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NOAA Team Finds Shipwreck Of The 'Titanic Of The Golden Gate'

A sonar profile view of SS City of Rio de Janeiro above a painting of the steamer.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it has found the remains of a 19th century passenger steamer that sank near the present-day Golden Gate Bridge at the entrance to San Francisco Bay, killing 128 people, mostly immigrants from China and Japan.

Inbound from Hong Kong, the City of Rio de Janeiro, which came to be known as the "Titanic of the Golden Gate," went down in dense fog after hitting submerged rocks early on the morning of Feb. 22, 1901.

Wired says: "[The] iron-hulled City of Rio de Janeiro, enveloped in fog, hit the rocks of Fort Point just within the Golden Gate. Water flooded the bulkheads, sinking the ship within 10 minutes and killing 128 of the 210 passengers aboard, most of them Chinese and Japanese emigrants. Captain William Ward, who died, and Pilot Frederick Jordan, who lived, were found guilty of gross negligence because they never should have attempted to enter San Francisco Bay."

In 1987, according to Wired, a salvage team found the wreckage of City of Rio, but was never able to prove the claim.

NOAA says:

"During this expedition, Robert Schwemmer, West Coast Regional Maritime Heritage Coordinator, worked with [Director of Maritime Heritage for NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries James] Delgado and multibeam sonar expert Gary Fabian to locate the wreck site again. They located the site in 287 feet of water, positioned inside the main ship channel, and largely buried in mud.

"Schwemmer and the Hibbard team captured the first detailed sonar and three-dimensional images of City of Rio resting in the dark, muddy waters outside the bridge."

"The level of detail and clarity from the sonar survey is amazing," Schwemmer said. "We now have a much better sense of both wrecks, and of how they not only sank, but what has happened to them since their loss."

The team from the NOAA that located City of Rio is the same one that earlier this year found the SS City of Chester, a ship that went down in a similar location and under similar circumstances in 1888.

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