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Shaft of the Hassler, Lynn Canal, Alaska
Shaft of the Hassler, Lynn Canal, Alaska

Hassler (#127222) (1872-1898) (U.S.S. Hassler), 154-foot iron-hulled schooner-rigged steamer built in Seattle, Washington for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Hassler was stationed in Santa Barbara in her early career. Philip C. Johnson was commander of the Hassler until June, 1874 when he was succeeded by Henry C. Taylor as commander (1874-1877); George W. Coffin commander (1876-1878). In 1875 H. W. Henshaw used this vessel for transport to Santa Cruz Island in 1875.

Hassler was eventually condemned and sold out of government service in 1897 to the Pacific & Alaska Transportation Company. They renamed her Clara Nevada in honor of a well-known Western actress of the day. She ran between Seattle, Washington and Skagway, Alaska and became one of the worst gold rush maritime disasters when she wrecked on Eldred Reef, Lynn Canal, Alaska during a gale on February 5, 1898. All 93 lives aboard were lost.

Six volumes of log books for the Hassler are located in the National Archives in College Park, MD [130/7/45/03].

In the News~

November 16, 1871 [DAC]: “The steamer Hassler, built at Kaighn’s Point, by Messrs. Dialogue & Wood, started for Boston yesterday, and early in the morning His Honor, Mayor Fox, and Col. J. W. Forney, Collector of the Port, paid a visit to the officers on board. The Hassler is 165 feet long, 25 feet beam, and 10 feet hold. She contains compound engines, with double cylinders, the largest being 28 by 28, and the smaller, 16 by 28 inches, one of which carries from 70 to 80 pounds of steam. This is the same variety of machinery employed on the White Star Line. The Hassler has a reeling engine for hauling in the deep-sea line, and many other modern appliances for the facilitating of the scientific experiments of Professor Agassiz and others who will accompany the expedition on a voyage of exploration. The analytical chemist is Dr. White, of this city. The crew and passengers number about fifty persons. The officers are as follows: Commander P. C. Johnson; Lieutenant Commander, C. W. Kennedy…”

October 24, 1873 [SBDP]: “Arrived. October 20. United States steamer Hassler, [Captain] Johnson, from San Francisco.”

October 24, 1873 [SBDP]: “Departures. October 20. Steamer Hassler, [Captain] Johnson, survey of Santa Barbara channel.”

October 25, 1873 [SBSWT]: “The Hassler. Yesterday morning the United States Coast Survey steamer Hassler, Captain Johnson, came to anchor off our town. The object of the Hassler’s visit to our coast, we understand, is to run lines of a sounding across our channel, between the mainland and the islands, and particularly to execute the hydrography survey of a harbor near San Pedro. The Hassler, we are pleased to learn, will be working in our channel during the winter. We welcome her officers to our society.”

November 1, 1873 [SBSWT]: “The U.S. Coast Survey steamer Hassler has returned to Santa Barbara. She will be engaged here for several months in surveying work in the Channel. The following are a list of her officers, whom we welcome to Santa Barbara: Commander — P. C. Johnson…”

November 8, 1873 [SBSWT]: “The Hassler reached port Friday evening at 8 o’clock from a cruise around the islands of Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel. At 10 yesterday morning she sailed up the coast to take soundings in the vicinity of Dos Pueblos, where a sunken rock, distant 2 miles from shore, is said to be. She returned last evening, having made search for the rock reported by Captain Libbey — it appears that the rock was located years ago and on all late editions of government charts.”

November 20, 1873 [SBDP]: “Arrived. November 15. U.S. Steamer Hassler, [Captain] Johnson, from surveying.”

November 20, 1873 [SBDP]: “Departures. November 16. U.S. Steamer Hassler, [Captain] Johnson, for surveying.”

November 22, 1873 [SBSWT]: “The U.S. Coast Survey steamer Hassler, Captain Johnson, left this port early last Monday morning for Santa Cruz Island, off which she is making soundings.”

