A shipwreck in the water pushed against high rocks

Stockton City, wrecked off Russian Gulch, 1922. (Kelley House Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

December 28, 1922 – The gas steamer Stockton City wrecked on the north side of Russian Gulch. She was a small vessel of 115 gross tons built in 1898. She had pulled into Russian Gulch harbor the previous day, but the seas were too rough to unload the cargo, so she was moored north of the wharf for the night.

About 9 pm, “the wind swung from the southeast to southwest and the ocean showed a violent turn and the vessel started to drag her anchor and the harbor mooring.” She crashed into the wharf and “bumped on a rock southwest of the wharf. She then became unmanageable and helpless and gradually drifted northwesterly across the harbor until she struck on a shoal of rock near the bluff.” The eight crew members were able to escape to a narrow shelf of rock on the bluff wall.

The vessel broke in two amidships around 1 am, and the aft part with the engines disappeared. The men called for help without much hope that they would be heard above the noise of the wind and waves. Mrs. Jens Christensen, who lived about a mile away, was awakened by their cries about 3 am. Her husband hurried to the scene and sent their sons to get more help. The men were drawn up the bluff by rope in the early morning hours before daybreak.

After she broke in half, the ship’s bow continued to float and was gradually worked by the sea into a small cove, where the waves churned the remainder into pieces over the next few days. A portion of her 30 tons of cargo came ashore there and on neighboring beaches. The vessel’s gasoline engines were located just outside the jagged reef where she had originally lodged. They could be seen at low tide, immersed in about 15 feet of water.

“Thomas H. Petersen Master Shipbuilder” by Louis A. Hough. Thomas Petersen built about three dozen wooden vessels: sailing schooners, a barkentine, steam schooners, steam tugs and lighters. Based on Petersen’s memoirs. $15.