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Lost 1888 Shipwreck Found Near Golden Gate Bridge

The City of Chester, a passenger steamer, was rammed by another ship and sank more than 125 years ago.
Posted at 10:29 PM, Apr 24, 2014

After more than 125 years, a ship that went down in the San Francisco Bay has been found.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it found the passenger steamer The City of Chester using sonar imaging. The wreck sits under 216 feet of water not far from the Golden Gate Bridge and is mostly intact.

The City of Chester was traveling up the California coast on a foggy morning in 1888 when it was rammed by the Chinese steamer Oceanic. The ship sank in less than six minutes and sixteen people were killed. (Via KTVU)

The Washington Post found a newspaper article from the next day saying the larger Oceanic almost cut the City of Chester in half — a fact borne out by the NOAA's sonar map.

The ship's re-discovery also brings up an unsettling story of racism. In the aftermath of the crash, some newspapers reported that the Oceanic's Chinese crew stood by and did nothing while the passengers on City of Chester drowned.

"Back then, there was a lot of anti-Chinese sentiments going around. So the ship took the blame initially. Turns out it wasn't responsible for the crash. And actually some of those Chinese immigrants went and saved people's lives." (Via Fox News)

An NOAA researcher says, "Discoveries like this remind us that the waters off our shores are museums that speak to powerful events, in this case not only that tragic wreck, but to a time when racism and anger were set aside by the heroism of a crew who acted in the best traditions of the sea."

There are currently no plans to raise the ship, but a museum will be built nearby.