The Collision That Sank The Steamboat Albion
By James Donahue
When the pilot of the small coastal steamer Albion accidentally turned the vessel into the path of
the 320-foot steel side-wheel excursion steamship Chippewa off Elliott Bay, Washington, on August 2, 1910, the collision should
have destroyed the Albion and killed a lot of people.
Miraculously, even though the 94-foot-long Albion was ripped open, it sank in shallow water. The eight
passengers and seven crew members on the steamer escaped unharmed. And a cargo below deck consisting of "much" gasoline and
dynamite, did not explode.
The Albion was steaming on its usual route through Puget Sound, from Seattle to Port Angeles, when
the vessel crossed paths with the Chippewa which was steaming from Bellingham to Seattle at about 11 p.m. Many of the passengers
were asleep when the two boats came together.
The Chippewa struck the wooden-hulled Albion amidships, the big ship’s steel bow cracking the
Albion’s hull open. The Albion’s passengers were taken aboard the Chippewa and the Albion was towed to the nearby
shore where it sank.
The pilot of the Albion reportedly misunderstood the Chippewa’s whistle signal. The two whistle
blasts should have been interpreted that the Albion was to "pass to port." Instead the pilot turned to starboard and directly
into the path of the oncoming steamship.
Captain E. C. Generoux salvaged the Albion and towed the wreck to Seattle where it was repaired. The
ship’s cargo was lost.
The Albion, which was launched in 1898, remained a familiar sight on Puget Sound until it was lost
to fire in 1924. At the time of the wreck, the ship was owned by the Angeles Brewing and Malting Company and was being used
to regularly haul cargos of beer from Port Angeles to Seattle in addition to other freight and passengers.
The Albion was laid up for several years during prohibition. Then in 1923 the ship was sold to Captain
Martin Heffner who converted it to a combination cannery tender and fuel tanker. With the capacity to hold 80 tons of fish
and 17,000 gallons of fuel, and with its engines converted to diesel power, Albion served the fishing fleet off Cape Flattery.
In September, 1924, an overheated exhaust pipe was blamed for the fire that destroyed the Albion.
Captain Edward Meagher and his helper, Walter G. McKay were the only people on board and they barely escaped.