The Phoenix Boiler Explosion

The steam schooner Phoenix at Mendocino. (Emery Escola, Emery Escola Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

August 15, 1910 – The boiler exploded on the steam schooner Phoenix, killing four men including the Chief Engineer and Second Mate. The Phoenix was headed to San Francisco, making its way slowly southward against a brisk breeze in a choppy sea. The explosion occurred a little after 9pm about ten miles north of the Point Arena lighthouse.

The skyrocket distress signals flashing through the air attracted the attention of Captain Stitt and his crew of the Point Arena life-saving station, and the rescuers put off in the lifeboat for the steam schooner. They returned at midnight with the injured and several members of the crew, leaving Captain Halverson and the others aboard the vessel. Unable to beach the Phoenix safely, the skipper and those who had stayed with him made their way through the breakers to the shore in the ship’s lifeboat at daybreak.

Just two months before, federal inspectors in San Francisco had ordered an overhaul of the boilers. The vessel was taken to the Union Iron Works and a reinforcement of one inch iron was welded over the head of the boiler. The Beacon concluded, “The reinforcement on the boiler of the Phoenix is said to have been done by the electric welding process, a method viewed by some shipmen with suspicion, and it may be that this led to the accident.”

Meet the quilt artists behind our summer exhibit at our Sunday Afternoon with the Ocean Wave Quilters event on Sunday, August 15 at 4 PM. If you are interested in owning one of these one-of-a-kind quilt squares as part of a Kelley House fundraiser, please contact info@kelleyhousemuseum.org for more information.