BUILT/REBUILT: 1904/1932, Craig Shipyards, Toledo, OH/Lake Washington Shipyard, Houghton, WA
OFFICIAL NUMBER: 200920 SIGNAL LETTERS: KJNE
L/B/D: 180 x 32 x 19 GROSS/NET TONS: 765/520
PROPULSION: triple-expansion steam engine, 1500 HP SPEED: 16 knots
NAME TRANSLATION: Invented by Indiana Supreme Court Justice Jeremiah Sullivan, who joined Indiana with polis, the Greek word for city; Indianapolis
literally means "Indiana City."
FINAL DISPOSITION: Scrapped 1938.
The Indianapolis sails past with a mighty bellow of her steam whistle in 1929. Author's collection. The whistle you are hearing is the Indianapolis' range whistle.
The Indianapolis, a 180-foot steamer built in 1904, also came from the Great
Lakes. Her trip around the Horn in 1905-06 was one of the shortest
journeys—54 days total, a record, but the trip was far from uneventful. A
mutiny nearly took place, a scuffle which resulted in Captain Johnson
receiving a black eye which was still in evidence when the vessel pulled into
Seattle on 10 February 1906.
Black Ball announced that the ship was to be renamed Crescent, but they
never got around to it.
After a brief refit, the Indianapolis went to work in competition with the
veteran steamer Flyer on the Seattle-Tacoma run.
The rivalry between the Flyer and the Indianapolis was long-standing.
Despite Black Ball's strict policy against racing, there was one midnight race
between the two steamers. The Flyer, in her efforts, burst one of her boilers;
still, even with a 4 minute lead she passed her rival and pulled into Tacoma
well ahead of the Indianapolis. "Come fly on the Flyer" was not just a
company boast, it was now an established fact.
Black Ball was not pleased. With over 285 people aboard, and the loss of the
Clallam still fresh on their minds, they released a scathing statement
reprimanding both the crew and captain of the Indianapolis. The rivals never
There was still a matter of pride involved in running the big steamer. The
Indianapolis tried very hard to maintain the Flyer's schedule. To do so, she
had to run at full steam, creating a wake, according to author Gordon Newell
in the fine book Pacific Steamboats, that "would have done credit to the
Mauretania. The waves of her passing upset scow-loads of lumber, tore
small boats loose from their moorings and wrecked houseboats."
The rivalry ended in 1911 when Black Ball found a simpler solution: the
company purchased the Flyer.
Like most of the other Black Ball steamers, the Indianapolis eventually found
herself unprofitable as a passenger steamer. She was removed from the
Seattle-Tacoma run in 1930.
Black Ball hauled her into the yard and converted her to carry autos on the
Edmonds-Port Townsend run. The conversion was not as successful or as
far reaching as the Chippewa: the Indianapolis looked like a former steamer
with her bow shorn off. The Chippewa, by comparison, was so radically
changed that after her final rebuild of 1932 it was difficult to tell she had
been anything but a ferry.
Unlike her near sisters, the Indianapolis would not lead as long as a life.
With the steady arrival of ferries from San Francisco, there was no point in
converting a nearly 40-year-old vessel into diesel and remodeling her again.
In 1938 the fine old Indianapolis ended up at the breakers, ending a
distinguished career on Puget Sound.
|Possibly the most unlovely of conversions, the Indianapolis spent the last years of her life
carrying cars from Edmonds to Port Townsend. With the arrival of the ferries from San
Francisco, the Indianapolis, with her costly steam power plant was soon withdrawn from