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PODCAST: Team prepares to salvage gold from sunken SS Pacific

TODAY IN B.C.: Ship wrecked during B.C. gold rush found off Washington State

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Host Peter McCully talks with Jeff Hummel to update the efforts underway to salvage the SS Pacific in an update to a podcast interview earlier in 2023.

On Nov. 4, 1875, the SS Pacific departed Victoria Harbour, B.C. and some 12 hours later, it was on the bottom. It collided with a ship called the Orpheus on its way to Nanaimo, sinking in the first few hours of a 100-year storm.

Newspaper accounts at the time reported as much as 200 pounds of gold were onboard the SS Victoria.

In 2022, after a dozen offshore expeditions, the wreck was found and Hummel’s company, Rockfish Inc., has been granted salvage rights by U.S. courts. Much of the technology required to find the wreck was built by Hummel and his team, including robotic dive vehicles.

Hummel says the robots they have now are what are some refer to as a ‘flying eyeball’.

‘They’re basically observation robots that just have a little grabber on the front,” he said. “We’re building larger robots which are about the size of a small refrigerator. They have two robotic arms on them. One of them is a six-function arm, and the other one is a four-function arm. And we’re designing and developing all of that technology ourselves.”

McCully asked how the robotic vehicles are controlled when recovering artifacts. Hummel explained that the team has developed a unique method.

“We plan on having the vessel on site, but the actual robotic operators will be located in Seattle in a control van, and the connection for the data will be through Starlink,” said Hummel. “We can run multiple robots simultaneously from the ocean with operators. “We believe that a lot of the artifacts on the Pacific are perfectly preserved. We expect to find things made of wool, things made of leather, potentially paper-preserved food. So if things were in glass containers with a cork or a wax seal on them, they could be completely, perfectly preserved. We expect to find incredible artifacts.”

Once the recovery is complete, the Northwest Shipwreck Alliance (Hummel is a founder) hopes to create a museum dedicated to the SS Pacific.

Updates on the progress of the recovery efforts may be followed here.

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Peter McCully

About the Author: Peter McCully

Peter has been a broadcaster and publisher on both of Canada’s coasts and has owned a small newspaper and run an advertising agency along the way.
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