The Wreck of the S.S. Pacific – Sewell Moody

SS Pacific
November 4, 1875
Off Cape Flattery
277 people dead

Sailing from Victoria to San Francisco, the sidewheel steamer Pacific collided with the much larger Orpheus in the Strait of Juan de Fuca off Cape Flattery on the evening of November 4, 1875. The Pacific was in poor condition even prior to the accident, having already sunk 14 years before in the Columbia River and despite repairs her timbers were rotten. Although small in size she was overloaded with both passengers and cargo and was carrying over 2,000 sacks of oats, a large quantity of potatoes, 300 bales of hops, 18 casks of tallow, 6 horses, 2 dogs, two buggies, 261 animal hides, 2 cases of opium, 11 casks of furs, 31 barrels of cranberries, 10 cords of wood, 280 tons of coal, a few more tons of general merchandise and a large sum of cash. There were 50 crew members and well over 200 passengers. The actual number of passengers is unclear as some had jumped on board even as the ship departed the dock in Victoria. Listing badly, the crew filled the lifeboats on the port side with water to balance the ship. At about 10pm, the Pacific ran into the Orpheus and began to rapidly take on water. Despite having damaged her rigging in the collision, the Orpheus went on its way without checking on the condition of the other ship and within minutes the Pacific had broken apart and sank. Although some were able to cling to bits of the wreckage for a short time there would be only two survivors: Henry Jelley rescued 36 hours after the sinking and Neil Henly 4 days later. One of the passengers was the lumberman Sewell Moody, namesake of Moodyville on the Burrard Inlet, who scrawled a final note on a piece of wreckage that floated ashore six weeks after the disaster. Although largely unscathed by the collision the Orpheus sank in Barkley Sound two days later.


Wreckage from the S.S. Pacific
Courtesy of the Vancouver Maritime Museum

About a month after the ship had gone down, and when the first burst of grief had been replaced by a feeling of resignation, and while the shores were still patrolled for many miles in the hope of finding more bodies, a man walking along the southern face of Beacon Hill observed a fragment of wreckage lying high and dry on the beach. Upon examination it proved to be part of a stateroom stanchion or support, and on its white surface were written in a bold business hand, with a pencil, these words:

S.P. Moody. All Lost.

-D.W.Higgins

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