The Northwest Shipwreck Alliance is a Washington nonprofit created to discover, recover, and preserve the most important shipwrecks of the Pacific Northwest.
Who We Are
The Northwest Shipwreck Alliance (NSA) is a Washington state nonprofit, recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)3 public charity, created to bridge the gap between local and regional nonprofit historical organizations/museums and the technology and expertise required to discover, recover and preserve shipwreck artifacts and other important submerged historical resources.
Discover: Locating shipwrecks and submerged historic resources is outside the capability of most local historical societies and museums. While a particular shipwreck or submerged resource might play an important role in the history of the community or region it serves, its ability to present that story in the fullest and most engaging way is highly limited due to the research and technical difficulties associated in seafloor, lake and river bottom searches.
Recover: Even if an underwater site location is known, it needs to be approached under the auspices of trained underwater archeologists coordinating with the state and federal agencies that have jurisdiction over these resources. In addition to those basic requirements, water depths and other environmental conditions often place these sites well beyond the reach of recreational SCUBA and even commercial divers, making the use of advanced underwater exploration and recovery technology mandatory.
Preserve: In some cases, “preservation” can entail the costly and complex procedures of working with actual physical relics or even entire vessels recovered from the bottom, but in other cases the optimal means of preserving a wreck or resource might be simply making a detailed sonar and photo/video survey of the site, a technique employed with great success and to the general public’s fascination with such shipwrecks as the HMS Titanic and German battleship Bismark.
In addition, the NSA preforms extensive independent historical research and underwater exploration of its own projects and seeks to record those efforts through documentary film production.
The NSA has devoted itself to assisting nonprofit historical organizations in accessing shipwrecks and submerged resources so they can present those stories to the communities they serve. By creating alliances between the historical nonprofit community and the marine technology commercial sector, the NSA makes possible underwater projects previously deemed impossible.
The SS Pacific was a side wheel steamer built in 1850 for the California gold rush. It collided with the clipper SV Orpheus on November 4, 1875, off the coast of Washington state. It is the worst maritime disaster in west coast history: 325 souls perished and only two survived.
“Long will be remembered the year 1875, when Death, clad in all his hideousness, rode the wave ; and, while the restless sea has supplied Northwestern history with many pitiful tales of disaster, this fatal year has never been equaled in the number of lives and amount of property sacrificed. No greater calamity was ever visited on the people of this Coast than the loss of the steamship Pacific…“– Edgar Wilson Wright, Lewis & Dryden’s Marine History of the Pacific Northwest (1895)
The Pacific Project is a collaboration between Rockfish, Inc. and the Northwest Shipwreck Alliance (NSA). On November 23, 2022, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Senior US District Judge James L. Robart awarded exclusive salvage rights to the wreck of the SS Pacific to Rockfish, to recover the vessel’s express cargo under contract with the original underwriters based in London. The Northwest Shipwreck Alliance is tasked with preserving and displaying the artifacts in a new museum to be located in the Puget Sound region.
The SS Pacific set sail in 1850, with a purpose to service the California Gold Rush. During the Pacific’s life, the vessel carried carry countless passengers in areas including the American Southwest, Central America, and the Pacific Northwest.More on the Ship
On 4 November 1875 the SS Pacific was involved in one of the worst maritime disasters in West Coast history. While on its way to San Francisco, a sailing ship called the Orpheus cut in front of the Pacific and within a few hours the Pacific had sunk. Only two survived.More on the Loss
The SS Pacific proved hard to find. Since 1985, many have attempted to locate the wreck. Each expedition was unsuccessful for different reasons. On at least two occasions, searchers went right over the Pacific without realizing it.More on the Search
Rockfish, Inc. completed twelve expeditions between 2017 and 2022 searching for the wreck. They first imaged the ship in October of 2021 but it would not be until November of 2022 that they would announce the discovery.More on the Discovery
A large team worked to find the SS Pacific. Many of them volunteered their time with the hopes that the project would someday reward them and every one of them played an indispensable part.More on the Team
The Northwest Shipwreck Alliance is formulating plans, with their partner Rockfish, Inc. and their archaeological team, to recover artifacts from the ship.More on the Future of the SS Pacific