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 News

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a glance for Tuesday, Oct. 19

The most recent state and local figures

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This 2011 photo shows the Taku and Malaspina ferries at the Auke Bay Terminal. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Costs add up as ferry idled nearly 2 years

The cost to the state for docking an Alaska ferry that has… Continue reading

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

teaser
Wild Shots: Photos of Mother Nature in Alaska

Reader-submitted photos of Southeast Alaska.

Tone and Charles Deehr in Fairbanks, October 2021. Both photos courtesy Charles Deehr. 3. (Courtesy Photo / Charles Deehr)
Alaska Science Forum: Red aurora rare enough to be special

In decades of sky-watching in the north, he has seen a few red auroras, but not many.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Saturday, Oct. 17, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read