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In One Ear: Galena runs aground

British bark Galena, lost in fog, founders on Clatsop Spit
By Elleda Wilson

The Daily Astorian

Published on November 17, 2017 12:01AM

Just about a month after the Peter Iredale ran aground on Clatsop Spit, the steel four-masted 292-foot British bark Galena ran hard ashore about 7 miles south of the Iredale on Nov. 13, 1906. The Morning Astorian headline on Nov. 14 proclaimed “Dense Fog and Southwest Gale Responsible for the Great Misfortune.”

The Galena had been standing off the Columbia River bar trying to get into Astoria for nine days at the time — unable to approach because of a succession of strong storms. Rockets were sent up as a distress signal when she ran aground, but the fog was so dense no one could see them.

Once a “smashing gale” hit the foundering vessel, which was already being pounded by surf and swinging dangerously, Capt. John Howell gave the order to lower the starboard lifeboat. Just as with the Iredale, there was no loss of life, and all 30 aboard made it safely to shore.

Capt. Howell, the second officer and the steward stayed near the ship. The first officer, S. B. Thompson, and 26 men marched directly inland, and quickly found the West farmhouse, “where all possible relief was extended to the tired, cold and hungry outfit.”

The next day, the group took the evening train from Seaside to Astoria. Thompson immediately reported to Vice Consul P. S. Cherry, who put them up at the Central Hotel. Two guards were sent to watch over the ship and its “stores and moveables,” one from Fort Stevens and one from Point Adams.

In December 1906, a Naval Court convened at the British Vice Consulate in Astoria found that the ship ran aground because the captain was “over confident” of his position in relation to the shore, and the lookout was flat out “defective” ( The mate “was careless and neglectful,” his log so slovenly “it proved to be absolutely of no value in this investigation,” and several crew members were discharged and fined, for not “preserving the ship from immediate loss, destruction, or serious damage” because they “misunderstood their duties.”

Unlike the Iredale, the Galena’s remains are no longer visible, buried in the Gearhart dunes.


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