1660 SS Pacific found?

SS Pacific found!
by Richard Mackie

Greg Stott of University College of the North, Thompson, Manitoba

In April 2017 we posted a story by historian Greg Stott about the short life and BC career of George Skippon (ca. 1833-1875), a farmer, labourer, and worker on CPR surveys who was one of about 275 people to perish in the wreck of the American steamer Pacific, outbound from Victoria, near Cape Flattery on November 4, 1875.

Stott’s tribute to Skippon, “A Great Old Tramp: Letters from a Canadian Sojourner in British Columbia, 1873-1875,” has been a staple of The British Columbia Review ever since. Read it here.

English-born Skippon grew up on a farm at Ailsa Craig, near London, Ontario, and worked again as a farmer in Saanich on his arrival in BC in 1873. With the help of Skippon’s surviving letters home to his family, Greg Stott was able to reconstruct his brief but active working career in BC. Following a trip — a “great old tramp” — with a survey party to the mountainous interior of BC in 1874, he compared what he saw with the gentle rural landscapes of southern Ontario and southern Vancouver Island. “It’s like going out of this world,” he wrote. Skippon also delighted in learning the Chinook trading jargon and sprinkling his letters with it, to the bemusement of his family.

In 1875, when he left Victoria for San Francisco on SS Pacific, Skippon was on his way to New Zealand.

Today, December 9, 2022, it has been announced in the local press that the remains of SS Pacific have been found 23 miles off Cape Flattery by Jeff Hummel, Matt McCauley, and their colleagues, at a depth of between 300 and 600 metres. Read more about it in a CTV news story, The Daily Mail (UK), the Victoria Times Colonist, and watch a CTV video here.

Among the many other British Columbians to lose their lives on the Pacific was Burrard Inlet lumberman “Sue” (Sewell Prescott) Moody (1834-1875), who scrawled a last message in pencil on the stateroom stanchion, “S.P. Moody all lost” (see photo series below). It was later found washed ashore at Beacon Hill Park, Victoria.  — Richard Mackie

P.S. We know a lot about Skippon and Moody, but what about the others who perished on that terrible night? The great BC folklorist D.W. Higgins wrote about the sinking in The Mystic Spring in 1904; a recent story in BC History is here; and a list of known victims is here.  Please add notes, links, and personalia to the comments section below. Thanks! — Richard 

SS Pacific. Photo courtesy garemaritime.com
Steamer Pacific, left, at Yesler Wharf, Seattle, 1875. Photo courtesy Seattle Historical Society
SS Pacific sinking, November 1875, from D.W. Higgins, The Mystic Spring and Other Tales of Western Life (1908). Image courtesy garemaritime.com
The stateroom stanchion (support) from the Pacific on which Moody has scrawled, S. P. Moody all lost. Courtesy Vancouver Museum via threeyearsatsea.wordpress.com
L-R: George Haynes, Sewell Prescott (Sue) Moody, Josias Hughes, ca. 1870. Courtesy Vancouver City Archives
Newspaper clipping, November 1875


Morton, The Enterprising Mr. Moody, the Bumptious Captain Stamp (J.J. Douglas, 1977)
D.W. Higgins, The Mystic Spring (1904) contains a first-hand account of the departure of the Pacific from Victoria and the awful impact of the calamity on so many people in Victoria


The British Columbia Review

Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie

Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line book review and journal service for BC writers and readers. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Barry Gough, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies.

“Only connect.” – E.M. Forster

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