"Of all national assets, archives are the most precious:
they are the gift of one generation to another,
and the extent of our care of them marks the
extent of our civilization." Arthur Doughty.

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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

16 March 2016

❖ LONG DRIFT OF THE STEAMER DORA ❖

S. S. DORA
157000
1880-1920
"Summing it all up there is not a more slow,
staunch or doughty little craft afloat on the waters
of the Pacific Ocean than this little DORA.

John E. Thwaites
John E. Thwaites was the mail clerk  

on board during the 63-day drift.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Clinton Betz Collection.


S. S. DORA
Built 1880 by Mathew Turner, San Francisco, CA.
112' x 27.2' x 13.2'. 
320 G.t, 217 N.t.
Crew: 13
Indicated HP: 80.
Compound single-screw engine, driven by boiler-produced steam
14 NHP (7.5knots) 
Full set of sails.
Coal bunkers and storage holds for at least 100-tons of cargo.
Lost: 1920.

"Purser, bring me a piece of paper! I want to make my will. This ship can't last much longer. All of us are doomed."

      N.H. Moses, Alaska fur buyer, one of the passengers of the little steamer DORA, helplessly adrift in the Pacific for many days in winter storms, was speaking to W. E. Springston, later of Seattle.
      "Don't try to be funny. How in the name of heaven are you going to get your will ashore after you write it? Do you expect to send it by seagull?"
      On a routine voyage to Western Alaska and the Aleutian Island villages, the DORA left Valdez, 27 Nov 1905. Heavy weather dogged the little vessel and the night of 30 Dec found her at Cold Bay. She went to Chignik Bay, but because of gales, could not make the dock, so she turned around. As she headed out to sea, rolling and pitching in the heavy comers, the steam pipe between the boiler and the engine broke, leaving the vessel without power.
      Then began a 63-day drift in the trackless Pacific of the little Alaska passenger ship, that carried her far out of the shipping lanes.
      Back and forth went the DORA, at the mercy of the elements. She wandered over the Gulf of Alaska; at one time she reached a point below the Columbia River.
      Provisions ran low and soon the DORA was desperately short of drinking water. A limited amount of water was doled out each day, with rain from the sagging boat-covers saved. Finally, the mail pouches were opened in search of newspapers and other reading material.
S.S. DORA 
ON 157000
Photo by Mail clerk/photographer John E. Thwaites.
Original from the S.P.H.S.©

                                                
      Would the wind ever change and give the little ship a chance to set a course for Cape Flattery? Would her distress signals be sighted before all aboard died of starvation?
      These were some of the questions being asked by the three passengers aboard. They included Moses, Hughie McGlashan and Bobby Gould. Hughie, age 17, and Bobby, age 11, were in care of the ship's officers, realized they were in danger of being lost.
      There was no wireless in those days, and strange as it may seem, not a vessel sighted the far-rambling DORA, that was carried in a zig-zag course by wind and wave for more than two months.
      Finally the DORA was recorded in the list of missing ships.
      Then on 23 Feb 1906, the DORA arrived in Port Angeles, having made a voyage from off Kodiak Island under makeshift mainsail, foresail and staysail, rigged by the crew.
      Capt. Zim S. Moore, master, telephoned J.F. Throwbridge, general manager of the NW Steamship Co, owner of the DORA, telling him that the vessel was safe, and soon the Seattle waterfront was thrilled by the news.
       All aboard the DORA had been given up for lost, and Lloyd's of London was preparing to pay the insurance money to the owners of the vessel.
      With Capt. Moore and his officers was the well known mail clerk and photographer, John E. Thwaites.
      Moore later lost his life when the steamship ADMIRAL SAMPSON was rammed and sunk by the PRINCESS VICTORIA in 1914, off Point-No-Point, Puget Sound. He went down with his ship.
      The DORA was repaired and returned to service, operating for NW Steamship Co. The famous little vessel ended her days on the shoals of Alert Bay, AK, where she beached 23 Dec 1920, after stranding on a reef off Noble Island.
S.S. DORA, known as the Bull Terrier of Alaska.
Alert Bay, AK.
Wrecked 23 December 1920.

Another photo by her mail clerk, John E. Thwaites.
Original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
       The famous little DORA is gone, but the story of her strange experience will live on as one of the most interesting chapters of North Pacific shipping."
Above writing by R. H. "Skipper" Calkins. High Tide. Marine Digest. (1952.)



For further reading: well-researched and well-illustrated biography of the Alaska mariner, photographer, John E. Thwaites:
Goforth, J. Penelope 
Sailing the Mail in Alaska
The Maritime Years of Alaska Photographer John E. Thwaites,
1905-1912.
Anchorage, AK. Cybrrcat Productions. (2003)

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