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Winfield Scott Shipwreck

Shipwrecks along the coast during this period increased proportionate with the increase in shipping traffic. The remains of many of these vessels have since formed underwater habitats that are studied by scientists, and enjoyed by divers. One of the most well known shipwrecks in the Channel was the Winfield Scott, a side-wheel passenger steamer. Originally built in New York, the Winfield Scott came to sail the Channel waters as a record setting, fast, ship traveling from New York to San Francisco via Rio de Janeiro and Cape Horn, able to complete the voyage in less than 49 days. In 1853, the Pacific Mail Steamship Company purchased the Winfield Scott, and its last voyage departed San Francisco on December 2, 1853 with a full load of passengers ( 375 cabin and 450 steerage ), mail, and a shipment of gold bullion ( estimated at $2 million ).

Selecting the Santa Barbara Channel rather than a passage outside the islands in an effort to save time, Captain Simon F.Blunt entered the passage as a fog developed. Evidently intending to steam between Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands, the Winfield Scott piled into Middle Anacapa Island at full speed, probably around 10 knots, at eleven 0’clock that evening. Amid great confusion, a boat was launched and located a nearby landing place. The entire ship’s company, more than 800 persons, left the vessel that evening for a pinnacle 200 yards offshore Anacapa Island. The following morning, the ship’s boats transferred the group to the island proper. There a temporary camp sheltered most of the group for the next week. The majority of the passengers left on December 10,when the California plucked them from the beach and took them on their way to Panama." ( SCRA ) The remaining passengers, many who were miners loaded with their gold dust, were picked up by the Republic, along with the mail and other goods.