogged San Pedro and bringing most of the survivors. Four lifeboats have been picked up In Shelter cove, where the survivors who were in them are being cared for. Under the direction of Mayor Ricks the people of Eureka have assumed the duty of ministering to the shipwrecked people and all that have been brought here are comfortably quartered in private houses and hotels. The collision occurred about midnight on Saturday 20 miles south of Port Gorda. The Columbia sank in 11 minutes.
The San Pedro‘s stem was badly shattered, but, being laden with lumber, the steam schooner remained afloat and afforded a refuge to those brought here later by the George W. Elder. The Elder reached the scene of the wreck about six hours after the disaster. Of the passengers saved by the Elder, about 50 were injured, some seriously and others only bruised.
The story of what followed the collision as told by the survivors is a repetition of the story of the Rio de Janeiro, the Walla Walla and the Valencia. It is a story that tells how the good red blood of real manhood stood out in bold relief against the selfish efforts of the white livered minority. Frail women, of whom there were many on board, proved that pluck was not a matter of ounces or inches, and when the full story of the loss of the Columbia comes to be written the grit of the Yankee school marm will come in for a prominent place. Among the Columbia’s passengers were nearly 100 women, many of them eastern school teachers returning from the educational convention at Los Angeles.
The accounts of the survivors vary in many particulars, but all accounts agree that Captain Doran and his officers preserved good discipline, and that the master of the ship to the end stood true to the best traditions of the profession he had followed so long with honor. “I’m the master of this ship!,” he yelled, through the pandemonium. “Listen to me. Take your time. Take your time and you’ll all be saved.” With his hand on the whistle cord, that the shrieking appeal for help might sound as long as there was steam to fill the siren’s throat, Captain Doran went down with, his ship with a ‘Goodby’ and ‘God bless you’ for those that he had done what he could to save.
Those passengers that reached the deck wore all lightly clad and survivors tell of panic stricken men- tearing the raiment from men and women already half naked in their efforts to force a way into life boat or raft. Children, say some of the survivors, were trampled underfoot. But sounding true through the so sordid details is always the warm word of appreciation for Captain Doran and his officers.
The Columbia‘s boilers exploded as the vessel sank and to this fact, strange as it may seem. It is due that those struggling in the water were not drawn into the wreckage tangled depths with the steamer as it went down. The explosion’ counteracted the suction and left a more even chance for those still above water. Out from the warm staterooms in which they had been snuggled, dreaming of vacation passed or holiday delights to come, frantic parents hastened with their still sleeping children, out on the slippery, sloping decks and into the uproar of that wild rush for life.
Families were divided in that awful struggle, never to be reunited until the sea gives up its dead. One passenger, with his wife and two children, found himself and his little flock all together in the water. He contrived to get them on board a raft. Out into the, night they floated, wet, cold, but together and alive. The exposure, however, was too much for the children. First one and then the other relaxed its hold on the raft and dropped, gently off to be swallowed by the hungry sea. The mother, heartbroken, also passed away before the father and husband, thrice bereft and half dead, was picked up. This was only one of the little tragedies that made up the big tragedy that will go down in marine history as the loss of the Columbia. (Daily Alta California)
Sacramento Now Linked to the Sea
July 18, 1963 – Sacramento – Five ships sailed up Sacramento River from San Francisco Bay today, culminating a half century’s dream and touching off a waterfront celebration reminiscent of gold rush days. The voyage ignited a three-day dedication for a new $55 million, 90-mile water route to the sea.
President Kennedy was scheduled to take part in the celebration Friday by telephone from Washington. He was to talk with Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, the guest speaker at a noon ceremony also to be attended by Sens. Thomas H. Kuchel and Clair Engle, other congressmen and Gov. Edmund G. Brown.
It’s been a long time since ocean-going ships docked regularly in Sacramento when windjammers navigated the winding tree-lined Sacramento River more than a century ago bringing supplies to mother lode prospectors. But the schooners and brigs disappeared with the gold fever. Citizens of the capital city began planning for better access to the sea before World War I. But two global wars, the depression and Korea stalled the project.
Now, at last, it’s finished. Of the $55 million cost, the federal government footed the bill for $40 million and local taxpayers of the Sacramento Yolo Port District forked over the rest. The new water route into California’s heartland begins under the Golden Gate Bridge at San Francisco. Ships, after leaving the Bay Area, use a newly dredged 18-mile section of the heavily bridged Sacramento River. Then they enter a separate 20-mile deep water channel that terminates in a 60-acre harbor and turning basin outside Sacramento. Nearby is a barge canal which connects the harbor with the river via California’s first and only navigational lock.
The district expects to handle about 300,000 tons of cargo during the first 12 months of operation. It claims it can save commerce in 50 counties throughout California, Nevada and Oregon $2 million annually over the amount now spent on overland transportation to San Francisco. Between 50,000 and 100.000 persons were expected to attend the three-day celebration, featuring everything from rockets and a parade to an old fashioned six-horse wagon freighter carrying two couples to the mother lode town of Placerville to be married.
Other unusual sights included 700 sailors on shore leave 90 miles from the sea, and a flotilla of military ships gliding leisurely through California’s agricultural-rich Central Valley. (United Press)