Princess Kathleen

March , 2010

On September 7, 1952, while operating in bad weather, the 369-foot passenger vessel S/S PRINCESS KATHLEEN grounded on Point Lena, a rocky outcropping north of Juneau, AK. Approximately 10 hours later, with all passengers and crew safely ashore, she slipped from the shore and sank. The vessel lay on her port side at a depth ranging from 52 feet at the bow to 134 feet at the stern. Since her sinking periodic releases of fuel oil were observed in the vicinity. The amount of fuels remaining onboard the liner was unknown.

In February, 2010 the US Coast Guard contracted Global Diving to assist with an investigation to determine the source of oil sheen observed in the area of the wreck. Using divers and remotely operated vehicles (ROV’s) Global identified the wreck as the source of the pollution. An assessment of the wreck was made to determine her condition and an estimation of the amount of fuel oil remaining aboard.

Working from physical measurements and old ships drawings a 3D computer model of the wreck was created. This allowed engineers to develop a pumping plan to access the tanks through hot tapping in order to remove as much of the oil as possible. Using hot water circulation through the tanks more than 130,000 gallons of fuel oil was recovered from the S/S PRINCESS KATHLEEN. Divers also penetrated into the ship and recovered an additional 218,000 gallons of oil and contaminated water that had migrated from the corroded fuel piping system into other areas of the wreck.

Vessel History:

Built by John Brown & Co., Glasgow, The Princess Kathleen was launched in 1924. Her maiden voyage was from Glasgow to Vancouver via Panama. From there she entered the Vancouver-Victoria-Seattle coastal service for which she was built.

Taken over as a troop transport in September 1939, she returned to Canadian Pacific in 1947 and resumed service on her old route. Two years later, she was transferred to Canadian Pacific’s Vancouver-Alaska cruise service. On 7 September 1952, north of Juneau, she went aground at low tide. When the tide rose, the bow remained aground while the stern was swamped. She then slid into deep water as the tide rose further and was a total loss. There were, however, no fatalities.

Project Updates

June 1, 2010: Princess Kathleen – 130,000 gallons of fuel oil removed
The United States Coast Guard has estimated that over 130,000 gallons of fuel oil have been removed from 14 tanks.

March 23 – April 2, 2010: Divers Estimate Fuel Level on Princess Kathleen
Divers have estimated an approximate 14,000-34,000 gallons of bunker oil in the starboard wing tanks. The method used for this estimation requires drilling holes into each fuel tank at various elevations to determine the approximate quantity of oil. To learn more about this process please visit the Incident Homepage.

March 15, 2010: Hull Assesment of the Princess Kathleen
We are assessing the hull’s integrity utilizing ultrasonic testing to determine the precise thickness (down to 1/1000th of an inch) of the vessel remains. Current reports show that the hull is in excellent but there is oil leaking internally due to degradation of the existing structure.

February 16 – 18, 2010: Wreck Survey Completed on the Princess Kathleen
We have completed the wreck survey and the USCG decision is to remove remaining fuel from the vessel.


6/1/10: CBC News Update (CBC News)
4/29/10: Historic Diving Destination Being Cleaned Up (KTUU Alaska News Source)
3/31/10: Burping Oil (Anchorage Press)
2/23/10: Incident Homepage (Unified Command)
2/22/10: Coast Guard to continue underwater assessment of historic shipwreck (Coast Guard News)