SS City of Rio de Janeiro

Transpacific ocean liner sunk in 1901 after hitting rocks at the Golden Gate. 130 were killed. It is the worst maritime disaster in San Francisco history.
by Matthew Anderson


Year Built

1878

Year Sank

1901

Depth

287 ft (87.5 m)

Difficulty Level

Technical


SS City of Rio de Janeiro

Wreck Location

The City of Rio de Janeiro lies halfway between Marin County and San Francisco, California in the stretch of water connecting the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco Bay, known as the Golden Gate. For the last 113 years before the wreck was discovered, it was believed by some that the City of Rio de Janeiro would never be found, as the wreck wasn't close to where the ship had run aground and the strong currents in the Golden Gate, the depth of the channel and the likelyhood the wreck was covered or destroyed during the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. However, thanks to a NOAA sponsored effort, the wreck was found in 2014 and is in 278 feet of water.

~ GPS Shipwreck Location ~
Latitude:   37° 48' 47.9808" N      Longitude:   -122° 29' 20.5584" W

Description

Due to strong currents and the 200 foot plus depth of the wreck site, the City of Rio de Janeiro is likely a difficult dive which requires technical diving; specifically since it is at a depth greater than 130 feet. A 3D representation of the wreck released by NOAA shows the wreck lying on a slope, bow pointed towards the Golden Gate Bridge. The masts, superstructure and lone funnel appear to have corroded away with time. The main hull appears to be intact, but is broken in half amid ships, the stern lying slanted on the underwater slope, while the bow is relatively straight. Both sections are on an even keel. The position of the wreck relative to where it hit the rocks and sank is peculiar, as it lies southwest of its original supposed position within the city limits of San Francisco itself, having drifted to the middle of the Golden Gate channel from where she departed the surface.

Footnotes

SS City of Rio de Janeiro

The City of Rio de Janeiro was originally built by John Roach and Sons in Chester, Pennsylvania for the United States and Brazil Mail Steamship Company for service between New York and Brazil with her sister ship City of Para. The service was unsuccessful. The line folded and both ships were sold in 1881 to the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, serving on a transatlantic route from Yokohama, Japan to San Francisco, California, via Hong Kong and Honolulu, Hawaii. Both ships also served as a troopships in the Spanish American War. On February 22, 1901, the City of Rio de Janeiro ran aground in dense fog on the Marin County side of San Francisco's Golden Gate. Four minutes after striking the reef, she slid back into the water and sank in less than six minutes killing 130 of the 210 passengers and crew. It is the worst&



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