By Jerzy Shedlock
Between 1910 and 1920 an average of one ship per month ran aground in the waters surrounding Alaska.
Although unfortunate for captains and crews at the time, the wrecks would provide a playground decades later for Steve Lloyd, an Anchorage based scuba diver and shipwreck explorer.
“I’ve always been fascinated by ghost towns, shipwrecks, abandoned factories and anything with a hidden story that’s somehow tied to the past,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd discussed his various shipwreck searches and other Alaska scuba diving adventures to a crowd of 50 people at Tustumena Elementary School last week. His discoveries include three lost Alaska shipwrecks.
The Alaska Steamship Company liner S.S. Farallon, which ran aground in lower Cook Inlet in January 1910, was Lloyd’s first subject during his presentation. He located the Farallon in 1998.
The ship’s lifeboats carried 38 survivors to the shore of Iliamna Bay where they constructed tents from the Farallon’s sails. The survivors — all men — were stranded in winter with little provisions or hope of rescue.
Unique to the shipwreck was amateur photographer and the ship’s mail clerk John E. Thwaites. He took high-quality photos of the wrecked ship and the crew’s trials of survival —for example, frostbitten men with burlap wrapped on their feet.
Details of the shipwreck, and the mission of six men who struck out in an open boat to seek help, are fleshed out in Lloyd’s book “Farallon: Shipwreck and Survival on the Alaska Shore,” published in 2000 by Washington State University Press.
During the presentation Lloyd showed clips of a BBC documentary of Alaska survivor stories that included the Farallon, which was filmed in 2001. He was the film’s historical and location advisor and underwater videographer.
“For the film’s camp scenes, we used my front yard in Anchorage,” he said.