Shortly after the Alaska Purchase of 1867, the U.S. Army dispatched several batteries of soldiers to Alaska to protect American interests in the former Russian territory. Battery F of the Second Artillery sailed for Cook Inlet aboard the chartered, civilian-owned sailing bark Torrent with instructions to scout locations for an army fort near Kachemak Bay.
The Torrent carried approximately 125 Army officers and soldiers, plus a civilian crew of around 12 sailors. Also aboard were passengers that included women and children.
While attempting to enter Coal Cove at Port Graham (near what is now the Native village of Nanwalek) the Torrent struck a reef and began to take heavy seas. Everyone aboard escaped in the ship's boats, but the vessel broke apart and sank.
In 2006, an exploration team led by Steve Lloyd searched for the Torrent wreck site utilizing exhaustive historical research and modern wreck-hunting techniques found copper spikes and other debris on the bottom.
Returning the following season, the team located wreckage representing the main structure of the Torrent, marking this discovery as the oldest American shipwreck ever found in Alaskan waters.
Among the objects found was one of the Torrent bronze mountain howitzer guns, lost when the ship broke apart on the reef. This rare, Civil War-era artillery piece was later recovered in a joint operation involving the discovery team, the State of Alaska, and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Aided in part by a grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum, Expedition leader Steve Lloyd produced a documentary detailing the Torrent's mission and shipwreck, and his search for the lost vessel. Watch an excerpt from the film by clicking the YouTube link below.
A detailed account of the Torrent shipwreck written by Steve Lloyd was published in the Sea Chest, the journal of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society. Click the page on the right to open a PDF of Steve's article in a new window.