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The Sinking of the S.S. Golden Gate

by Andrew Czernek, aczernekATcomcast.net

At 2:30 pm on Monday July 21, 1862 in the midst of the American Civil War one of the fastest steamers then on the West Coast left San Francisco with 338 passengers and crew, plus $1.4 million in gold, bound for Panama.

The S.S. Golden Gate held the record for the trip of 11 days and four hours for its first four years on the route (1851-1855), covering the distance at an average of 12 knots. The owner, Pacific Mail Steamship Company, had an excellent record for safety in an era when at least one ship each day was reported lost in American newspapers. This trip wouldn't be completed at least not for the 213 people lost when the ship caught fire and sank off Manzanillo, Mexico. As first class passengers and the ship's captain were sitting down to dinner around 4:45 p.m. on Sunday, July 27, the alarm went out that a fire was raging near the galley amidship. The fire was also near the purser's secure storage area where shippers and passengers had stored gold mined in California.

This account lists each of the victims as well as listing those known to have survived.

SS Golden Gate
The SS Golden Gate: built in 1851, burned in 1862 off Manzanillo, Mexico

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C.E.D.A.M. (Conservation, Echology, Diving, Archaeology and Museums), a museum on the commercial plaza of Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, has built a replica model of the SS Golden Gate -- and written a book about the shipwreck. (Puerto Aventuras is located 1 hour drive south of Cancun, 18 kilometers south of Playa del Carmen and 26 kilometers north of the archaeological site of Tulum.)

"Legend of the Golden Gate" was published by museum in 2003 and written by museum director Roman Rivera Torres and Joe Kelly Hughes. It was limited edition printing.

CEDAM is open to the public 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day and is free of charge.

 

 

Revision: 8/6/2018