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Ilwaco in Pacific County, Washington — The American West (Northwest)
 

A Disastrous Year

 
 
A Disastrous Year Marker image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, July 10, 2015
1. A Disastrous Year Marker
Inscription.
Sailing a ship into the narrow channel at the mouth of the Columbia River was always dangerous and often deadly. Sailing ships would frequently be forced to wait for days and sometimes weeks for the weather to be right to "cross the bar." Even if the tide and winds were favorable when a ship crossed the bar, conditions could change rapidly, leaving a vessel stranded without winds, against the current and quickly surrounded by sand. The year, 1853 was marked by the loss of four ships and at least four lives, all within ten miles of this location.

"The year 1853 proved disastrous, especially at the mouth of the Columbia..."
Lewis and Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, 1895


One Week, Three Shipwrecks
January 9: The Vandalia was last seen by crew of the Grecian sailing off the coast, near the mouth of the Columbia River.

January 11: The I. Merrithew was pushed by the current onto the sands of Clatsop Spit, everyone was rescued before 8 AM by the pilot schooner.

The Mindora struck the Middle Sands at low tide around 8 PM, the crew rowed themselves to Astoria.

January 12: The remains of the I. Merrithew were found near the rocks at the base of North Head.

Days
Marker detail: The <i>Potrimpos</i> image. Click for full size.
By Washington State Parks
2. Marker detail: The Potrimpos
The Potrimpos, which was stranded on the beach several miles north of here in 1896 is an example of a bark, or barque, a three masted ship. All four ships which wrecked at the entrance to the Columbia River in 1853 were barks.
later: The remains of the Mindora were found near the entrance to the Willapa Bay, thirty miles north of here.

The remains of the Vandalia were found in the cove below this overlook. Four bodies washed up on the beach including that of Captain Edward Beard, whom Beard's Hollow is named for.

The Wreck of the Oriole
The need for a lighthouse at the mouth of the Columbia River was dreadfully clear by 1853. The U.S. government selected 13 locations on the West Coast to build lighthouses, of these sites, Cape Disappointment was one of the priorities. The Oriole arrived in September of 1853 with materials to not only build a lighthouse here, but three others in California as well. The ship, like so many before and after it, crossed the bar during a flood tide with a favorable breeze. Once across the bar, the wind died, leaving the sailing vessel to the mercy of the currents, waves and sand. The Oriole struck a sand spit and within hours, the ship and all the lighthouse materials sank in view of where the lighthouse would be built.
 
Location. 46° 18.585′ N, 124° 3.9′ W. Marker is in Ilwaco, Washington, in Pacific County. Marker is on North Head Road 1.6 miles north of Robert Gray Drive (Washington Route 100), on the left when traveling
Marker detail: Cape Disappointment Lighthouse image. Click for full size.
By Washington State Parks
3. Marker detail: Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was finally lit in October of 1856. It was the first of many permanent aids to navigation built at the mouth of the Columbia River.
north. Touch for map. Marker is located at the north end of Beard's Hollow Viewpoint overlook. Marker is at or near this postal address: 801 North Head Road, Ilwaco WA 98624, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 9 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. An Evolving Playground (a few steps from this marker); Life of a Lighthouse Keeper (approx. one mile away); Clamshell Railroad Driving Tour (approx. 1.1 miles away); Keeping Pace with Technology (approx. 2.3 miles away); Fort Canby (approx. 2.3 miles away); Lewis and Clark Trail (approx. 2.3 miles away); Cape Disappointment Lighthouse (approx. 2.4 miles away); Battery Pratt (approx. 8Ĺ miles away in Oregon). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Ilwaco.
 
Also see . . .
1. Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.
When Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was first lit on October 15, 1856, it became the eighth active light on the West Coast. Six of the original batch of eight lighthouses were built in the form of a circular tower protruding from the center of a keeperís dwelling, but at Farallon Island and Cape Disappointment, there was only room for a circular tower at the lighthouse site, and a detached dwelling had to be built a considerable distance away. The brick tower at Cape Disappointment stands fifty-three feet tall, has a focal plane of
A Disastrous Year Marker (<i>wide view</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, July 10, 2015
4. A Disastrous Year Marker (wide view)
220 feet above the sea, and tapers from a diameter of fourteen feet four inches at its base to ten feet six inches at the lantern room. The station was also supplied with a 1,600-pound fog bell, but it was found to have little value due to the roar of the surf and the distance at which mariners needed to hear it. (Submitted on April 19, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 

2. Braving the Bar: Shipwrecks.
1853 was a bad year for ships traveling near the mouth of the Columbia River. In that year, four ships were lost, including the Oriole, Mindora, and J. Merithew. But perhaps the worst and most mysterious wreck to occur that year was that of the Vandalia. On January 9, 1853, the Vandalia was sighted by another shipís captain who reported that it was laboring, but didnít seem in need of assistance. A week later, the ship washed ashore, bottom up, near McKenzie Head, south of the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington. Among four bodies that came ashore near the wreck, one was that of Captain E. N. Beard. The rocky cove where his remains were found is now named Beardís Hollow. The reasons for the wreck were never fully determined and the bodies of the eight other crewmembers were never found. (Submitted on April 19, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 
 
Categories. DisastersWaterways & Vessels
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on April 19, 2018. This page originally submitted on April 19, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 48 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on April 19, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.
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