Ancon Rock, Icy Strait

Ancon Rock, Icy Strait

by | Apr 6, 2019

Ancon Rock is a reef in Icy Strait, about 7.5 miles (12 km) west of Gustavus and 55 miles (89 km) northwest of Juneau, Alaska. The reef is named after the sidewheel steamship Ancon that ran aground here in 1886.

Ancon was launched in 1867 as a double-ended ferry for service in Panama for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. In 1872, the hull was rebuilt, a larger engine of 400 horsepower installed, and the capacity was significantly increased for transporting passengers and cargo. In this configuration, Ancon sailed between San Francisco and San Diego from 1875 to 1887, and in 1878 Ancon also made periodic trips between San Francisco and Portland. Cruising to Alaska became popular in the 1880s, so the Pacific Coast Steamship Company used the Ancon for summer excursion cruises sailing the Inside Passage between Puget Sound and Alaska.

At 9:57 pm on September 13, 1886, Ancon was cruising past Point Gustavus in Icy Strait, heading into Glacier Bay. Most of the 14 passengers were asleep in their staterooms when the ship made the turn into Glacier Bay and grounded hard on an uncharted rock. Three hours later the tide had risen sufficiently for Ancon to float free, but water in the hold had extinguished the boiler fires and both the pumps and engines were disabled. The sails were raised, and Captain James Carroll beached the ship on a sandy shore in Bartlett Cove. There was no radio in 1886, so Captain Carroll sent the ship’s launch to Sitka on the morning of September 14 to seek help. While the initial repairs were made on the beach, the passengers played cards, and the local Tlingit Natives stopped by to see the unusual sight. The USS Pinta arrived on September 19 from Sitka, bringing carpenters and planking for repairs. On September 26, Idaho arrived, and the passengers were transferred. No other ship carried news of the wreck to the world until Idaho reached Victoria, British Columbia with Ancon’s passengers on October 8. The U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey was immediately sent to chart the rock, which they named “Ancon Rock”. Ancon was repaired and returned to service, and three years later, on August 28, 1889, after departing from Loring, Alaska with cases of processed salmon, Ancon ran onto a submerged and uncharted reef in the harbor and sank. Read more here and here. Explore more of Ancon Rock here:

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