Friday, October 14, 2016

Sand and Shipwrecks

Fort Stevens State Park, just past Astoria, Oregon, in nearby Warrenton, is in the middle of a rain forest, and we had condensation from the canopy even when it wasn’t raining.  It’s a beautiful park, though.  Most of the sites, though small, have pretty good privacy.  There are miles of wonderful hike/bike trails throughout the park.  We only had time to enjoy a few of them, but had great walks nevertheless.  (At least the bicyclists had to watch out for us for a change.)  

The beach is beautiful.  The dunes rise high from the edge of the water, and are covered in beautiful, waving grasses. 

The first afternoon it was also covered in kids of all ages.  It was “A Day at the Beach” for area schools.  

And right on the beach is the wreck of the Peter Iredale, a four-masted steel barque sailing vessel that ran aground at 3 a.m. on October 25, 1906.   When I saw the wreck, it was like meeting an old friend.  Laura Shoe, an excellent Lightroom instructor whose seminar I have taken and whose videos I use, has her own excellent image of the ship that she utilizes in her instructional materials.  

The tales of its grounding vary to some degree, but agree that the ship was bound for the mouth of the Columbia River on its way to Portland, Oregon, where it was to pick up cargo.  We took a couple of quick photos and retreated from the beach frisbee and other activities, returning another day for a closer look.

We did some research into the fate of the Peter Iredale.  One account says that the ship was lying offshore waiting for a pilot to take it into harbor when swift currents and a sudden shift of winds forced it ashore on Clatsop Spit near Fort Stevens.  When the vessel went aground, three of its four masts broke and it was driven ashore.  Fortunately, all 25 crewmen and 2 stowaways were rescued.  A maritime review board subsequently absolved the captain and crew of any responsibility for the wreck, saying it could not have been avoided.  

William K. Inman, one of the lifesavers who helped bring the crew ashore remembers the captain, red-bearded H. Lawrence, standing stiffly at attention, saluting his ship and saying, “May God bless you and may your bones bleach in these sands.”  He then turned and addressed his men with a bottle of whiskey in his hand.  “Boys,” he said, “have a drink”

In just a few days, it will be 110 years since the unfortunate vessel was driven ashore.  Her bones have been bleaching in these sands since that time, and the wreck is one of the most-visited attractions on the upper Oregon coast.  The Peter Iredale was originally 275 feet long…or maybe 287 feet as another source reports.  Regardless, even as diminished as her skeleton is, it is still a must-see tourist attraction.  I had a great time walking the beach and taking photos of the wreck.  

And I wasn’t alone.  Long past sunset there were also others on the beach trying to capture the magic of the scene.  

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