Ear: Wrecks

January 1853 was a disastrous month for ships entering the Graveyard of the Pacific when two vessels met their fate on the Columbia River Bar, both on the 12th.

The bark Mindora, with Capt. George Staples at the helm, waited off the bar for 28 days to enter the river. At last she was able to sail in … but only reached Sand Island before the wind died. They set anchor to wait again, but a strong current dragged the vessel, and she got mired in the middle sands. Heavy seas developed, relentlessly pounding the Mindora, forcing the captain and crew to abandon ship and head for safety in Astoria.

A pilot boat went out the next morning, but the Mindora had vanished. Eventually she turned up again, north of Shoalwater Bay. 

Capt. Samuel Kissam, sailing the bark I. Merrithew, arrived off the bar on Dec. 30, but heavy weather prevented him from entering the river until Jan. 12. When no bar pilot appeared to escort him, Capt. Kissam decided to forge on ahead.

He soon found himself having the same experience as the Mindora's captain: the wind died, they dropped anchor, and the currents dragged his ship onto the middle sands. A gale blew in, and even with her masts cut down, the ship took a terrible beating.

After a harrowing night, the pilot boat was able to rescue everyone aboard the next morning, but there was no hope for the I. Merrithew. She drifted out towards the ocean, but got caught in a cross-current and finally came in on the rocks north of Cape Disappointment.

Jan. 12 may have been a bad day for these two ships, but it was a good one for their crews — no lives were lost. (bit.ly/LewDry, bit.ly/cimbarks)

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

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.