The USS Suwanee was an iron, Mohongo class, double-ended, side-wheel warship. Seven vessels of this class were designed and built during the United States Civil War for river operations. They were shallow-draft vessels that had rudders at each end and could steam up and down rivers without turning around.
The Suwanee was commissioned at Philadelphia on January 23rd, 1865. Schooner-rigged, the Suwanee measured 255′ long at the waterline, 35′ across amidships, and had a 12′ depth of hold. She displaced 1,370 tons.
Under Commander Richard Law, the Suwanee continued duty in the Pacific Squadron throughout 1866, 1867, and the early part of 1868. Her principal task was to protect the interests of American citizens along the West Coast and also to explore and survey the North Pacific Ocean and Alaska. The sid-wheeler made Esquimalt a port of call on at least two occasions before her fatal trip.
The Suwanee visited Esquimalt for a third time on July 1, 1868. At the time she was under orders to visit Alaska and had stopped en route from San Francisco.
On July 9 at 6:15 AM, while proceeding through Shadwell Passage, the Suwanee grounded on an unmarked rock at high tide. The water was described as being calm at the time. As the tide fell, the Suwanee broke her back on the reef, the bow wing underwater and the stern hanging above the water on the rock. The crew survived and were all landed in good condition on Hope Island, close to the wreck.
For more information on the Suwanee and other shipwrecks of Northeastern Vancouver Island, go to: UASBC.Com. You can order the publication Historic Shipwrecks of Northeastern Vancouver Island from the Underwater Archaeological Society of British Columbia publications.