A view of the Princess Sophia’s port side, The ship, which was bound for Seattle, struck Vanderbilt Reef because of a confluence of conditions, including a late train and poor visibility. The ship sunk Oct. 25 1918. (Alaska State Library-Historical Collections, ASL-P87-1699)

A view of the Princess Sophia’s port side, The ship, which was bound for Seattle, struck Vanderbilt Reef because of a confluence of conditions, including a late train and poor visibility. The ship sunk Oct. 25 1918. (Alaska State Library-Historical Collections, ASL-P87-1699)

Events commemorate Sophia’s centennial

Memorials at cemetery, museum, on stage pay tribute to shipwreck

Thursday marks the 100th anniversary of the most infamous maritime disaster in the history of Southeast Alaska, and local history enthusiasts are ready for the somber occasion.

On Oct. 25, 1918, the SS Princess Sophia sunk into the waters of Lynn Canal after it ran aground on Vanderbilt Reef in the early morning of the previous day. Captain Leonard Locke believed it was unsafe to transfer passengers off the ship in the stormy seas. It took all 353 passengers down with it. As legend has it, the only survivor was a dog.

The wreck is still under the waves near Vanderbilt Reef, and its story has been told time and time again over the years through books, articles and museum exhibits.

[The Sinking of the SS Princess Sophia]

Three major events are taking place Thursday. The first, at noon, is an annual memorial service at Evergreen Cemetery. The service takes place at the graves of Sophia passengers Walter Harper and his wife Frances Wells. Harper and Wells are two of the main figures in the lore of the Sophia, in part because Harper was the first group of climbers to reach the summit of Denali, which was then known as Mount McKinley. The event is expected to last about an hour.

At 5 p.m., members of the Sophia Committee are putting on an event at the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives and Museum atrium. Members of the committee will deliver a commemoration to start. Lt. Gov. Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson’s chief of staff will present a proclamation from the governor, and Father Gordon Blue of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church will deliver a benediction. The whole ceremony is expected to last about half an hour, and is free and open to anybody.

At 8 p.m., “The Princess Sophia” opera will have its first performance. There will be performances at 8 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The two-act opera is presented by the Orpheus Project. The production takes the stage at Juneau-Douglas High School’s auditorium, and tickets are available at www.orpheusproject.org, the Juneau Arts and Culture Center and Hearthside Books.

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

More in Home

TJ Beers holds a sign to advocate for the rights of people experiencing homelessness outside the state Capitol on April 9. Beers was homeless for four years and in three states. “I don’t know how I survived,” he said. (Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon)
Lawmakers weigh whether to reduce or acknowledge rights of growing Alaska homeless population

As cities try to house people, Dunleavy’s protest bill would further criminalize them, advocates say.

Juneau Assembly members and other visitors examine a meeting room formerly used by the nine-member Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development on Monday, April 8, which is about 25% larger than the Assembly Chambers at City Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Of three possible new City Hall buildings, one stands out — but plenty of proposed uses for other two

Michael J. Burns Building eyed as city HQ; childcare, animal shelter among options at school sites.

The sky and mountains are reflected in the water on April 5, 2012, at the Kootznoowoo Wilderness in the Tongass National Forest’s Admiralty Island National Monument. Conservation organizations bought some private land and transferred it to the U.S. Forest Service, resulting in an incremental expansion of the Kootznoowoo Wilderness and protection of habitat important to salmon and wildlife. (Photo by Don MacDougall/U.S. Forest Service)
Conservation groups’ purchase preserves additional land in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

A designated wilderness area in Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the largest… Continue reading

A welcome sign is shown Sept. 22, 2021, in Tok. President Joe Biden won Alaska’s nominating contest on Saturday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Biden wins more delegates in Alaska and Wyoming as he heads toward Democratic nomination

President Joe Biden nudged further ahead in the Democratic nomination for reelection… Continue reading

The Boney Courthouse in downtown Anchorage, across the street from the larger Nesbett Courthouse, holds the Alaska Supreme Court chambers. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska judge strikes down state’s cash payments to families using correspondence school programs

Decision will become a ‘hot-button legislative item’ in final weeks of session, lawmakers say.

Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, speaks to members of the Senate majority caucus’ leadership group on Friday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Schools, university and projects across Alaska are set to receive money from new budget bill

Alaska Senate sends draft capital budget to House as work continues on a state spending plan

A fenced lot proposed as a campsite for people experiencing homelessness located next to the city’s cold weather emergency shelter, in the background, is also next door to a businesses where extensive construction is scheduled, thus prompting city leaders to rethink the proposal. (Photo by Laurie Craig)
Indefinite ‘dispersed camping’ for homeless proposed by city leaders due to lack of suitable campsite

Proposed Rock Dump site is next to long-term construction, more costly than expected, report states.

A statue of William Henry Seward stands outside the Dimond Courthouse in downtown Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Juneau man convicted of sexual abuse of 15-year-old girl more than four years after incidents occur

JPD: Randy James Willard, 39, sent explicit videos to and engaged in sexual contact with victim.

Capital Transit buses stop at the Valley Transit Center on Thursday. Two bus routes serving areas of the Mendenhall Valley and near the airport will temporarily be discontinued starting April 22 due to lack of staff. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Capital Transit temporarily suspending two Mendenhall Valley routes due to shortage of drivers

Officials hope to fix situation by July; extra tourist buses also scaled back due to fleet shortage.

Most Read