Divers find SS Governor’s bell, the ‘holy grail’ of a shipwreck

In this image provided by Dan Warter, vice president of the Maritime Documentation Society and a partner in DCS Films, the bell of the SS Governor is shown in 240 feet of Admiralty Inlet water

By Leah Leach  - Peninsula Daily News

A dive team has found the ship’s bell of the SS Governor, which sank off Point Wilson 90 years ago.

Divers from the Maritime Documentation Society found the bell Sunday, said Robert Wilson of Marysville, who, along with Benjamin Nussbaum of Lynnwood, discovered the bell buried in silt 240 feet below the Admiralty Inlet surface.

“One of the things you always look for is the ship’s bell,” said Wilson, the spokesman for the group of shipwreck divers dedicated to documenting the history of maritime disasters.

“This is the holy grail of all shipwreck artifacts,” agreed Dan Warter, vice president of the Maritime Documentation Society and one of three partners of DCS Films.

Waved over by the two divers who found the bell, Warter documented the find on video.

A sunken ship’s bell “is what is sought after on any major maritime disaster,” Warter said.

“It’s kind of the monument of the shipwreck,” he said, adding that ship’s bells often are exhibited in museums while copies are made and engraved with the date of the shipwreck.

“It’s a really big thing to find,” Warter said.

The Governor, a steamship on a routine run to Seattle from San Francisco, sank at 12:04 a.m. Friday, April 1, 1921.

Eight of the 240 people aboard did not survive.

The Governor had just dropped off some passengers in Victoria before heading southeast toward Puget Sound.

As the ship rounded Port Townsend, the SS West Hartland, which was leaving Port Townsend for India, rammed into the Governor amidships on her starboard side, ripping open a 10-foot gash in the iron hull.

Reports later said the Governor’s pilot mistook the West Hartland’s running lights for fixed lights on Marrowstone Point and so didn’t yield the right of way.

Maritime Documentation Society divers have examined the shipwreck at least annually for years, Wilson said.

But it was not until Wilson’s 13th successful dive in 10 years that the bell was found.

“It was half-buried” on its side, Wilson said. “We pulled it out of sand and set it out.”

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