Peter Iredale

"May God bless you, and may your bones bleach in the sands."-Captain Lawrence's final toast

Peter Iredale shortly after grounding in 1906

     The Peter Iredale was built June 1890 in Maryport England by R. Ritson & Co. The ship was built for Peter Iredale & Porter and named after one of the owners who was a well known figure in England. About September 26, 1906, the Peter Iredale left Salina Cruz, Mexico bound for Portland. On the night of October 25 Captain H. Lawrence noticed the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, the crew altered course so that they could enter the Columbia River. Strong winds made it hard to turn the ship from the shore and a squall forced the ship to ground on Clatsop Spit. On the ship 27 people, including 2 stowaways, were evacuated by a lifeboat dispatched from Hammond and taken to Fort Stevens, no causalities occurred.

     In Astoria on November 12 and 13 a Naval Court inquiry was held by the British Vice Consulate to find out the cause of the wreck, no blame was assigned to the crew or Lawrence.

     Plans were made to tow the ship back to sea, but after weeks waiting for weather, the ship became embedded in the sand.  

     During World War II the coast saw the only bombardment of the U.S. mainland from the Japanese submarines when they fired at Battery Russell on June 20, 1942. Luckily no damage was done the wreckage and the next day the ship was entwined in barbed wire that was strung from Point Adams to the south to help hamper invasion.  It stayed that was until the end of the war and even today you can see the remains of the Peter Iredale!

These pictures were taken in 2005 by Scott Braucht.

Decatur (Illinois) Daily Republican from October 13, 1893
   San Francisco, Oct. 13-The British bark Peter Iredale, heavily loaded with wheat, was driven ashore during a gale at Astoria, Ore.

[**I don't really know anything about this wreck, seems strange to have happened twice. If anyone has any information to share please contact me, Shauna Williams, through the main pages. Thank you.**]

Oakland (California) Tribune from May 23, 1906

     ....Br ship Peter Iredale, for Salina Cruz.....

Reno (Nevada) Evening Gazette from October 25, 1906

Astoria, October 25.- A telephone message from Fort Stevens reports a four-masted dismasted vessel ashore near the Old Point Adams lighthouse. the life saving crew and soldiers from Fort Stegens[sic] have gone to the scene.
     The name of the vessel is not yet obtainable. The bark Iveria sailed from Acalpa on August 310h[sic] for Portland, under charter to carry wheat to the United Kingdom.
     PORTLAND, Or., October 25-Local Weather Forecaster Beals informs the Associated Press that the vessel ashore near the mouth of the Columbia river is the four-masted British bark Peter Iredale, Salinas cruise[sic] Mexico to Portland, to load wheat for United Kingdom.

Mansfield (Ohio) News from November 23, 1969

By Charles Hillinger
  Astoria, Ore. (PTS)- Capt. Harry Lawrence, master of the 287- foot British bark Peter Iredale out of Liverpool, waded ashore through the surf armed with the ship's log, sextant and a bottle of whisky.
     He turned and saluted his ship-its four masts snapped from impact on beaching, covering the decks with wreckage.
     "May God bless you and may your bones bleach in the sands," the skipper intoned.
     He passed the bottle to each member of his crew. Like the captain, all had made it safely ashore.
     The Peter Iredale ran aground off the mouth of the Columbia River Oct. 25, 1906.
     Its bones are still bleaching in the sun 63 years later.
     The British bark isn't alone. Remains of more than 2,000 schooners, brigs, barks, sternwheelers, junks, sloops of war, army and navy transports, freighters, trawlers, whalers, fishing boats and passenger ships are buried beneath the sand and sea within 30 miles of the Peter Iredale.

More than 1,500 sailors died with their ships on the shifting sands of the Columbia River bar and other bars and spits where the river meets the sea.
     "As long as there are ships, there will be shipwrecks," declared Reino Mattila, captain of the Salvage Chief, berthed between salvage operations at Astoria.
     "There will always be human and mechanical failures, steering breakdowns over the bars."
     Mattila's $3-million Savage Chief is equipped with helicopter, pumps, air compressors, welding machinery and six winches-each capable of lifting 90 tons.
     "We work for Lloyds of London on a no-cure, no-pay basis." explains the rugged Finnish sea captain. "If we don't save the ship, we don't get anything."
     His fees run as high as 60 per cent of the value of ship and cargo.

     James A. Gibbs, who chronicled the stranding, foundering, burning and other disasters to 234 major ships in his book "Pacific Graveyard." describes the mouth of the Columbia: "A section without parallel in ship disaster."
     In 1841 U.S. Navy Lt. Charles Wilkes in making the first official survey of the river, wrote:
     "More description can give little idea of the terrors of the bar of the Columbia: all  who have seen it have spoken of the wildness of the scene, and the incessant roar of the waters, one of the most fearful sights that can possibly meet the eye of the sailor.
     In its 1,214 mile race to the sea the Columbia carries sand and silt to where it meets the Pacific.
     Tides of the ocean meeting the river build up deposits of sand.
     It's an area of great turbulence during high winds and heavy seas, and ships at times ride 25 to 40 foot swells where the river and ocean meet.
     The exploding surge and shifting sands at the entrance to the Columbia have sent ships and sailors to the bottom ever since the discovery of the river by the Yankee Sea captain, Robert Gray, in 1792.

Contributed by Shauna Williams

Back to Shipwrecks Home

Back to Oregon Home