Shipwrecks: Graveyards of the Pacific

Almost 2,000 vessels of all types and about 700 lives have been claimed by the treacherous waters off the Peninsula over the past 300 years. Why is it so dangerous for ships? In the days before GPS equipment and cell phones, sailors sometimes had little idea where they were in relation to the shore, especially during raging winter storms that can last for weeks. Even when visibility was acceptable, ships often had trouble traversing the Columbia River bar, the area in which the gigantic flow of the river rushes headlong into towering ocean waves. Sailing ships had a terrible time getting into the Columbia, since the two natural channels through the broad, sediment-choked river mouth, particularly the north channel, forced ships to turn sideways to the wind and waves.

A few ships are still viewable to the adventurous seeker. The Bettie M is visible on Jetty A and the Peter Iredale may be the most photographed shipwreck anywhere. The Alice in Ocean Park occasionally shows a bit of skeleton and the Admiral Benson at Benson Beach (Cape Disappointment State Park) continues to snag fishing gear. As recently as 1986, the Isabella, stranded in a sand bar in 1830, was discovered by a fisherman. The Isabella is a rare discovery; historians know of only one other intact wooden wreck of the 1830’s era on the entire Pacific Coast. In the sand that has preserved her for a century and a half, the Isabella remains until marine archaeology funds and a courageous crew become available to extract her from her challenging position.

French Ship Alice, Wrecked Jan 15, 1909


Lighthouses Cape Disappointment and North Head drastically improved the safety of mariners near the mouth of the Columbia River. Built in 1856 and 1898 respectively, the two lights drastically reduced the number of vessels and human lives lost in the waters of the Pacific.

The U.S. Coast Guard has a long operational history out of Station Cape Disappointment, including its National Motor Life Boat School. This is where Coast Guard coxswains from all over the country receive training for operations in heavy weather and heavy surf conditions. To become a surfman, graduates have one to two more years of work to complete. The men and women of Cape Disappointment save lives every year as pleasure and work vessels find themselves in trouble in the dangerous waters off our coast.

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Major Shipwrecks in the Vicinity of the Mouth of the Columbia River

The vessels listed below were stranded, sunk outright or simply disappeared in that infamous triangle formed by Clatsop Spit, Leadbetter Point and Astoria, Oregon. This is far from a complete list.

1792 Chatham British tender
1798 Small boat from the Hazard American brigantine, 5 lost
1811 Small boat from the Tonquin American ship, 10 lost
1813 Raccoon British sloop of war
1829 William and Ann British barkentine, 26 lost
1830 Isabella Hudson Bay Co., British supply brigantine
1839 H.M.S. Sulpher British Royal Navy ship
1841 U.S.S. Peacock U.S. Navy ship
1846 U.S.S. Shark U.S. Navy survey schooner, crew lost
1848 Maine American whaler
1848 Vancouver British barkentine
1849 Josephine British brigantine


Wreck of the Salona, near Ocean Park


1849 L’Etoile du Matin French ship
1849 Silvie de Grace American packet ship
1850 Orbit American brigantine
1852 Bordeaux barkentine
1852 U.S.S. Dolphin U.S. Navy brigantine
1852 General Warren American steamship, 42 lost
1852 Machigone American schooner, 9 lost
1852 Marie American brigantine, 9 lost
1852 Potomac brigantine
1853 I. Merrithew American barkentine
1853 Mindora American barkentine
1853 Oriole American barkentine
1853 Palos American brigantine, 1 lost
1853 Vandalia American barkentine, 9 lost
1854 Empire American schooner
1854 Firefly American tugboat, 4 lost


