Thursday, March 25, 2021

Oregon Shipwrecks

Recently, I came across this photograph from the Benton County Historical Society's archive.

Galena shipwreck
I was struck by the large size of the ship in contrast to the person and automobile standing on the beach.  I wondered what the story was.  So I began to research the Galena. 
This ship was a steel and iron ship that was 292 feet long with a 24-foot deep hold that was built in 1890.  It was en route from Chile to Portland when it was caught in a storm. Instead of trying to cross the Columbia bar, the ship sailed around off-shore for several days. When they did head for shore, fog, a sudden gale, and a swift current contributed to the ship running around on the beach.

The crew were able to use the lifeboats to safely reach shore and no one was injured.  The ship's masts and spars remained intact and a split sail seemed to be the only damage.  The uninsured owners hoped they could haul the ship back to sea once the weather improved.

This was the second such wreck on the spit that month.  The Peter Iredale had wrecked on November 5 a few miles north of where the Galena ran around on November 13.

The Peter Iredale incident is far more famous in Oregon history.  At first I thought this was because the Galena was not as badly damaged as the Peter Iredale and the owners were able to tow it back to open water.  That was not the case. By the time the weather abated, water had entered the hold and the ship had moved.  In both cases, the owners salvaged what they could and then sold the rest for scrap.

The main difference seems to be that sand soon covered the Galena and so it was forgotten. The wreck of the Peter Iredale, however, remained visible for many years.  I took this picture of the remains sometime in the late 1970s. 

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon