top of page

Iowa History Daily: January 12 - Sinking of the SS Iowa

Iowa History Daily: On January 12, 1936, the freighter SS Iowa crashed in the at Peacock Spit near Cape Disappointment in the Columbia River of Washington state, sinking and taking the lives of all 36 people aboard. The tragic wreck of a sea-bound ship named for a landlocked state, the sinking of the SS Iowa stands as one of the worst domestic maritime disasters of the 20th century.

The SS Iowa, rolled off the line as one of 18 standard ‘type 1019’ steel-hulled cargo ships built between 1919 and 1920 for the U.S. Shipping Board, Emergency Fleet Corporation by Western Pipe and Steel Company of San Francisco, California. The 5,724-ton vessel measured 410.5’ with a 54’ beam and a 24’ draft. Powered by a triple-expansion reciprocating steam engine delivering 2,800-shaft horsepower, the SS Iowa cruised at 10.5 knots (12 mph).

At 7:45 p.m. on Saturday, January 11, 1936, the SS Iowa, under the command of Captain Edgar L. Yates, chugged the 60-mile voyage down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean. Hauling hundreds of cases of canned salmon and wooden matches, tons of flour, innumerable bundles of cedar shingles, plus well over two million board feet of lumber stacked on her main deck. 

As the ship left the river to head south along the coast to San Francisco, a storm blew up. Rain squalls and hurricane force winds gusting up to 73 mph rose out of the southwest. At 3:45 a.m. the Iowa's radio operator sent a distress call to the lighthouse at Cape Disappointment. The under-powered, single-screw vessel, proved unable to make headway in the face of the hurricane and strong northerly current. Swept more than two miles off course, onto the outer reaches of Peacock Spit, the ship sank taking the crew to Davey Jones’ Locker. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalnedar


bottom of page