The SS Ohioan was wrecked in 1936 when she ran aground near San Francisco Bay. During her career, she served two very important purposes; first as a cargo vessel that travelled the inter-coastal service through the Panama Canal for the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company, and later as a cargo/troop transport for World War I American soldiers returning from France after the Armistice.
Her life began in 1914, as one of eight ships built by the Maryland Steel Company for the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company to provide inter-coastal service. She was powered by oil-fired boilers that fed a single steam engine and was equipped with a refrigeration plant that enabled her to carry fresh produce such as pineapple and sugar from Hawaii and produce from Southern California to the East Coast
When her naval service concluded as USS Ohioan in 1919, SS Ohioan once again returned to regular service under her owners. Except for a collision in 1933 with Liberty after which, she had to be refloated, she carried on with her designated trade routes without incident until the day she wrecked.
SS Ohioan was sailing in dense fog on the morning of October 8, 1936 when she struck land on the south shore of Golden Gate at Seal Rock. Strangely enough, the injuries and deaths that occurred were not from the wreck itself but from fascinated onlookers who took their lives into their hands, climbing over a 250-foot cliff to view the salvage operations — before long as word spread, thousands of people had to be kept at bay by local policeman. The harbor pilot was disembarked using three lines to the ship — a breeches buoy — that the Coast Guardsmen had rigged up. It was believed the incoming high tide would rescue the ship so the crew stayed aboard.
While heavy seas forced evacuation of the crew the following day, a salvage company from Los Angeles was hired to retrieve cargo that included oil as well as explosives. In the end, all salvage attempts failed and SS Ohioan was sold “as is”. The following spring, the ship was engulfed in flames after a watchman tried to burn meat in a refrigerator but did not explode as the flames never reached the explosives in the hold. The ship broke in two in late 1937 during a winter storm.
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© Copyright Vince Capone 2013