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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Shipwreck survivors share harrowing story

From the Aug. 10, 1921 Spokane Daily Chronicle.  (S-R archives)
From the Aug. 10, 1921 Spokane Daily Chronicle. (S-R archives)
By Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

Two of the Spokane survivors of the wreck of the steamship Alaska told their harrowing stories to the Spokane Daily Chronicle.

“We were playing cards when the ship struck,” said George Goodall. “We rushed toward the lifeboats. One of them collapsed and I was unable to get my wife into another, so I picked her up and threw her clear into the ocean. Then I jumped in after her.”

Soon a lifeboat picked them up, but the boat floated for hours before a rescue ship arrived and brought them to shore.

The Chronicle claimed that Mrs. Goodall’s hair was dark brown when she left Spokane a week earlier, but as a result of the trauma it was now “entirely gray.”

Kenneth Bonnewell, heading to Stanford University as a freshman, said he was thrown clear across the saloon by the ship’s impact with the rocks.

Bonnewell put on a life preserver and was washed off the deck. When a lifeboat approached, those aboard asked him, “Man or woman?”

“Man,” he replied.

“Go to hell,” they answered, apparently adhering to the “women first” rule of the sea.

He climbed onto a floating mattress, but it soon sank. Then he grabbed onto a spar. He clung to that for hours until he was picked up by an oar-less life raft with a couple of other occupants. After a rough night, they were picked up by a rescue ship.

Dr. J.A. Morse, a Spokane chiropodist, wasn’t so fortunate. He was apparently thrown into the water when the Alaska’s boilers exploded. His body was recovered several miles from the wreck.

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