Deadly Shipwreck Found: SS City of Rio de Janeiro

The deadliest shipwreck in the history of the San Francisco Bay Area has been found.  

The SS City of Rio De Janeiro began life ferrying goods and passengers between Brazil and the United States. Eventually repurposed to sail the Pacific and journey from Hong Kong to California, the vessel survived service during the Spanish American War and a Japanese typhoon only to meet her end at the storied Golden Gate entrance to San Francisco. 

The date was February 22nd, 1901 and the ocean liner SS City of Rio de Janeiro was on the final leg of a voyage across the Pacific with 210 souls aboard. Egged on by a US diplomat named Rounsevelle Wildman who was eager to return to the mainland in time to attend William McKinley's inauguration, the Rio was desperate to makeup for lost time after suffering prior weather delays. As the vessel groped its way through a heavy fog which blanketed the treacherous Golden Gate strait - the waterway which connects San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean - she suddenly struck a jagged outcropping of rocks which gashed a mighty hole along the length of her hull.

Captain J. Tremain Smith (pictured seated with dog) went down with the ship. 

Black water poured into the bowels of the ship as those passengers who did not drown in their berths managed to spill out of bed and struggle topside. The grievously wounded vessel would sink within 10 minutes. Tragically, there was a pronounced language barrier between the English speaking officers and Chinese crew members so only a handful of lifeboats were successfully launched. Although some Italian fishermen in the area quickly responded to the panicked cries of survivors who clung to floating wreckage, the vicious strength of the current overpowered many and too few were saved. The disaster resulted in 128 lives lost, including Wildman and his entire family in addition to scores of Chinese and Japanese immigrants. The event would eventually become known as the "Titanic of the Golden Gate".  

When I found myself in the water, I was compelled to force my way through the shroud. I finally reached the surface and saw people swimming near me among a lot of wreckage. Among those I recognized Russell Harper, a journalist of Nagasaki, who called out to me that both his legs were broken.
— Survivor account of Russell Harper

The 113-year-old wreck is found at last. 

Up until now, the Golden Gate's lightning fast currents and considerable depth had stymied all attempts to locate the wreck, but with the help of high-definition sonar, researchers have finally been able to locate the Rio's final resting place - a mere half mile's distance from the city of San Francisco. The successful search is part of a larger effort by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to document the location of some 200 wrecks in and around the Golden Gate area. Buried by sediment, sealed by mud and eaten away by underwater elements, the Rio's wreckage exists today as a large gravesite and there are currently no plans for any type of salvage operation.