Friday, August 3, 2012

The Astoria Maritime Museum

 The mouth of the Columbia River is known as the Graveyard of the Pacific due to terrific waves and storms that make the area a navigation nightmare. The Maritime Museum of Astoria makes this area come alive and is a great place to visit. Here, Orinda checks out the over 200 known ship wrecks in the area.

The Columbia River is a vast maritime highway and for many years was the major travel route in the area. Steamers like this would run up river all the way to Lewiston, ID, a distance of some 465 miles from the ocean. 

This was no easy trip in these days as the Columbia was a wild, raging river with many rapids. The steamers had to run right through these and it must have been quite an exciting ride, to say the least. These steamboats used wood for fuel and burned about 4 cords of wood per HOUR (yes, hour!). This was an enormous amount of wood and called for a huge amount of labor to just fuel it. 

The Columbia River was not fully explored until the early 1800's and much of the area remained quite wild well past that time. Indeed, a display of historic maps shows how little was known of the Pacific Northwest even into the 17th century. 

 Given the danger to shipping of the area, it is no surprise that the Coast Guard has had a presence here for many years. Early in the 20th century, the Guard used rescue boats like this one to help mariners in stricken ships. While it seems robust, I would hate to hit 20' waves in this.

 Orinda was very impressed with the "Crossing the Bar" exhibit which showed how high the waves routinely get at the entrance. Yikes! This made us a bit queasy just looking at it.

 The Coast Guard has dramatically enhanced their rescue craft as this recently retired 44' model shows. It is self righting and virtually unsinkable, but the videos of it in action did not make us want to give it a try.

 Large ships entering the river are required to have two local pilots -- one for the entrance and then a second for the trip upstream. The Bar pilots are the most specialized and experienced to take the ship through the treacherous entrance to the river. Boarding the large ship from the Pilot boat is a huge challenge since both craft are bouncing in large waves. This is the Peacock, a Pilot boat that was used for years and recently retired. Orinda and I decided this was another job that we probably were not qualified for!

 The Maritime Museum is a great place to visit and learn about the exciting maritime history of the area and the Pacific coast.

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