November 29, 1873 [SBSWT]: “The U.S. steamer Hassler arrived last evening from the islands.”

December 13, 1873 [SBDP]: “Arrived. December 8. Steamer Hassler, [Captain] Johnson, from cruise.”

December 13, 1873 [SBSWT]: “The U.S. Coast Survey steamer Hassler, Captain Phil C. Johnson, arrived at this port from Santa Catalina Island, last evening.”

December 13, 1873 [SBDP]: “Departures. December 11. U.S. Steamer Hassler, [Captain] Johnson, for cruise.”

December 19, 1873 [SBDP]: “Arrived. December 8. U.S. Steamer Hassler, [Captain] Johnson, from cruise.”

December 19, 1873 [SBDP]: “Departures. December 17. U.S. Steamer Hassler, [Captain] Johnson, for San Francisco.”

April 23, 1874 [SBDP]: “On Thursday last, Alexander More, Esq., while riding in one of the remotest parts of Santa Rosa Island, a dozen miles from assistance, was thrown quite heavily from his horse, his leg broken just below the knee, and his knee disjointed. Fortunately a rope was attached to the horse, and this was caught during the fall. Remounted as best he could, in his disabled condition, he rode at full speed the fifteen miles to camp, fainting all the way with pain. On arriving, he was more than fortunate in finding the Hassler in the little harbor. Captain Johnson very promptly and humanely sent the ship’s surgeon to his assistance. The doctor set the limb, bound up the wound and showed himself to be a most obliging and most skillful surgeon. Everything was done for the injured man that the surroundings would permit, and he is now doing exceedingly well, and it will not be long before he is on the street again, blessing his lucky star for his fortunate escape. Especial praise is due the captain and the surgeon for the humanity and consideration displayed.”

April 18, 1874 [SBSWT]: “The U.S. Coast Survey steamer Hassler, Captain Johnson, came into port Friday night. She will continue the work of hydrographic survey in the Santa Barbara channel and around the adjacent islands.”

April 24, 1874 [SBSWT]: “The U.S. Coast Survey steamer Hassler, Commander P. C. Johnson, has been taking soundings between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands during the past week. Last evening she returned to her anchorage in our harbor.”

April 24, 1874 [SBSWT]: “A. P. More, a well-known citizen, had his leg broken by his horse falling with him, on Santa Rosa Island. The surgeon of the Hassler went ashore and set the broken limb and he is doing well.”

May 3, 1874 [SBDMT]: “The Hassler in coming over from the islands yesterday, rolled so violently as to dip up water at the ‘waist,’ a number of times. The wind has been blowing down the channel, but it has had little or no effect on our bay, which is as calm and placid as usual.”

May 9, 1874 [SBDMT]: “On the channel it was very rough — so we were informed by officers of the Hassler, which crossed from the islands in the afternoon. She was coming to relinquish work on the soundings on account of the weather.”

May 3, 1875 [SBDP]: “The U.S. Steamer Hassler, engaged in the United States Coast Survey, is in the harbor.”

June 16, 1875 [SBDP]: “Last week, as the U.S.S. Steamer Hassler was surveying off Santa Cruz Island, a remarkable discovery was made by the surveying party. As they were near the coast making soundings, the lead suddenly dropped from 30 fathoms to 150 fathoms of water. It was soon determined that a deep ravine of two currents that swept by the island at the rate of four and five knots an hour. The ravine was the result of volcanic action, as the island is itself, and is one of the few discoveries of the kind that have been made.”

July 19, 1875 [SBDP]: “The U.S. Hassler sails tomorrow morning for Santa Cruz Island.”

August 7, 1875 [SBDN]: “The Hassler sailed on Thursday for Santa Cruz Island and returned last night.”

August 10, 1875 [SBDN]: “In the channel. Schooners Cassie Hayward and Star of Freedom, and United States steamers Hassler and Shubrick, were lying in the offing yesterday.”

