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3D Sonar IDs 'Golden Gate Titanic'

December 14, 2014

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The "Golden Gate Titanic" has been found, scientists say.

The S.S. City of Rio de Janeiro, which sank on February 22, 1901, has been verified as a wreck 300 feet below the surface of the Golden Gate, the Northern California waterway that connects San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean.

Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Adminitration (NOAA) made the announcement after confirming data from a 3D sonar device called Echoscope.

The ship, with 210 people (mostly Chinese and Japanese immigrants) onboard, set sail on Feb. 21, 1901, from China and stopped off in Hong Kong; Yokohama, Japan; and Honolulu, Hawaii, before heading for San Francisco. Thick fog in the strait made it difficult to navigate, and the famous bridge and the foghorns that are so much a part of the Golden Gate today had not yet been built or installed.

The 345-foot iron-hulled steamer ran into rocks at 5:30 a.m. near Fort Point, at the southern end of the Golden Gate. Because of the time of the wreck, most passengers were still in their berths. The ship sank quickly, within 10 minutes, and only 81 people survived. It was the worst shipwreck in San Francisco history.

Previous salvage efforts had turned up hints of the Rio's whereabouts, but definitive identification had not been until November 2014.

Underwater mapping by the Echoscope gave NOAA officials enough data to issue a positive identification of the SS Rio, along with another known shipwreck, the City of Chester, which collided with another ship on August 22, 1888, and sank, killing 16 of the 90 people onboard.

The Rio, though, is in bad shape, scientists said. Most of the ship is covered in heavy mud, and the front half of the ship has broken off and slid down a 65-foot slope.

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