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Judge settles decade old case over boat carrying 480,000 oz. of Klondike gold

Ocean Mar has been granted exclusive salvage rights to the steamship SS Islander carrying gold from the Klondike that sank near Juneau, Alaska, over 100 years ago.

U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland said Ocean Mar located the vessel first, disappointing rival company Yukon Recovery.

When the Islander embarked from Skagway on Aug. 14 1901, the ship was full with passengers, mail and 480,000 oz. of gold bullion. The SS Islander was favoured by businessmen and wealthy since it was better outfitted than most vessels. The boat was 73 m long and built in Scotland in 1888.

Around 2 a.m. on Aug. 15 the Islander hit an iceberg in Lynn Canal, south of Juneau. The captain tried to reach Douglas Island but the damage was too extensive, and the cargo was too heavy. Within five minutes, the bow was completely underwater making the ship inoperable. The boat sank 15 minutes later. Forty people lost their lives.

When the boat sank, salvage was not possible due to the depth and low temperatures under the water. A salvage company did managed to raise two thirds of the hull in 1934 but 60 feet of the forward hull section, the heavier part of the boat, broke away and stayed on the bottom.

Both Ocean Mar and Yukon Recovery made separate expeditions in the ’90s and discovered the hull section independently leading to the dispute.

Image of the Steamship Islander of the Canadian Pacific Navigation Co. leaving Vancouver, BC for Skagway Bay in 1897