August 15, 1875 [SBDN]: “In the harbor. The schooner Star of Freedom, and the constant Hassler were in port today.”

August 16, 1875 [SBDN]: “The Hassler and Star of Freedom had the channel all to themselves yesterday.”

September 8, 1875 [SFDEB]: “Discovery of shoal. New York, September 8th. Commander H. C. Taylor of the Coast Survey, commanding the steamer Hassler, reports under date of August 22nd, discovering various shoals which lie to the northward of the northwest point of Santa Rosa Island, and about one mile from the shore, with at least a depth of eleven feet of water upon them…”

September 9, 1875 [SDU]: “New York, September 8. Commander H. C. Taylor of the Coast Survey, commanding the steamer Hassler, reports under date of August 22nd, discovering various shoals which lie to the northward of the northwest point of Santa Rosa Island and about one mile from shore… Sailing vessels are especially recommended to avoid this passage altogether, as the light airs and calms under the lee of San Miguel Island, and the strong currents in the vicinity, combine frequently to drive a vessel upon this dangerous spot…”

September 15, 1875 [SBDN]: “The Hassler sailed for Gaviota yesterday.”

October 5, 1875 [SBDN]: “The Hassler is at her anchorage again. She was employed on her last cruise in making soundings of the outlying islands.”

December 6, 1875 [SBDN]: “The U. S. steamer Hassler from Santa Monica and the Star of Freedom from Santa Cruz Island, arrived yesterday.”

January 19, 1876 [SBDN]: “The Hassler is at anchor off our town.”

September 23, 1876 [PRP]: “The Hassler, which got away from the navy yard on Thursday, will resume the survey of Santa Monica bay; afterward the surveys of Santa Rosa and San Miguel islands will be undertaken.”

October 10, 1876 [SBDP]: “The United States Coast Survey steamer Hassler and the schooner Star of Freedom were in the harbor this morning.”

October 28, 1876 [SBDP]: “The schooner Star of Freedom and the Coast Survey steamer Hassler were in the offing this morning.”

November 1, 1876 [SBDP]: “The U.S. Coast Survey steamer Hassler steamed up early this morning and steered up the channel in the direction of the upper end of the islands.”

February 5, 1877 [SBDP]: “The United States steamer McArthur is anchored in port. She takes the place of the Hassler, and is under the command of Captain Curtis. She will be employed on the coast survey between here and Point Conception.”

November 21, 1877 [SBDP]: “The steamer Hassler is expected to arrive here about the first of December.”

December 15, 1877 [SBDN]: “The United States Coast Survey steamer Hassler touched at Santa Monica wharf last Friday evening, and remained until the next day, when she left for Santa Catalina Island. We have been told that the Hassler will cruise about in the waters of this locality for some time.”

April 3, 1878 [SBDP]: “The Coast Survey steamer Hassler has sailed from San Diego for the island of Santa Catalina.”

April 20, 1878 [SBDP]: “The U.S. Coast Survey steamers McArthur and Hassler put in an appearance at Santa Monica Saturday and Sunday for supplies. The former is operating in the vicinity of Point Dume, and the latter around Catalina Island.”

April 24, 1878 [SBDP]: “The Hassler arrived this afternoon from San Clemente Island where she has been engaged for the past three weeks surveying. She will remain about one week.”

May 13, 1878 [SBDP]: “The Hassler sailed Saturday night for San Francisco.”

June 1, 1878 [Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel]: “A Life on the Ocean Wave. A week ago yesterday, the trim, fast-sailing little yacht Sappho, of San Francisco, dropped anchor in our harbor, and the jolly party, once landed, immediately became the lions of the hour. They came for a good time, and, if appearances go for anything, have had it—their cups of pleasure being filled to overflowing. The boat left Napa May 23rd, in tow of the steamer, Princess, stopping at Mare Island, Vallejo, and San Francisco, and arriving at Santa Cruz on the Friday evening following. The party consisted of Mrs. Jesse Titus, Miss Monelle Stansbury, Miss Josie Mellor and Miss Katie Maclay of Napa City, Miss Annie Brownlie of Vallejo, and Lieut. Frank Simonton, of the U.S. Steamer Hassler, as passengers;...”

