A Seattle-based company, Rockfish Inc., has been granted salvage rights to a ship believed to contain nearly $5 million worth of gold that sank near the BC coast during the gold rush. Also members of the Northwest Shipwreck Alliance, Matthew McCauley and Jeff Hummel, now believe they have found the SS Pacific which sank in November 1875 following a collision with the Orpheus when she veered into the SS Pacific’s path after its second mate mistook her lights for those of the Cape Flattery lighthouse. The sailing vessel Orpheus sank later that night but her crew made it ashore while SS Pacific lost roughly 275 people, many of them gold miners.
Rockfish based its search off old records that showed the vessel went down southwest of Cape Flattery, as well as information from fishermen who found coal in their nets. After 12 expeditions with sonar and a towed camera sled, Jeff Hummel, President of Rockfish, is feeling confident in his discovery. Two circular depressions in the seabed, a short distance from the rest of the wreck are believed to be the steamer’s paddle wheels and a piece of coal found near the wreck was tested in a lab in Alberta. The results ended up matching the chemical analysis of coal from a mine owned by the owners of the SS Pacific.
Rockfish is obliged to present everything found through the federal court system so people can come forward with any claims they may have on the artifacts, meaning anyone who can prove a family connection to an owner of the gold or any other item can come forward to attempt to claim it.