There’s something about shipwrecks and sunsets. Northwest Wanderings is a column by photographer Alan Berner exploring places and communities throughout the Pacific Northwest.
There’s something about shipwrecks and sunsets.
There aren’t that many wrecks that are accessible worldwide, let alone those you can walk to.
And there aren’t many clear sunsets in winter at the mouth of the Columbia River.
The Peter Iredale was a steel barque with four masts.
Built in England, it was headed to Portland for a cargo of wheat in October 1906.
Aboard were 27 crew, captained by H. Lawrence — plus, it turned out, two stowaways.
In dense fog, the captain waited off the mouth of the Columbia River, part of the “graveyard of the Pacific.” This area has claimed more than 200 ships.
The Peter Iredale was awaiting favorable weather and a Columbia bar pilot.
But strong winds and currents took the ship into the breakers, and it ran hard aground at Clatsop Beach. Masts snapped, the captain ordered all to abandon ship and fired rockets to summon help.
Rescuers responded, and it was reported by one of them, William Inman, that the grateful captain thanked them and then passed around a bottle of whiskey.
No lives were lost.
A British naval court ruled the captain and officers were not at fault.
The wreck drew scores to see it. It became an immediate tourist attraction, and 111 years later it remains so.
Jennifer Godfrey, with Oregon Parks and Recreation, says she, too, visits it as a tourist.
“You can place your hand on it, feel the cold metal. It’s the ability to touch history, reaching back into time.”