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Chaos Aboard the Arabia

Snag #2_shorterLying silently at or just below the water’s surface was the “snag,” a thick trunk of a huge, fallen walnut tree.  With its roots deeply embedded in the soft mud, the timber lay directly in the path of the approaching steamboat.

Without warning, the steamer’s thick, oak hull was pierced by the end of the lethal snag.  The impact was tremendous, catapulting the bow from the water and throwing many of the shaken passengers to the floor.  As the Arabia’s timbers gave way, the log was thrust into the heart of the boat.  Water poured through the gaping hole, and the Arabia began quickly sinking.

terror 2Within minutes, much of the boat and virtually all 200 tons of precious frontier cargo lay at the bottom of the Missouri River.

Fortunately for those aboard, the upper cabins of the Arabia remained above water for a time.  The frightened passengers and crew nervously awaited the single rowboat to ferry them and their precious few recovered belongings to the safety of the riverbank.

Mule sinking_flatAll aboard were saved except for a solitary, forgotten mule that remained behind, tied to a piece of sawmill equipment on the deck.  The river bottom was soft, and the boat and cargo sank quickly into the mud and silt.  The next morning, only the smokestacks and the top of the pilothouse remained visible.  Even these disappeared in a few days, swept away by the tremendous force of the river.

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Onward to “The Arabia Rediscovered”