Ship’s skeleton emerges on Washington beach

Shipwreck on Washaway BeachAs recently as a year ago this shipwreck was buried under 9 feet of earth and trees on Washaway Beach along the Pacific Coast in Washington state. Now erosion has revealed the 125 foot-long skeleton of a shipwreck.

A week and a half ago the keel peeked out, then the shifting coastline exposed more and more of the ship’s structure.

According to maritime experts and others, the wreckage could be part of the Canadian Exporter, a freighter that broke in two in August 1921 while carrying 3 million board feet of lumber and 200 tons of general cargo, as noted in a contemporary issue of American Shipping magazine. If so, the remains could belong to whoever bought salvage rights, or to a private landowner, or to the state.

“As near as I can tell, it’s on state land,” said Pacific County Assessor Bruce Walker, who visited the site over the weekend.

If ownership cannot be determined, the wreckage could become a salvageable piece of history. But even as the Assessor’s Office tries to sort that out, the worst fears of museum officials and maritime buffs are being realized as scavengers reap the sea’s rewards on their terms, stripping the remains for usable or sellable scrap.

“Why not?” asked nearby resident Lesley Strange, an unemployed former Bering Sea fisherman who said he already had taken away some pieces. “Am I gonna let it go in the ocean and not be recovered at all?”

Yes charming. If you’re going to “recover” bits of it, could you at least give a tiny crap about its historical value instead of selling it for scrap? Unfortunately, Washington’s Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation doesn’t have the authority to excavate, nor does the local Westport museum. Nobody does until ownership is established.

I suppose the locals are somewhat jaded. That stretch of the Pacific Coast has taken down of dozens of ships. It’s also one of the fastest eroding coastlines in the world, so people are always stumbling on remains.

The Canadian Exporter is just one of many ships to succumb to the sandbars and fog the entrance to Willapa Harbor. The crew were all rescued when the ship ran aground, but they couldn’t do anything but watch as the pressure from the waves broke the ship in two.

Twenty and forty-foot timbers have turned up before, matching the Exporter’s cargo. Identifying marks on the wreck also match the Exporter’s cargo manifest.

The Canadian Exporter, broken in two, 1921

17 thoughts on “Ship’s skeleton emerges on Washington beach

  1. If you live along the coast of the Pacific Northwest it’s easy to becoame jaded about old shipwecks. The coast is littered with debris from them. On minus tides and the season when the beaches erode away you can see old keels and big chunks of decking exposed in many many places. I prefer they’d be left in place because some of the wrecks become alomost like an old friend to visit.

    1. I’m in Seattle and you are certainly correct in that there are random man-made wood objects visible in practically any low tide. Though not being on the actual coast I think I am usually looking at old dock bits. Fun to look at, either way. I’ve always thought it adds a sort of abandoned mystique to most water-scenes around here that works beautifully with our fog at times. I love me some pseudo post-apolcalyptic landscapes! :boogie:

      1. Make no mistake- there are plenty of shipwrecks in Puget Sound. Some of the ones that have been in the mud all these years can be pretty well preserved. They’re still digging up old Gold Rush ships in San Francisco when excavating foundations for new Buildings on the waterfront and in the Financial District.

  2. Interesting. After the shipwreck there was accumlation (this one covered the ship), and now there is working erosion. Why?

  3. In the wintertime the currents, extreme high tides and big surf ( today we have 18 foot swells) erode the beach sand and everything under the sand gets exposed. In the spring the conditions change and the sand is piled up on the beach again with much gentler wave slopes and stuff gets buried again. It’s an annual cycle on the west coast. In the last hundred and fifty years there have been hundreds of wrecks just on our shores and thousands along the entire US west coast. They’ve even found spanish coins and Chinese porcelain along here that came from sunken Manila Galeons- they used to make their North American landfall at Cape Mendocino.

    1. Thank you the perfect (geomorphological) interpretation!!! :hattip:

      “I’ll go there and collect Spanish coins.” :boogie: 🙂

  4. My parents live right there, the erosion will cause them to move within this year. The discovery of this ship should make people realize how many are losing their homes, it is named “washaway beach” for a reason. I’m glad that this ship was discovered, however upon this discovery should open up the realization that the land is going away, bit by bit, foot by foot, and quickly.

    1. Wow that is scary. I didn’t realize there were houses so near the sand that they were in danger of eroding away. What are your parents going to do? I mean, obviously the house can’t be sold given the circumstances. Is there even insurance for this kind of disaster?

    2. Near to us, the river was eroding the bank, and the houses fell down into the water. There was nothing to do. The owners had to move.

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