In 1853, the Steamer S.S. Indpendence was on its way north from San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua to San Francisco with over 300 passengers onboard . In the early morning hours of Feburary 16th, the ship hit a rock within 300 yards of the shore of Margarita Island. The captain said he mistook the rock for a whale, but passengers who were on deck said it was a very clear day and they had warned the captain, but to no avail.
The ship took on water immediately, and the call was made to back off the rocks, while crew and passengers used buckets to remove as much water as they could. Fire from the furnace ignited the ship causing widespread panic. Some people were saved in lifeboats which made it to shore, but many perished either by fire or drowning or jumping off the ship.
Those who made it to shore faced a difficult situation as well, as there was no fresh water or provisions, and no apparent means of rescue.
After living in this manner for 3 days, inventing ways to purify water, some survivors made it to the other side of the island where they found whaling ships who provided assistance.
The Captain was able to find a ship to bring the survivors to San Francisco, a voyage of 4 more weeks.
117 passengers and 15 crew were lost; 242 passengers and 41 crew were saved.