First Images of the 113-Year-Old San Francisco Shipwreck that was Rumored to Carry A Horde of Silver

NOAA and partners, release the never seen before 3-D sonar images of the 113-year-old shipwreck that is considered the worst maritime disaster in San Francisco’s history.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released images of the SS City of Rio De Janeiro, who sank to the bottom of the San Francisco bay over 100-years-ago. 128 passengers were killed, and was rumored to contain a horde of Chinese silver. The most notable victims of the shipwreck were the U.S. Consul-General in Hong Kong, his wife and two children, all of which died, including the Consul-General.

The waves from the cold, black salt water of the San Francisco bay, crashed upon the hull of the SS City of Rio De Janeiro, as it cut its way through the fog covered waters beneath them. When the passengers and crew woke the morning of February 22, 1901, none could have possibly foreseen the tragedies that would consume the ship as well as most of their lives.

As the vessel, rolled into the San Francisco bay, its captain and crew were blinded by the curtain of fog and remained oblivious of the jagged rocks piercing the surface of the water. The razor-sharp crags of rock, gashed into the starboard side of her hull, water flooded into the body of the ship and instantly began to pull it under. The captain organized the men, attempted to evacuate the passengers and ordered the distress bell to be rung, as the lifeless ship continued to sink further beneath the cold and indifferent waters.

After being alerted by the distress bell of the SS City of De Janeiro, local fishermen flocked like gulls to the grisly and abominable scene. As the fishermen drew closer to the wreck, they began to hear the screams and swan songs projecting from the immigrants, who clung not only to floats-some and jet-some, but to their lives. The collection of anglers, cast ropes and hooks into the waters, rescuing 82 Chinese immigrants from the frigid bay that cold February morning.

n regards to the silver horde, that was rumored to be in the ship’s cargo, James Delgado, director of the Maritime Heritage for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, had said the silver was only a rumor, the ship was actually hauling bars of tin. He went on to add, “Today the wreck is broken and filled with mud and its is a sealed grave, in fast dangerous waters, in the main shipping lanes.”

The NOAA office of Natural Marine Sanctuaries Maritime Heritage Program is currently involved in a 2-year-long program to discover and document the many shipwrecks of the Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and Golden Gate National Recreational Area.


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