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Pacific Northwest | August 29, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineAugust 29, 2004seattletimes.com home
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CONTENTS
COVER STORY
PLANT LIFE
TASTE
ON FITNESS
NORTHWEST LIVING
NOW & THEN
SUNDAY PUNCH
LETTERS
PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW


WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT

Looking For Luck
Photo
COURTESY OF MUSEUM OF HISTORY & INDUSTRY
Piers 56 and 57, left and right, are two of the more-than-century-old railroad wharves that helped in the post-World War II transformation of our central waterfront from a workplace to a play space.

 
 Photo
PAUL DORPAT
WRITTEN ACROSS the base of this week's historical scene is its own helpful caption: "S.S. Ohio Leaving Seattle for Nome, Alaska, June 1st 1907." A broadside or poster tacked to the slab fence between the crowd and the ship promises "Fast and Improved Steam Ships between Seattle and Nome, Frequent and Regular Sailings." A year later, the White Star Steamship's Ohio left Seattle for Nome also on June 1. So it was regular.

It was also unlucky. In the 1907 sailing, the Ohio struck an iceberg in the Bering Sea, and 75 panicked passengers jumped overboard to the ice. Four perished before they could be returned to the ship that was not sinking. In 1908, the Ohio's captain was careful to the extreme, infuriating many of its passengers who missed what they imagined were their best Nome chances while the ship waited for the ice to melt. One year later, the Ohio hit an uncharted rock in Swanson's Bay, B.C., but the captain managed to make a run to shore and all but four of the 214 on board survived before the 360-foot-long steamship slipped away. When it was new in 1873, the Ohio was the largest vessel built in the U.S.

We may wonder at the size of the crowd here — far more than could fit on the Ohio. Obviously, the embarking of a vessel to Alaska, even toward the end of the Yukon-Alaska Gold Rush era, was enough excitement to bring out spectators. Judging by their hats, caps and bonnets, practically all are men in the uniform of the day: dark suits.

The truth is that, 10 years after local gold fever began with the arrival of the S.S. Portland and its "ton of gold," going to Nome was still ordinarily a "manly affair," meaning that many of those on board were still hoping to get rich quick.

Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.

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