Gary Fabian/NOAAMultibeam sonar image at San Francisco's Golden Gate highlighting the shipwrecks City of Rio de Janeiro

Images released of S.S. City of Rio de Janeiro that sunk at Golden Gate

Three-dimensional sonar images and maps of a shipwreck near the Golden Gate Bridge that many consider the worst maritime disaster in San Francisco history were released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The S.S. City of Rio de Janeiro struck jagged rocks close to the present site of the bridge on the densely foggy morning of Feb. 22, 1901, according to NOAA. The steamship sank almost immediately, killing 128 of the 210 mostly Chinese and Japanese immigrants and crew aboard. Among those who lost their lives was the U.S. consul general in Hong Kong and his family.

Salvagers found the wreckage in the 1980s, but the coordinates they reported did not match with any wreck NOAA charted through sonar work. Last month, Hibbard Inshore and Bay Marine Services donated a research vessel and crew, along with a high-powered remotely operated vehicle, to assist NOAA in locating and mapping the wreck site using three-dimensional Echoscope sonar.

The expedition pinpointed the S.S. City of Rio de Janeiro largely buried in mud 287 feet below the surface of water at Fort Point and captured the first detailed sonar images.

Launched in 1878 and part of the Pacific Mail Steamship Co. fleet, the S.S. City of Rio de Janeiro carried passengers and freight to and from San Francisco; Honolulu; Yokohama, Japan; and Hong Kong. Many immigrants into the U.S. from the Far East in the 19th and early 20th centuries arrived on such ships.

The S.S. City of Rio de Janeiro was rumored to carry Chinese silver that ended up just being bars of tin, said James Delgado, director of maritime heritage for NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

“Today the wreck is broken and filled with mud, and it is a sealed grave in fast, dangerous waters in the main shipping lanes,” he said in a statement.

The expedition also completed the first detailed map of S.S. City of Chester, which was rediscovered late last year near S.S. City of Rio de Janeiro.

NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries Heritage Program is taking on a two-year study to find and document shipwrecks in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. So far, it has pinpointed nine of the nearly 200 ships, including four newly discovered vessels.

Bay Area NewsimmigrantsNational Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationNOAA

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco schools estimate $25m needed to close digital divide

Private donations being sought to fund internet access, technology

Retired officers seek end to decade-old age discrimination case

Retired officer Juanita Stockwell was 60 when she and her colleagues first… Continue reading

State officials sue Uber and Lyft for wage theft

California Labor Commissioner’s Office alleges ride-hail companies violating AB5

SFMTA Board passes ‘clean’ sales tax ballot measure to fund Caltrain

After a weeks-long impasse, tri-county leadership appears to have reached a compromise

Struggling Chinatown restaurants get help moving business outdoors

A total of $25,000 will be distributed to assist with costs of Shared Spaces program

Most Read