SS Ohioan

Cargo ship wrecked at San Francisco's Golden Gate in 1936.
by Matthew Anderson


Year Built

1914

Year Sank

1936

Depth

30 ft (9.1 m)

Difficulty Level

Advanced


SS Ohioan

Wreck Location

The remains of the Ohioan lie off Land's End, San Francisco, California at the mouth of the Golden Gate. Nearby are the wrecks of the tankers Frank H. Buck and Lyman StewartOhioan was smashed into unrecognizable pieces and fragments by the pounding and relentless surf which helped drive it ashore back in 1936. The wreck hasn't been in a single piece since at least 1939. The remains of the wreck are likely accessable to divers, but due to the strong currents and sharp jagged rocks in the area, diving is very dangerous and only advanced divers should attempt exploring the wreck. The wreck itself lies between rocks off the Sutro Baths. The site where the ship grounded is visible from the beach at Land's End and the Cliff House restaurant on Point Lobos Avenue. Whether any rusted steel beams remain visible above water or not isn't known. Low tide would likely be the best opportunity to try and spot any wreckage poking above the surface.

~ GPS Shipwreck Location ~
Latitude:   37° 46' 53.7384" N      Longitude:   -122° 30' 57.8988" W

Description

Ohioan was built in 1914 by the Maryland Steel Company at Sparrow's Point, Maryland for the American - Hawaiian Steamship Company. She was a steel hulled freighter 407 feet long with a top speed of 12 knots. She was powered by a single quadruple expansion steam engine driving around a single propeller. Her sister ships were the DakotanMontanan, Pennsylvanian, Minnesotan, Washingtonian, Panaman and Iowan. She also featured refrigerated holds for transporting perishable goods. She often travelled between Hawaii, California and the eastern United States by way of the Panama Canal, which was at the time U.S. soil. During the early years of World War I prior to US involvement, it's possible Ohioan was used to transport valuable logistics on behalf of the British and French.

On August 5, 1918, the Ohioan was drafted into service by the United States navy and christened the USS Ohioan (ID-3280). In naval service, Ohioan carried troops and livestock between France and the United States. Her sister ships the Dakotan and Montanan were the first ships to carry American troops to Europe. Following Armistice on November 11, Ohioan became a full time troopship repatriating American soldiers until September 16, 1919, bringing home over 8,000 troops. She was decommissioned on October 6, 1919 and was refitted back into a general freighter for American - Hawaiian, continuing her prewar service between the east coast and California via the Panama Canal. On November 23, 1933, Ohioan sank in shallow water in the Ambrose Channel after hitting the U.S. Army transport ship USAT Liberty. She was refloated three days later and returned to service. During the war however, five of the ships American - Hawaiian owned were torpedoed and sunk by the Germans.

On October 8, 1936, Ohioan under command of Captain Read was inbound to San Francisco carrying a varied cargo of general consumer products and trucks when she entered heavy fog at the approach to the Golden Gate. Despite missing Seal Rocks, Ohioan hit another set of rocks further north. Her Number One cargo hold was flooded and her engines were shut off. Furthermore, she was stuck hard aground. Tugboats could not free the Ohioan from her grounding and the crew was safely brought ashore by way of a rescue buoy. The same buoy was also used to salvage smaller carriable cargo. Ohioan was declared a total loss and sold for salvage. Though diffuclty persisted, the remaining cargo aboard as well as salvagable machinery was removed from the wreck. In 1937, the Ohioan caught on fire after a watchman tried to burn spoiled meat in the ship's refrigerated holds. Thankfuly, the fire was extinguised before it could reach the dynamite. From then on, despite future salvage propositions, Ohioan was left abandoned where she lay. Before the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce could order the remains of the ship, considered an eyesore to the public, to be disposed, a 1938 storm destroyed the wreck and broke it into three large sections, washing it further north of Point Lobos. By 1939, only the rusted ribs of the Ohioan's hull remained visible above the waves. The rest of the wreck had caved in and fragmented due to the constant abuse by the relentless surf and breakers.

Footnotes

Ohioan is featured in the above video along with several other shipwrecks.




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