June 25, 1878 [SBDP]: “The McArthur left yesterday morning and the Hassler last night, the one bound for Santa Catalina and the other for San Diego.”

July 27, 1878 [SBDP]: “The Hassler left Santa Monica on Tuesday for Santa Catalina Island.”

August 9, 1878 [SBDP]: “The Hassler left port last night.”

August 19, 1878 [SBDP]: “The Hassler arrived in port Saturday night.”

September 8, 1878 [SBDP]: “The Coast Survey steamer Hassler, which went to San Francisco about two weeks ago for repairs, arrived in port yesterday afternoon. Both Hassler and McArthur are now lying at anchor in port.”

September 27, 1878 [SBDP]: “The Hassler, which has been at work about Catalina Island, has got through there, and for the present will work between Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel islands, and also do some work outside the islands.”

October 24, 1878 [SBDP]: “The Hassler arrived this afternoon from San Clemente where she has been engaged for the past three weeks surveying. She will remain about one week.”

October 25, 1878 [SBDP]: “Captain Forney, Coast Survey; G. E. Coffin, F. R. Simmonds, R. Mitchell steamer Hassler and E. K. Moore steamer McArthur are registered at the Arlington [Hotel, Santa Barbara].”

February 26, 1879 [SBDP]: “The Government steamer Hassler, which has been prosecuting a survey of the southern coast for some time, is shortly to be retired to the navy yard, the funds for carrying on the work having been exhausted. The San Diego News reports that the officers of the vessel gave a dinner to friends on the 22nd. The ship was handsomely decorated with flags emblematical of the day.”

April 17, 1879 [SBDP]: “The Coast Survey steamer Hassler, Coffin, Commander, is now in San Francisco undergoing repairs to her engine, etc., and as soon as they are completed will proceed to service on the Northern coast. She has recently been engaged in surveying the Santa Barbara coast, and the work will be completed by the McArthur.”

October 13, 1879 [SBDP]: “Captain P. C. Johnson, formerly of the Hassler, and now stationed at Mare Island, is in the city on a visit to recuperate from the effects of San Francisco fogs and winds.”

November 7, 1878 [SBDP]: “The steamer Hassler sailed this mooring for San Diego, where she will remain this winter.”

October 13, 1879 [SBDP]: “Captain P. C. Johnson, formerly of the Hassler, and now stationed at Mare Island, is in the city on a visit to recuperate from the effects of San Francisco fogs and winds.”

April 13, 1881 [SBDP]: “The U.S. surveying steamer Hassler lies in the harbor, having come up the coast from San Diego on official business.”

[1888] July 1, 1937 [TI/Avalon]: “In 1888 Avalon was made a voting precinct. The voting at the time was held in the Hotel Metropole. The first vote showed that 18 or 19 voters were there. The results of this vote were carried to the authorities on the mainland by Captain Wheeler on his schooner, Ruby. When they were ready to set sail they tried to hoist the anchor, but it would not come up. Three hours of hard work, and the combined efforts of all the men on shore were required before it came in sight, and then, to their amazement, it had hold of another anchor weighing 800 pounds, which it had picked up on the bottom. Much surmise has resulted as to what ship it belonged. Many think it was lost from the steamer U.S.S. Hassler; but by others it is questioned as to whether that vessel ever was in the harbor. When later on the Ruby was sold, the anchor of mystery went with it, and when the vessel went on the rocks at San Clemente some time later in a fog, all was lost.”

February 15, 1900 [SBMP]: “The coast of southern California has always been known locally as affording valuable fisheries... When the elder Agassiz first visited San Diego in the United States surveying ship, Hassler, he expressed the belief that the waters in its neighborhood contained a greater variety of food fishes than any part of the ocean he had ever inspected...”