By Philip L. Watness - Peninsula Daily News
Advanced three-dimensional sonar imaging will soon reconstruct the broken remains of a passenger liner lying far below the surface of Admiralty Inlet.
The SS Governor sank rapidly after being rammed by the freighter West Hartland just after midnight April 1, 1921.
It carried 172 passengers with a crew of 124, according to a New York Times story published the day after the wreck.
Ten people were missing, The Times said. Later reports said eight people perished as the 417-foot steamship sank.
Experienced divers have visited the wreck, resting in silt 240 feet deep, over the decades and marveled at the girth of the vessel while perusing the many artifacts laying around its broken hull.
Now a manned submarine will dive for the most comprehensive look in 90 years.
Antipodes, a 7-ton, 15-foot-long manned submersible operated by OceanGate of Everett, will make numerous dives to the hulk June 23-28, said Joel Perry, vice president of expeditions.
Perry said the company selected the vessel’s final resting place to prepare for a similar expedition to a tanker lying off California’s coast.
The submarine, which will carry up to five crew members, will produce three- and two-dimensional sonar images of the Governor.
“It’s a nice target locally for us to refine our operations,” Perry said.
“It’s a cool local story, as well, and this should be a nice benefit to all.”
The Governor was steaming toward Seattle during that fateful witching hour on the last leg of a voyage from San Pedro, Calif., as recounted in City of Dreams: A Guide to Port Townsend (1986).
Some passengers had disembarked at its last port of call in Victoria, and as the Pacific Mall Steamship Co. vessel rounded Point Wilson, its pilot noted the glow of the Marrowstone Island lighthouse and some lights of a freighter departing from Port Townsend, the book said.
The West Hartland was heading out to sea, but the Governor’s pilot steamed forward, oblivious to the collision course the two vessels were on.
Moments later, five staccato blasts from the freighter alerted the Governor of impending doom, then its bow cut into the liner’s side, nearly cutting it in half.
The Hartland’s captain intentionally kept the bow wedged into the Governor, allowing time for most of the liner’s passengers to abandon ship.
But eight poor souls went to the bottom with the ship, including a mother and her two young daughters who were trapped in their berths by the collision and two older women whose modesty didn’t allow them to appear on deck in their nightgowns, according to the book.
The New York Times story April 2, 1921, said that, after an investigatory meeting closed to the public, some passengers asserted that the pilot had admitted that he had mistaken the mast lights of the West Hartland for shore lights.
The Governor now lies on its starboard side, its bow ripped open as if a large can opener had peeled back the metal, according to divers’ accounts.