The Proteus was capable of making good speed on her trips between New York and New Orleans and served on this run for many years carrying passengers in comfort and freight in her holds for the Southern Pacific Company. Contemporary reports on the vessel's accommodations lauded the fact the staterooms were elegantly appointed; toilets and bath rooms were available for all those aboard and she had spacious round and rectangular portholes to provide excellent ventilation as well as electric lighting throughout. This along with the fact that independent mess facilities existed for the crew members, steerage passengers and the first class made for "passenger arrangements that could not be improved upon".
Immediately after the collision a crew member, who was a fireman, panicked and leaped overboard. He would be the only casualty, besides the liner herself. Captain Harry T. Boyd ordered and coordinated a successful abandoning of the sinking vessel and was the last person to leave the ship. All 12 passengers and 82 crew were aboard the damaged but still afloat Cushing within the hour. The collision occurred around 0200 a.m. and a short while later the Proteus went to the bottom of the ocean in 125 feet of water almost 25 miles south of Hatteras Inlet.