ANCHORAGE (AP) A group of Alaska divers filed papers in federal court seeking salvage rights to the SS Aleutian, a steamer shipwrecked off Kodiak in 1929.
The Aleutian was owned by the Alaska Steamship Co. and sank in seven minutes on May 26, 1929, after hitting a submerged rock in Uyak Bay near the town of Larsen Bay on Kodiak Island. Papers seeking salvage rights were filed Friday.
The ship is just ''sitting in the mud, frozen in that moment of time from 1929 when it hit the rock,'' said Steve Lloyd, one of the divers who first located the wreck in August 2002. ''The cargo's still in the hold. The furniture is still in the stateroom ... spittoons still in the gentlemen's smoking room.''
''It's all badly decomposed,'' Lloyd told the Anchorage Daily News. ''Portions of the superstructure have collapsed, and almost all the wood is gone. But sections of the deck were steel and are still there.''
Of its 116 crew members and passengers, 115 survived.
The ship was 375 feet long and 50 feet wide. It had delivered a crew of several hundred workers to the Zachar cannery. When it hit the rock, it was attempting to find and deliver supplies to the Esther, an early version of a floating processor, Lloyd said.
It sank with 115 tons of cargo plus ''three carload lots of copper ore,'' all of which came to rest in about 210 feet of water off the south end of Amook Island. Seven pouches of U.S. mail from Anchorage and the Interior bound for the Lower 48 were also lost.
The Aleutian was reportedly insured for $1 million
Survivors later commended Capt. John Nord and his officers for getting the life boats launched quickly as the vessel listed heavily to port then tilted forward, raising its stern and propellers into the air before plunging nose-first to the ocean floor.
Crew member Manuel Dorras, variously described as a waiter and a janitor, was lost when tumbling furniture crushed him or when he went back for a lucky stone, or a lucky horseshoe, or an unfinished painting called ''The Lucky Horseshoe,'' depending on which newspaper was quoting which survivor.
Lloyd, a diver and shipwreck historian, came across references to the Aleutian while doing research for a book about another ship.
Over several years he scoured records and reports of the sinking, including transcripts of a Seattle hearing that blamed the captain for the collision. Lloyd said he tried to figure out the Aleutian's likely position from tide charts and reports of its speed.
Last summer he, diver Josh Lewis, who had a boat, and several other people went looking for the Aleutian, Lloyd said.
Underwater, the first evidence that they had found the Aleutian was a ''giant ghostly cylinder thing'' sticking up from below, Lloyd said. It turned out to be the main mast, still rising from the deck of the sunken ship but completely blanketed in metridium anemone, white flowerlike sea critters mushroom like in the underwater darkness.
Lloyd and Lewis were among the divers who found the historic wreck of the Kadi'ak last month, also off Kodiak. The Kadi'ak, which sank in 1860, is the oldest shipwreck ever discovered in Alaska waters.
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