Ghost Diving on the Wreck of the Princess Sophia

Location: Vanderbuilt Reef and Lena Point, Lynn Canal, outside Juneau, southeast Alaska

Comments: Some of the best wreck diving in southeast Alaska is on the old CPR steamships Princess Sophia and Princess Kathleen. The Kathleen is an exceptionally beautiful liner that is amazingly intact, lying on her side in 40 to 120 feet of water. The Princess Sophia is a much spookier wreck to scuba dive on – everything is either black or white or a monochromatic tone on the wreck. There is dense marine life but no colour whatsoever.

More than once, we have been anchored nearby the wreck of the Sophia in calm conditions only to have huge outflow winds pick up with the seas rapidly build to a short and ugly 6 to 8 feet. I am superstitious for sure and no question in my mind that there are ghosts on this particular shipwreck – for those folks not familiar with the story of the Princess Sophia, this is the ship that went hard up on Vanderbuilt Reef in November 1918 and sat high and dry out of the water for 2 days while gale force winds and heavy seas raged around the reef. The Captain of the Princess Sophia elected not to lower his lifeboats in the terrible conditions. When the winds started to increase even further, the attending rescue ships went for shelter 6 miles away. The ship then slid off the reef in the middle of the night coming to rest where it now lies. The radio operator made his last call in the early morning hours “for G*d’s sake, come and save us, we are sinking.” The tragedy is that all 366 people on board (including families with kids) died in the sinking and when the rescue boats returned the next morning, all they could do was haul dead bodies out of the water. The final entries that some of the passengers made in their journals during the time the ship was high and dry on the rocks are very upsetting to read. It’s a really great dive but no question in my mind that there are ghosts on this ship.  It’s spooky.

–Captain Mike


Weather: Beautiful clear skies, calm seas, calm winds, air temperatures in the 70’s.

Water: Water temperature 45°F, 30 foot visibility under the murky stuff on the surface (vis has been really low on this trip).

By Nautilus Staff

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