Winfield Scott

December 2018

165 years ago this month, the passenger vessel Winfield Scott took a detour through what is now Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and collided with Anacapa Island. Learn what happened when the vessel started taking on water in our video.


Off the coast of Southern California, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary protects habitats like lush kelp forests and mysterious sea caves.

It also protects a collection of shipwrecks that tell stories of our maritime past, and serve as habitats for creatures today.

One of these wrecks is Winfield Scott.

Beginning in 1852, this sidewheel steamer traveled the Panama route, bringing gold prospectors from Panama to the goldfields of California.

But on a foggy evening in 1853, Winfield Scott took a shortcut through the Santa Barbara Channel and steered directly into Middle Anacapa Island.

Water began to rush in.

The ship’s 500 passengers were ferried to nearby West Anacapa Island, where they spent eight days before being rescued

Ultimately, everyone survived.

Today, Winfield Scott rests on the seafloor within Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park.

Swimming through the shipwreck, it’s easy to imagine the California Gold Rush history that brought so many seafarers through the area.

To learn more about shipwrecks in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, visit