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In One Ear: Queen of the Pacific

Steamer runs aground on Clatsop Spit
By Elleda Wilson

The Daily Astorian

Published on August 31, 2018 12:01AM

The anniversary of the grounding of Pacific Coast Steamship Company’s Queen of the Pacific (pictured) on Clatsop Spit on Sept. 5, 1883, is coming up.

The iron hulled steamer/brig, built in 1882 in Philadelphia, was 330 feet long with a beam of 38 feet. When she hit the sandbar, she was heading for Portland with 232 passengers (many of whom were on their way to witness the last spike being driven on the Northern Pacific Railroad) and 90 in crew aboard.

Capt. Ezekiel Alexander was in command of the vessel at the time, and neither he, nor pilot A. D. Wass were blamed for the incident, said to be caused by heavy fog and smoke. The next day, four tugs took all the passengers off so the Queen was light enough to refloat. Some reports online say there were between 40 and 42 deaths, but apparently not. There was no damage to the ship, either.

Once afloat, tug captain J. H. D. Gray (said to be the first male white child born west of the Rocky Mountains), was one of the leaders of the salvage effort, which wound up costing around $65,000 — $1.6 million now — and she kept on sailing for several more decades. The Queen’s unfortunate demise came in 1935, when she was scrapped in Japan.



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