A century ago this year, an iron-hulled, three-masted sailing ship departed the Southeast Alaska fishing town of Wrangell laden with 5,260 cases of salmon. Star of Bengal: 111 people died when tugs failed as ship was leaving Wrangell
Doubtless no one aboard the ship, which carried 21 crewmen plus 117 mostly Asian cannery workers heading home after the fishing season, imagined their voyage to San Francisco would turn into the worst tragedy ever seen in the grand history of the Alaska salmon industry.
The bark Star of Bengal belonged to the Alaska Packers' Association, the state's dominant canned salmon producer at the time.
Two steam-powered tugs, the Hattie Gage and the smaller Kayak, began towing the ship out of Wrangell toward the open sea about 8:20 a.m. on Sept. 19, 1908. The barometer readings indicated fine weather.