Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Astoria Column and the Wreck of The Peter Iredale

We heard about the Astoria Column and were advised that it was a great place to visit, so off we went. However, when following the signs to get to the column, we encountered incredible hills in the city of Astoria! It is hard to believe from this picture, but this road must have a grade of 40%! Glad we were not in the coach!

Anyway, after quite a climb, we finally got to the Column, and sure enough, it was spectacular. Standing 125' high, on a 600' high hill, it commands the view of the entire area. 
The Column is covered by remarkable artwork depicting scenes that were important historical milestones of the area. The artwork scenes wind around the column as it goes up and provides a very interesting mural as you can see here. You can climb the 164 steps to the top, but we were satisfied with the great view at the base.

Astoria is a classic maritime city and remains an important harbor to this day as we saw many large, ocean going ships cruising through the river to lumber mills and other docks in the area. 
Of course, for ships to enter the Columbia river, they first must cross the bar where the river and Pacific Ocean meet. This turbulent area has proven to be very dangerous for ships over the years and even with modern navigation systems, continues to be a risky area to this day. 

We were able to see the actual mouth of the river from this observation tower and even on this calm day, the ocean swells were very large. We were glad we did not have to go out in a ship today. 

There have been many ship wrecks in the area, including this one -- the Peter Iredale which wrecked in 1906 and remains on the beach today. This is what is left of the bow section

The Peter Iredale was a four masted ship of 285' in length. This ship of iron frames, covered with steel plates, weighed some 2,000 tons and had a crew of 27. Grounded during a squall on a lee shore, the Iredale was firmly stuck in the sand and could not be moved. 

Today, 106 years later, the skeleton of the ship is still buried in the sand. Here you can see the stern post (the the left side of the photo), the mast steps and then the bow. Amazing.

This shot of the beach just south of the river mouth is the area where the Iredale wrecked. Today, the seas are very calm, but imagine what this area must look like in a raging storm with huge breakers pushing the ship onto the beach.

At high tide, the bow is covered to a depth of several feet as evidenced by the barnacles attached to the steel plates. The wreck is well up on the beach and we were amazed at how the ship was pushed up on the beach by the waves.

Rick stands next to one of the mast steps that is attached to the keel, buried deep in the sand. We were here a few years ago and none of the mast steps were visible, but since then, the sand has shifted again revealing more of the ship.

It was interesting to see the wreck of the Iredale and while all the crew escaped from this ship, it still gave pause to us as we thought about the scary moments they must have endured as they crashed into the beach.

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