Former US Navy Ship Intrepid


1855 Detroit brigantine
1857 Desdemona American barkentine, 1 lost
1860 Leonese American barkentine, 9 lost
1860 Rambler American schooner, 5 lost
1861 Woodpecker British schooner
1864 Fanny sloop
1864 Jennie Ford American barkentine, 1 lost
1864 Jenny Jones American schooner
1865 Industry American barkentine, 17 lost
1865 S.D. Lewis brigantine
1866 W.B. Scranton barkentine
1869 Anna C. Anderson American schooner, 7 lost
1870 Champion American schooner, 3 lost
1870 Ellen American schooner
1871 U.S. Grant American steamer
1871 Windward American ship, 10 lost
1872 Rose Perry Canadian schooner
1874 Rescue American steam tugboat
1874 Sidi French brigantine
1875 Architect American barkentine
1875 Orient American brigantine
1875 Sunshine American schooner, 25 lost
1876 Dreadnaught American sloop, 7 lost
1876 Nabob British barkentine
1877 Nimbus American ship
1878 City of Dublin British ship
1879 Allegiance ship
1879 Great Republic American sidewheel steamship, 11 lost
1880 Dilharee British barkentine
1881 Edith Lorn British barkentine
1881 Emily Stevens American schooner
1881 Fern Glen British ship
1881 G. Broughton British barkentine
1881 Lammerlaw British barkentine
1881 Rival American barkentine


Hull of Former US Navy Ship Intrepid

1882 Corsica British barkentine
1882 Harvest Home American barkentine
1882 Primrose vessel
1883 Cairnsmore British barkentine
1883 Queen of the Pacific American steamship, 42 lost
1883 J.C. Cousins American pilot schooner, 4 lost
1883 Whistler American barkentine
1884 Devonshire British ship
1885 Abbey Cowper British barkentine
1885 Dewa Gungadhar British barkentine
1886 Ariel American schooner
1886 Carrie B. Lake American schooner, 3 lost
1886 W.H. Besse American barkentine
1887 Grace Roberts American barkentine
1887 Telephone sternwheeler, 1 lost
1888 Gleaner American river steamer, 3 lost
1889 Artemisia American schooner
1890 Douglas Dearborn schooner, all lost

Life Savers about to start for the wrecked Alice, 1909. PHOTO: Pacific County Historical Society

1890 Governor Moody American pilot boat
1891 Strathblane British schooner, 6 lost
1896 Cadzow Forest British barkentine
1896 Glenmorag British ship, 2 lost
1896 Point Loma American steam schooner
1896 Potrimpos German barkentine
1897 Orion American schooner
1897 Samaria American ship
1898 Gamecock sternwheeler, 1 lost
1898 Staghound American sternwheeler
1899 Columbia River Lightship No. 50 American
1899 Protection American steamshipo, 1 lost
1900 Andrada barkentine
1900 Poltalloch British barkentine
1901 Cape Wrath British barkentine, 15 lost
1901 Henriette French barkentine
1901 Monitor American barkentine
1901 Pinmore British barkentine
1903 Alsternixe German barkentine
1903 Carvour Italian barkentine
1904 Frank W. Howe American schooner, 2 lost



Glenmorag grounded off Ocean Park Mar 19, 1896. PHOTO: Pacific County Historical Society

1904 Zampa American schooner
1905 C.A. Klose American schooner
1905 M.F. Hazen American launch
1905 Unnamed vessel Japanese junk
1906 Alice McDonald schooner, all lost
1906 Drumcraig British barkentine
1906 Emma Claudine schooner, all lost
1906 Galena British barkentine
1906 Melanope British barkentine
1906 Peter Iredale British barkentine
1907 Solano American schooner
1908 Broderick Castle British ship
1909 Alice McDonald French ship
1911 Aurelia American steamer
1911 Oshkosh American motor vessel, 6 lost
1911 Roanoke American steamer, 1 lost
1911 Washington American steamship
1911 William Nottingham American schooner
1912 Admiral American schooner
1912 Daisy Freeman steam schooner
1913 Marie American motorboat
1913 Rosecrans American tanker, 33 lost
1914 Rochelle American steam schooner
1916 W.T. and B. No. 3 American barge
1917 Captain James Fornace American steamship
1917 Lenore American fishing boat



