American Heritage

When the American Heritage sank in 1995 off the California coast, all hands were saved by the Coast Guard. Knute Brekke, who worked for the ship’s owners at the time, was called out for a salvage attempt that night, but she sank before they could even leave port. Her owners took the financial loss and moved on; the ship sank quietly into obscurity.

In 2008, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) researchers were doing an ocean bottom survey, and came across a peculiar sight. At the time, it was ignored as “an anomaly,” but another survey last May revealed the the sight to actually be a 200-foot long wreck, sitting about 2,300 feet deep. Brekke — who now works for the institute — remembered the American Heritage’s sinking, and suspected they were looking at her remains.

After consulting some nautical charts, he was fairly sure he was right. Another close-up trip to the site revealed the letters A, M, E, and R on the bow, and then he was certain. The wreck is pictured, courtesy of the MBARI. A 3-D image is available at

The icing on the cake? The American Heritage, long forgotten, is very much alive. Teeming with various forms of sea life, she is gradually becoming a reef. (

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Daily Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or

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