The SS City of Chester, a ship that was built in 1875 and sank in 1888, has been rediscovered near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. This discovery goes to show that the oceans around the world are museums with artifacts waiting to be discovered.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found the sunken wreckage, via an in-house team known as the Coast Survey Navigational Response Team 6. The wreckage was discovered in 2013 after the team did a sonar survey of the San Francisco Bay.
When the SS City of Chester sank, it had 90 passengers onboard. However, 16 of those passengers died as the ship only managed to stay afloat for six minutes. The ship was on its way toward Eureka, Calif., on Aug. 22, 1888, but at the time the fog was dense and it was likely the captain was unable to see properly.
Just a few minutes into the journey of the 202-foot passenger steamship, about 10 a.m., the City of Chester was traveling the Golden Gate when it was struck hard by the Oceanic, an ocean liner arriving from Asia. The crash caused the public to lash out at the Asian immigrants from the Oceanic with racial slurs, but everything changed when citizens heard stories of how heroic the Asians were attempting to save every life on the City of Chester.
"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," said James Delgado, director of maritime heritage for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.
At the time, the means to remove a sunken ship from the depths was not available, so it laid there wasting away, only to be rediscovered 125-years after the incident took place.
Interestingly enough, the now-defunct U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey tried to remove the City of Chester from the water shortly after it sank, but failed.
The Geodetic Survey dragged a wire on the hull of what was believed to be the City of Chester in 1888, but could not remove it. In 1890, salvage diver Capt. Robert Whitelaw said the diver he sent to check out the wreckage found a ship that was cut in half by the Oceanic.
While the SS City of Chester sinking was a disaster, the scenario sheds some light on the history of the American Chinese, and how they risked their lives to save lives.