Patrimpos, Dec. 19, 1896

1918 Americana American schooner, 13 lost
1918 Jupiter American fishing boat, 4 lost
1920 State of Washington American sternwheeler
1922 Welsh Prince British steamship, 7 lost
1924 Alpha American gasline propeller
1925 Caoba American steam schooner
1925 Coaster steamer
1925 Nemanosha American fishing boat, 2 lost
1928 Columbia American fishing boat
1928 North Bend American schooner
1929 Laurel American steamship, 1 lost
1929 Multnomah steamship
1920 Admiral Benson American steamship
1932 Sea Thrush steamship
1933 Pescawha American motorship, 1 lost
1934 Childar Norwegian motorship, 4 lost
1936 Iowa American steamship, 34 lost
1937 Efin American freighter
1937 Trinidad American steam schooner, 1 lost
1938 Nisqually brigantine
1940 Buster American barge
1940 Treo American fishing boat
1941 Mauna Ala American freighter
1941 Nightingale American minesweeper
1941 Vaslav Vorovsky Russian freighter
1944 29C822 American trawler, 2 lost
1944 Donna American trawler, 3 lost
1944 Electra American trawler
1945 La Belle American trawler, 4 lost
1945 Republic American trawler, 4 lost
1945 Rudolph American fishing boat
1947 U.S.S. Arrow U.S. Army transport



A wrecked gillnet boat becomes a beachcombing curiosity. PHOTO: Pacific County Historical Society

1947 Drexel Victory American steamship
1947 P.T. and B. Company No. 1684 American barge
1947 P.T. and B. Company No. 1685 American barge
1948 29P859 American trawler, 2 lost
1948 Marbet American crab boat
1948 Neptune American tugboat, 1 lost
1948 Rose Ann American dragger, 4 lost
1948 Sea Lion American trawler, 2 lost
1949 Ricky American fishing boat
1950 Deneb American motor ship
1950 Lucky fishing boat
1950 Sause Brothers American barge
1951 Erria Danish motorship, 11 lost
1951 Mizpah American fishing boat, 1 lost
1951 Oleum American oil tanker
1951 Sil-Char American motorboat
1952 Susan American cannery tender
1953 Ida-Mae American fishing boat
1953 Otsega American barge
1954 Flora American fishing boat, 2 lost
1954 Intrepid American barge
1954 Permanente Cement American freighter
1955 Baby Doll freighter
1956 Doris J. American trawler, 2 lost
1960 Sandra Lee fishing boat, 1 lost
1961 Mermaid American crabber, 2 lost
1961 No. 36454 U.S. Coast Guard motor lifeboat
1961 No. 40564 U.S. Coast Guard motor lifeboat
1961 Triumph U.S. Coast Guard cutter, 5 lost
1963 C-Trader American freighter
1964 Bell Buoy American fishing boat
1964 General John Biddle American dredge
1964 George Olson American lumber barge
1972 Meteor American crabber, 2 lost
1976 Bettie M American tuna seiner
1976 Pearl C. American charter boat, 8 lost
1977 No. 41332 U.S. Coast Guard Utility boat, 3 lost
1978 Carolina American trawler
1980 Hei-She American crabber, 2 lost
1981 Dori-Lee American trawler, 2 lost
1981 Jennie Decker American schooner-dragger
1981 Midnight Express American dragger, 4 lost

1982 Fargo American fishing boat, 1 lost
1984 Proud Mary American fishing boat, 1 lost
1985 Bonnie American fishing boat, 2 lost
1986 McKinley American dragger-trawler, 1 lost
1987 Bad Check American fishing boat, 3 lost
1987 Nickie Joe American fishing boat, 3 lost
1991 Sea King American fishing boat, 3 lost
1991 Unnamed pleasure craft American fishing boat, 2 lost
1992 Caroline American fishing boat, 2 lost
1996 Ida E. American fishing boat


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