Ghosts of Voyages Past
Published: 06/14/2010 Updated: 08/06/2019
photo by Steve McClure
Thousands of shipwrecks dot the Pacific coastline, some still visible if the tides are just right, offering visitors a glimpse into the past.
The Pacific coastline is dotted with the remains of thousands of ships that succumbed to the power of the ocean. Only a few are visible now, but others show up from time to time when the tides coax them from their sandy sanctuaries. Each skeleton has a story to tell and visitors come from near and far for the chance to regard one of these relics. The Peter Iredale, without a doubt, is the most notable landmark shipwreck on the Oregon coast. The four-masted steel barque ran aground in 1906, but the rusted steel hull can still be seen year-round. The ship was abandoned on Clastop Spit near Fort Stevens in Warrenton making access to this historical remnant easy for most anyone. The Pacific coast occasionally offers up opportunities to catch glimpses of these buried treasures during extreme low tides or after heavy storms. The Bettie M, a tuna seiner wrecked in 1976, is visible during extreme low tides at the junction of Jetty A and Cape Disappointment in Ilwaco. Cannons discovered near Arch Cape, providing inspiration for the city name Cannon Beach, are believed to be from the USS Shark, which sank in 1846 while attempting to cross the Columbia River Bar. In 1910 near the coast of Depoe Bay, an explosion rocked the J. Marhoffer. Boiler Bay was so named for the wreckage of the steam schooner's boiler that can be approached during low tides. Most recently, the Sujameco was uncovered near Coos Bay after unusually heavy surf. This steamboat ran aground in 1929 and typically is only visible in the winter. There are thousands of stories to be told, and visitors to Cape Disappointment State Park in Ilwaco and the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria will be treated to "Graveyards of the Pacific" this October, a weekend event that includes maritime programs, ranger talks and exhibitions. The museum will also open a new exhibit "Crossing the Bar: Perilous Passage" featuring an interactive shipwreck map of the Columbia River Bar. Treat yourself to a visit of the ghosts of voyages past along the Pacific coastline, where history is at your fingertips.