New home sought for bell of 90-year-old shipwreck

SS Governor's bell

By Leah Leach - Peninsula Daily News

The bell of the SS Governor remains 240 feet below the surface of Admiralty Inlet where it sank 90 years ago, while discussions are held on the artifact's future home.

Divers with the Marine Documentation Society visited the historic shipwreck last month but left the bell where it was off Point Wilson because they lacked an expert to authenticate the bell and document that it in fact came from the Governor's wreckage.

“We didn't get the people in place to authenticate it, so our best course of action is to leave it in place,” said Rob Wilson of Marysville, who — along with Benjamin Nussbaum of Lynnwood — discovered the bell buried in silt last July.

Authentication is essential because, without it, “as soon as it comes out of the water, it is just scrap,” Wilson has said.

The bell will stay with the shipwreck probably “for another year or so or until we get a decent tide,” said Wilson, spokesman for the Marine Documentation Society, which finances historical dives with the purpose of recovering important artifacts.

The shipwreck is in a tricky spot, and divers rarely can safely access it, he said.

“You only get three or four shots at it a year,” Wilson said.

The delay may give those who manage the salvage rights of the 1921 shipwreck the opportunity to find the relic a home.

“There hasn't been a final determination” about what to do with the foot-tall bell — estimated to weigh 15 to 20 pounds and to be 18 inches across at the base — once it is lifted to the surface, said Bob Mester, director of Underwater Admiralty Sciences of Kirkland.

His company manages the salvage rights for a limited-liability company that owns them and that does not want to be identified, Mester said.

He said there have been a lot of suggestions about what should be done with the bell.

“One was to make castings and offer them to people who would like to buy a replica,” he said.

The final home of the bell ideally would be in a local museum, he said, or at least one on the Governor's West Coast route from San Pedro, Calif., to Victoria, B.C., and Vancouver and Seattle.

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