Gold diggers in a cold sea – by Nancy MacDonald (Globe and Mail – August 26, 2023)

The wreck of S.S. Pacific was of B.C.’s worst maritime disasters, and while Canadians largely forgot it, these treasure hunters persisted for three decades till they hit paydirt. Now, their mission has just begun

When two childhood pals from Seattle began searching for the S.S. Pacific, which sank shortly after departing Victoria on the morning of Nov. 4, 1875, its exact co-ordinates had remained a mystery for more than a century.

Though not widely known, the wreck of the Pacific – a disaster that killed hundreds of people and sent millions of dollars of B.C. gold to the perpetual midnight of the ocean floor – remains the Northwest’s worst maritime disaster.

It was the first tragedy to hit British Columbia after becoming Canada’s sixth province in 1871, but has been largely forgotten in the decades since. Among treasure hunters, however, the wreck has attained mythical status. It is the Holy Grail of Pacific wrecks, its legend built upon the lustre of gold, and a rumour that the vessel was laden with far, far more gold than the 4,000 ounces – worth $8-million today – reported at the time.

Jeff Hummel and Matt McCauley, both 58, spent three decades searching for the missing steamship before finally discovering it last year, entombed in mud, 500 metres beneath the sea off the Washington coast.

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