A memorial to the passengers and crew of the S.S. Princess Sophia at the Eagle Beach Recreation Area on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, 100 years after the ship hit Vanderbilt Reef and sunk in Favorite Channel. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A memorial to the passengers and crew of the S.S. Princess Sophia at the Eagle Beach Recreation Area on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, 100 years after the ship hit Vanderbilt Reef and sunk in Favorite Channel. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sophia centennial and day of sinking share stormy weather

Weather on Thursday’s centennial and the day of the Princess Sophia’s sinking shared a bit in common — but not to an eerie degree, said National Weather Service general forecaster Edward Liske.

“The weather is trying its darnedest to recreate it, but it’s blowing in the opposite direction,” Liske said.

Southerly storm winds blew near the wreck site in Lynn Canal on Thursday morning. The seas were choppy, and the rain fell hard in Juneau on the centennial, but no snow fell as it had on Oct. 25, 1918.

Data about the weather on the day of the sinking comes from a scant few sources. Records exist from two lighthouse keepers at Sentinel Island and Eldred Rock and ship reports from responding vessels.

Gale force winds blew over the ship’s decks and blinding snow beat down, according to those sources. Winds were about 40-51 mph out of the north the day of the sinking.

Theoretically, that could have resulted in 10-foot seas at the low end and 14-foot seas at the high end, Liske said. The direction of wind on the day of the sinking was a little more perilous to sailors than it was Thursday morning. Northerly winds at that point in Lynn Canal have a longer distance to build up, Liske said, than southerly winds near Vanderbilt Reef.

If the NWS had been around to warn mariners at the time of the sinking, Liske said they would have been “well past” dangerous sailing conditions.

Winds from a storm system that hit Juneau Wednesday peaked early Thursday morning. High winds of 40 mph with gusts up to 51 mph were measured at Little Island, the nearest weather station to Vanderbilt reef, at about 5 a.m.

Conditions lightened up in Lynn Canal later in the afternoon. By mid-afternoon Thursday, a few hours before the last messages were sent by the Sophia a century ago, waters were calm in Lynn Canal at the Sophia Memorial at Eagle Beach.


• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and kgullufsen@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.


More in Home

Wreath bearers present wreaths for fallen comrades, brothers and sisters in arms during a Memorial Day ceremony at Alaskan Memorial Park on Monday. Laying wreaths on the graves of fallen heroes is a way to honor and remember the sacrifices made. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
Traditional Memorial Day ceremonies offer new ways to ‘never forget’ those who served

New installations at memorial sites, fresh words of reminder shared by hundreds gathering in Juneau.

Thunder Mountain High School graduates celebrate after moving their tassels to the left, their newly received diplomas in hand, at the end of Sunday’s commencement ceremony. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
‘Forever a Falcon’: Thunder Mountain High School celebrates final graduating class

147 seniors get soaring sendoff during 16th annual commencement full of heightened emotions.

Seniors at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé enter the gymnasium for their commencement ceremony on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
JDHS graduates celebrate journey from virtual ‘pajama class’ freshmen to virtuous camaraderie

Resolve in overcoming struggles a lifelong lesson for future, seniors told at commencement ceremony.

Sierra Guerro-Flores (right) listens to her advisor Electra Gardinier after being presented with her diploma at Yaaḵoosgé Daakahídi High School’s graduation ceremony Sunday in the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé auditorium. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Alternatives are vast for Yaaḵoosgé Daakahídi High School’s graduating class

31 students take center stage during ceremony revisiting their paths at the school and what’s next.

The LeConte state ferry in 2023. (Lex Treinen / Chilkat Valley News)
Stranded Beerfest travelers scramble to rebook after LeConte ferry breakdown

Loss of 225-passenger ferry leaves many Juneau-bound revelers looking for other ways home.

Thunder Mountain High School pitcher Jack Lovejoy catches a line-drive hit to end the Region V softball championship game against Sitka High School on Saturday at Melvin Park. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Thunder Mountain High School Falcons are conference champs, heading to state softball title tournament

TMHS rebounds from 19-12 loss in back-to-back Saturday games against Sitka, wins finale 9-3.

A Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé player tries to control the ball during a May 3 game at Adair-Kennedy Field. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
JDHS comes up short in state soccer title games

Boys fall behind early in 4-1 loss to Soldotna, girls miss opportunities in 2-0 loss to Kenai.

A photo taken from the terminal roof shows the extent of the first phase of paving to accommodate large aircraft. (Mike Greene / City and Borough of Juneau)
Large-scale repaving project plants itself at Juneau International Airport

Work may take two to three years, schedule seeks to limit impact on operations.

Capital Transit buses wait to depart from the downtown transit center on Thursday. Route number 8 was adjusted this spring. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
More service, visitor information helping Capital Transit to keep up with extra cruise passenger traffic

Remedies made after residents unable to board full buses last year seem to be working, officials say

Most Read