Lest we forget

This site documents the efforts of Alaska's capital city to remember and honor, on its 100-year-annversary, the worst maritime disaster in this region's history. It was a collective effort by multiple organizations, including the Princess Sophia Committee (with great assistance from the Pioneers of Alaska); the Orpheus Project; the Alaska State Libraries, Archives and Museum, and others; as well as many individuals who, by themselves, saw the importance of remembering the suffering caused by this disaster. We hope that in bringing attention to this tragedy, this event and others like it with a diminished presene in public memory may find greater acknowledgement and respect. Particularly in lands that were the first home of far fewer peoples than now inhabit them, the task of remembering and respecting multi-generational traumas is paramount. On this centennial anniversary, with respect to all such traumas, we remember those lost on the S.S. Princess Sophia, and those who gave so much of themselves to address the aftermath. Remember the Sophia.

Photo by Winter and Pond, State of Alaska

October 24-25, 1918

The story of the Sophia

Early in the evening of October 25, 1918, in a driving winter storm, the SS Princess Sophia sank with the loss of all aboard after grounding on Vanderbilt Reef the day before. In terms of loss of life, it was the worst maritime disaster in the history of Pacific Northwest.

October 2018 centennial commemorations

Calendar of 100th anniversary events

October 25th, 2018 marked one hundred years since the Sophia tragedy. The year was marked with ceremonies in multiple cities in the US and Canada. Click here to see a record of the events held in Juneau.

Princess Sophia Committee

Centennial Commemoration Ceremony

The official ceremony marking the 100-year anniversary at the State Library, Archives & Museum, featuring singers from the opera and a Gubernatorial proclamation.

Orpheus Project Opera

A musical tribute to the sinking of the Sophia

The Orpheus Project comissioned an opera to commemorate the sinking of the Princess Sofia. It premiered October 25th, 2018 in Juneau on the 100th anniversary .

Eagle Beach, Alaska Commemoration Plaque

Bronze memorial plaque unveiling and dedication ceremony

A bronze plaque was installed in the area of the wreck on June 8th, 2018, at the Eagle Beach State Recreation Area (near the river, immediately past the Methodist camp). The plaque, spearheaded by the Pioneers of Alaska -Juneau was unveiled and dedicated by Senator Dennis Egan at 2:00 on July 14th.

The Joy before the Storm

Last Sailing Celebration Dinner fundraiser

A celebration? -Yes, of the human spirit! Per tradition, the night before the Sophia departed Skagway 100 years ago, there was a tremendous celebration to mark the end of a long season. It was a moment of great happiness -one worth celebrating in honor of those who were lost. This commemorative, authentic steamship dinner was presented by the Juneau Yacht Club as a fundraiser for Sophia anniversary-related events, in honor of their last night of joy and laughter. The storm be damned.

Annual Graveside Service

A service in memory of all the victims is conducted every year at noon in Evergreen Cemetary.

The service takes place at the grave of Walter Harper and Frances Wells Harper -newlyweds who were buried together after perishing in the sinking (their bodies were among the first to be found in the days that followed). 2018's ceremony was particularly special.

J. Maskell, to his fiance, recovered from the wreck:

"The boat might go to pieces, for the force of the waves are terrible..."

17:50 -most watches recovered from Princess Sophia victims stop.

In the face of such immense tragedy, the local community rallied to face the aftermath: to find the victims, and prepare them for burial. It is the task of those who follow to remember those lost, and the work of those who laid them to rest.