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In One Ear: Peacock Spit claims the SS Admiral Benson

Intercoastal steamship runs aground near Cape Disappointment
By Elleda Wilson

The Daily Astorian

Published on February 16, 2018 12:01AM

Thursday was the 88th anniversary of the intercoastal steamship SS Admiral Benson running aground on Peacock Spit near Cape Disappointment in dense fog on Feb. 15, 1930, carrying 39 passengers and 65 crew ( Capt. Charles C. Graham wasn’t particularly worried at the time, since the sea and wind were calm, so he only sent a call for assistance, not a distress signal.

Consequently, no one rushed to get there, and surfboats from the local lifesaving stations didn’t turn up till the next day to take 34 passengers and some crew members off the ship. The captain tried to get the ship floating again at high tide, but it wouldn’t budge. Meanwhile, that nice weather was turning nasty by Feb. 17, so the Coast Guard removed the rest of the passengers and most of the crew. On the 18th, the weather got even worse, so everyone but the captain was removed by breeches buoy. On Feb. 23, the captain gave up and had his date with the breeches buoy during a lull in the storm.

At a hearing in Portland Feb. 25, the captain pleaded guilty to a charge of negligence for grounding the ship, and his mariner’s license was suspended for six months. A salvage crew took two weeks to remove as much of value as possible from the ship, using highline-rigged gondolas, after which the ship’s owners decided to abandon her on Peacock Spit. Salvagers got whatever was left inside, and over the years the SS Admiral Benson slowly broke up where she lay.


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