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Nautical Nights Speaker Series: Erik Kosick (The Coffin Ship)

January 11, 2024 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Nautical Nights header for speaker Erik Kosick

In January 1904, the 6-month-old steamer Clallam foundered in the Strait on Juan de Fuca, with the loss of at least 54 lives, the worst maritime disaster in the Pacific Northwest since the wreck of the Pacific in 1875. Struggling in a gale, the steamer had fallen into distress only three miles from Victoria’s harbour, well within sight of onlookers ashore. Launched in fear of an immediate sinking, her lifeboats became deathtraps in the Strait, drowning all that entered them. The steamer remained afloat for several more hours. When the Clallam finally slid below the waves of the Strait, only fourteen of her passengers survived; every woman and child was lost, while nearly all the crew survived. Victoria was hit particularly hard by the tragedy, as many of the victims came from the city. Rumblings of ill omens surrounded Clallam’s launch and final voyage and was posthumously labeled as the ‘Hoodoo Ship’.

Despite unbroken champagne bottles and nervous bellwether sheep, the causes of Clallam’s wreck were not supernatural. In fact, she had been well-liked by the traveling public and had passed all inspections. As Canadian and American investigations in the wreck revealed a culture of incompetence and corruption inside the steamboat industry, grief turned to anger in an explosive scandal that sowed Canadian wariness of American steamships. On the American side, the inquiries were a source of local and national contention; the Clallam would be an ignored warning for worse maritime disasters soon to come. 120 years after the tragedy, through rarely seen photographs and objects, writer and historian Erik Kosick will take you aboard the final voyage of the Clallam, exploring the stories of her passengers and crew, and how this almost forgotten shipwreck drastically altered the course of the maritime industry in the Salish Sea.

About the speaker

Erik Kosick graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from Pacific Lutheran University in 2016, and currently works for the Washington State Historical Society in Tacoma. Erik has a strong interest in Pacific Northwest history, particularly in maritime history. In 2020, he consulted and donated artifacts for the Society’s exhibit Unforgiving Waters: Shipwrecks of the Pacific Northwest. Erik was a historical consultant and presenter for the 2023 documentary Death is With Me, on the 1937 ‘Lady of the Lake’ murder case at Lake Crescent, Washington.

He also writes for the Washington State Historical Society’s magazine COLUMBIA under the feature Maps and Legends. The Clallam disaster is a fascination of his and has been researching the shipwreck since 2009. He also presented a lecture on the shipwreck for the Pacific Northwest History Conference in October 2020 and a corresponding feature article for COLUMBIA. He is also nearing completion of a book concerning the tragedy.

Experience riveting maritime stories and research with Nautical Nights Speaker Series.

The Coffin Ship: Superstition and Incompetence in the S.S. Clallam Tragedy with speaker Erik Kosick

Date: ThursdayJanuary 11, 2024
Time: 6:00 PM wine & beer mingle; 6:45 PM talk starts
Location: The Maritime Museum of BC, 744 Douglas Street, Victoria

All-ages event, but please bring two pieces of valid ID if you plan to consume alcohol.

Ticket prices

General Admission – $18
Youth (under 25) – $12

Please note that this is an in-person event, and we are not able to run a virtual or hybrid version at this time.

For information on parking, accessibility, and our gallery space, please visit our website. We encourage public transportation and carpooling!

Our refund policy can be found on our website.


January 11, 2024
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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The Maritime Museum of BC
744 Douglas St.
Victoria, BC V8W 3M6 Canada


Maritime Museum of BC