The Graveyard of the Pacific – a region of turbulent, unpredictable ocean in the Pacific Northwest ranging between Tilamook Bay down in Oregon up to Cape Scott on Vancouver Island. It’s a dangerous, but beautiful place. It’s reputedly the last resting place of thousands of ships going back to the days of the fur trade.
Here in Powell River on the Salish Sea, we form part of the middle of the graveyard. Growing up here, sailing, fishing, and old shipwrecks are just part of the cultural DNA. One of our major landmarks here in town is a string of ruinous old war-ships tethered together in the form of a breakwater off the front of the mill. Having grown up around these hulking naval monuments, I’ve always been eager to see more. My sketchbooks are littered with them.
The Graveyard of the Pacific is reputedly packed with shipwrecks, but few of them are as accessible as the Peter Iredale, and since our holiday on the road happened to pass right by there on the way to Astoria, it was something we had to stop in to see for ourselves.
Once again I planted myself in the sand with my sketchbook and did a quick outline of it’s gaping, rusty hull. From certain angles, it looked like the skeleton of a beached sea monster – all serrated teeth and monumental ribs. I look forward to seeing it again some day.
Named for the owner of the ship and it’s fleet, the Peter Iredale took it’s last voyage from Salina Cruz, Mexico headed north to Portland with 1,000 tons of ballast and a crew of 27. It was wrecked on Clatsop Spit in 1906 during high seas and strong winds. After the naval court in Astoria discharged the ship’s captain and crew of any responsibility, the ship was sold for scrap, leaving it stripped of all of it’s valuable parts.
Captain Lawrence’s final toast to his ship was “May God bless you, and may your bones bleach in the sands”.