Friday, June 22, 2012

Graveyard of the Pacific

Of the many museums we've visited in our RV adventure, this may be the first time Jim suggested one:  the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, OR. The displays about how the violent combination of waves, current, storms, fog, wind and sand bar make navigating the entrance to the Columbia River so dangerous were especially well done.  Since 1792, over 2,000 ships and 700 lives have been lost at the Columbia River bar, also called the "Graveyard of the Pacific." 

And no photos of this next topic (somehow I feel like posting a photo would violate some sort of national security interest).  But as I sit here, I can see the Rilea National Guard performing a drill.  A crew on one side runs up to a helicopter (on the ground with its blade whirling) with a stretcher and then runs back.  Then a crew on the other side does the same thing.   Over and over.  In the rain.
Jim in front of a museum display about the US Coast Guard.  Their duties on the Columbia River include  search and rescue, as well as port and coastal security.

A pilot boat taking a bar pilot to a ship.  Bar pilots are specially trained to steer ships around the dangerous Columbia River bar. 
Also seen at the Columbia River Maritime Museum:  The lightship Columbia.  A lightship is a floating lighthouse used where it's impossible to build a light house.  From 1951 to 1979, Columbia was anchored six miles from where the the mouth of the Columbia meets the Pacific.  It was the forth and final lightship that helped guide ships around the dangerous Columbia bar.  It was replaced by the automated light buoy seen at the left, which was in turn replaced by a more sophisticated version.   A 17-person crew manned the Columbia. 

At nearby Ft. Stevens State Park we saw wreckage from one 
of the ships that crashed near the Columbia River bar:  
the Peter Iredale, a four-masted ship that ran ashore in 
1906.  The English ship was sailing from Mexico to 
Portland.  Its 27-person crew all made it safely to shore. 
Jim and Cooper at the Ft. Steven's portion of the Columbia River, just south of where the river meets the ocean. 
Looked pretty quiet the day we were there.

The Russell Battery at Ft. Stevens, OR, just south of Astoria.  Ft. Stevens is the site of the only attack on continental US soil during World War II;  a Japanese submarine shelled the nearby coast on June 21, 1942 with 17 shells.  The US did not fire back, the submarine left, and no one was hurt. David Lindstrom, a historic interpreter dressed in a WWII uniform, was at the battery and we got a chance to speak with him.  

After leaving the Maritime Museum, we drove into Washington state across the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which is just over four miles long.  I double checked the bridge length on an Oregon Department of Transportation website because, although the bridge is very long, I couldn't believe it was that big. (It's over twice as long as the Golden Gate Bridge.)   The Astoria bridge was the final link in a Canada to Mexico highway.
Jim always says that you see lots of Washington State license plates at Oregon beaches because the Washington shore is mostly rocks.  Here Bev stands at the "beach" at a southern Washington county park.

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