The Northwestern sits on the rocks east of Cape Mudge on Dec. 15, 1927. Photo courtesy the Museum at Campbell River

The Northwestern sits on the rocks east of Cape Mudge on Dec. 15, 1927. Photo courtesy the Museum at Campbell River

‘A rather terrifying but picturesque incident of their journey back to the north’

A newspaper account of the wreck of the Northwestern near Campbell River

The following is an excerpt from The Comox Argus newspaper, December 15, 1927, from the Museum at Campbell River’s archives. It is reporting on the wreck of the Northwestern:

Ship is Wrecked off Cape Mudge

Campbell River Witnessed Thrilling Scenes on Sunday

Campbell River was awakened at five o’clock on Sunday morning to find the ship Northwestern piled up on the sands east of Cape Mudge.

Immediately all was activity. At the Willows Hotel there was feverish preparations made to receive the passengers when they could be landed. Constable Dawson went out in his launch, but the seas were running far too high to make any transfer of passengers. The Amur… was standing by but she could do nothing and it was not until hours later that the fishing boat, Explorer, managed to get alongside, get the passengers off and bring them to Campbell River wharf, very cold, since there had been no heat of the wrecked ship for hours, but otherwise alright.

There were many thrilling rescues. The youngest child on board, a babe six months old, had to be let down by ropes as were many other passengers, but all’s well that ends well and all got off without any mishap… The 187 passengers were transferred in two boatloads to the Willows Hotel where all were soon warmed and heartened with hot coffee. Although accommodation was strained by the sudden invasion of such a large crowd, everyone was fed and a dance was arranged. Most of the passengers were going home to Alaska for Christmas and the shipwreck will now appear nothing but a rather terrifying but picturesque incident of their journey back to the north. They were taken back to Seattle on the SS Alameda.

Sand is piled up to the bilge line round the ship and it will be a spectacle to all travellers to Campbell River for some time to come. When she struck she slewed around and went broadside on. It is not yet possible to ascertain the damage but if she is to be salvaged it will be a difficult operation as the patching will have to be done from the inside. All the freight will be lost but a duplicate order of Christmas goods will be sent north from Seattle so that the people in Alaska will not be disappointed.

Crashing on the rocks at Cape Mudge, ten miles east of Campbell River, Vancouver Island in a blinding snowstorm at 5 am Sunday, the north-bound American steamer Northwestern in the Seattle-Alaska service, imperilled the lives of 187 passengers and crew for eight hours before they were rescued by the 40-ton halibut gas schooner, Explorer.

All passengers and crew, with their personal belongings, were safely landed Sunday afternoon at Campbell River where they were safely lodged at the Willows Hotel.

SS Alameda, of the Alaska Steamship Co., owners of the Northwestern, was dispatched from Seattle Sunday to pick up the passengers and take them on to Alaska. The Alameda is due at Campbell River late today.

This story is recounted in detail in the newest book published by the Museum at Campbell River, ‘Twas the Wreck of Northwestern. An illustrated story told in the style of the Night Before Christmas, available for sale in the Museum’s shop.

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