The Wreck of the Peter Iredale

This Saturday, I took a short road trip to Warrenton, OR, a small town on the coast immediately west of Astoria. Warrenton is situated on southern spit of the Columbia Bar, a set of sandy shoals at the often violent meeting of the Columbia and the North Pacific. And violent is the word: since the first crossing by a white guy 1792, some 2000 ships and 700 lives have been lost there. It is known as the “graveyard of the Pacific.” This was where the Coast Guard decided to put their Motor Lifeboat School, for the consistently difficult conditions. To become a Columbia River Bar Pilot, you must first have 15-25 years at sea, an unlimited tonnage master’s license, and be able to draw the nautical chart from memory.

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The Peter Iredale, shortly after she went aground in October 1906.

The Peter Iredale, a sailing cargo vessel under the English flag, was one of the unlucky ships. In the early morning of October 25th, 1906, she was caught in a squall trying to cross the bar and ended up on the beach of Clatsop Spit. None of her crew were lost, and the ship was not severely damaged, but weather did not improve and she was partially buried in the sand before she could be towed off. Most of the ship, with the exception of the bow, was sold for scrap, and the rest was left on the beach. The captain’s final toast to his ship was “May God bless you, and may your bones bleach in the sands.”

I took a bunch of pictures. Click on the thumbnails below to view larger.

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All photos licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike. If you’d like a large one for your desktop, let me know and I can send it to you.

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