Coin marks 100th year since SS Princess Sophia sinking; over 350 people died

The Royal Canadian Mint released a commemorative silver coin Tuesday in honour of the 100th year since the sinking of the SS Princess Sophia, the worst maritime disaster in B.C. history.

It sank on Oct. 25, 1918, with the loss of more than 350 passengers and crew. There were no survivors of the wreck, sometimes called the Titanic of the West Coast.

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The SS Princess Sophia was a coastal steamer built for Canadian Pacific, taking passengers from Victoria, Seattle and Vancouver to northern B.C. and Alaska.

Four hours after leaving Skagway, Alaska, the ship struck a reef near Juneau in bad weather. The ship remained stuck for 40 hours, at times within sight of land. But stormy conditions prevented any rescue. As the storm became worse, the vessel foundered and sank.

Alison Crawford, spokeswoman for the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa, said the commemorative coin has a value of $20 if it is used as cash.

But its real value, as silver, is much higher and it sells for $115.

Crawford said the mint prides itself on commemorating unique Canadian stories with its special coins, even tragic ones like the Princess Sophia. “So we hope this coin doesn’t just raise awareness of what was the worst maritime disaster of the Pacific Northwest but also honours all those who lost their lives,” she said.

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