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In One Ear: ‘Hanging on for dear life’

The wreck of the Governor Moody
By Elleda Wilson

The Daily Astorian

Published on October 6, 2017 12:01AM

The Ear was remiss in not mentioning the anniversary of the wreck of the pilot schooner Governor Moody three miles north of Fort Canby, Washington on Sept. 21, 1890.

Capt. Peter Cordiner gave a harrowing account of what happened to the Daily Alta California newspaper. He and the crew, Louis Olsen, Gustav McCorda and the cook, George Salvely, were returning from a trip when the fog set in. The captain suddenly sensed they were near shore, but he couldn’t turn the vessel in time to avoid the breakers that swept them into the base of a cliff at North Head.

The men ran for the main rigging and climbed, and were “hanging on for dear life, while each successive breaker was shaking the craft to pieces,” the captain wrote. “In one of those larches the mainmast came down with a fearful crash, carrying us with it.”

Capt. Cordiner gashed his head in the melée, but gathered his wits quickly, ran to the fore-rigging and climbed the masthead, while the vessel was being continuously shoved against the cliff. “… In some way I got between the mast and the cliff and got my arm and shoulder bruised. I was knocked off my feet, but in falling managed to strike in the crotch of the jib halyards and slid down the jib stay. I then climbed up the mast and managed to reach the overhanging rocks, and pulled myself up to a place of safety.”

McCorda followed. Olsen, who had an injured hip, clung to the rocks below, so the men lowered some halyards to him hauled him up. The cook was gone, presumed dead; the three remaining survivors hiked to Fort Canby. The life-saving crew there immediately went to the wreck, but clothes, books and a sextant were most of the few items that could be recovered.

The life-saving crew made one other discovery, as well: the cook, very much alive, stranded on a narrow rock shelf. “An overhanging ledge prevented his climbing further up, and the waves were boiling beneath him,” the captain wrote. “He had been in this situation, with the surf throwing spray over him, for nearly six hours, and was terribly exhausted when rescued.”

There was no rescue for the Governor Moody, though. She was a total loss.


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