Tales from the chart – The Erria (interview by D. Kanally)

The Fire Aboard the Erria – December 1951
An Interview with Don Fastabend by David Kanally.
This interview and additional information on the Astoria Marine Construction Company and Joe Dyer’s boats may be found at Columbia River One Design
Original archival materials are stored at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, OR.
Photos courtesy of Cliff West.

The Erria under Tow after the fire was put out

The Erria under Tow after the fire was put out

(Ed note: On December 20th, 1951, the Danish Freighter Erria caught fire while anchored in the Columbia River along the shores of East Astoria , Oregon . Eleven souls were lost in the fire. Don Fastabend, owner of Astoria Marine Construction Company (AMCCO), was a machinist lead for the firm at the time, working at their Tongue Point facility. He was called, along with many of his colleagues, to help fight the blaze. His account of the dramatic incident follows.)

“The Erria had been in Portland and was headed out to sea, but the Columbia Bar was rough that night, so they decided to anchor in the river near East Astoria until things calmed down. About 1 or 2 a.m. on December 20th, they started to pick anchor and something went wrong. Some people believe that the wiring to the motor on the anchor windlass caught fire. That wiring ran through the #3 hold, and that was the worst burned of the whole ship.In any case the fire was discovered. Erria was a combination freight and passenger vessel, so there were crew and passengers aboard. They immediately launched the lifeboats and rowed to the nearby Coast Guard station. The Coast Guard and the Navy responded and squirted water on the fire for a while, but pulled off by 4 or 5 o’clock the next afternoon. The ship had listed pretty badly, and the fire was still going strong.

Smoke is billowing not from the fire, but from an auxiliary motor used to power the anchor windlass. Bob West photo, 1952.

Smoke is billowing not from the fire, but from an auxiliary motor used to power the anchor windlass. Bob West photo, 1952.

A salvage company was called in, and their representative, Captain Whitmore, showed up in town and inquired at the Chamber of Commerce, looking for which companies controlled the local labor market. AMCCO had about 400-500 people working then, so was a prime labor source. The word went out at the Tongue Point facility, “Don’t go home tonight at quitting time.”

Whitmore arrived on the scene at Tongue Point and began asking where CO2 could be obtained. We knew that the Navy kept CO2 in a hangar at Pier 3 at Tongue Point . So Whitmore called the officer on duty…it was the end of the day and all the brass had gone home, so the duty officer was probably an Ensign. Whitmore introduced himself as Captain Whitmore (a rank possibly attained in the Merchant Marine), but the young Ensign took him for a Navy four striper!So the Ensign called out the duty section and the CO2 was promptly delivered to Whitmore. This worked so well, that our boss, Johnny Cederberg, thought Whitmore should try the same tactic to get a vessel to carry the CO2 and the crew out to the Erria.

It worked again, and before we knew it we had a LCM 6 (a 56-foot landing craft) with fire monitors and a Navy crew!

The Erria anchored just off East Astoria. Bob West photo, 1952.

The Erria anchored just off East Astoria. Bob West photo, 1952.

We rigged up a manifold arrangement for the CO2 tanks that allowed us to change out tanks and keep the CO2 flowing. We journeyed out and came alongside the Erria. The side of the ship was just glowing red with heat in the engine room, where the hottest part of the fire was. We played water with the fire monitor on the side of the ship ’til it cooled enough that we could hold the bow of the M boat against it.

We burned a 3” hole in the side of the ship and started dumping CO2 inside the ship. By morning the engine room fire was out. We came back ashore for a while at that point, to get more CO2. There wasn’t any more from the Navy supply, but we knew there was CO2 aboard Navy ships, so we began “acquiring” more.

By about 8:30 or so, the Lieutenant Commander in charge of repair operations at the shipyard came up to me and asked me what we were doing, so I told him about what we were up to. He also wondered who the hell Whitmore was, and pretty soon, Whitmore was gone and they took the landing craft back and we all went home and got some sleep.

The next day we all met at the dock of Arrow Tug and Barge and met up with Mr. Martinoni, who was the president of the salvage company. He stayed with us until the bodies were recovered and the fire was put out.

We used a barge to haul pumps out, and we pulled alongside the Erria and began pumping water into and out of the ship. We’d feel along for hot spots, burn a hole and pour in water. The fire was mostly between decks.

I found the first two bodies by the doorway on the main promenade deck, two young women crew members.

The other people who died were sitting in chairs in the lounge just off the boat deck. We figured, since there was no power to the davits that the crew had to lower the lifeboats down to deck level manually, and these people were waiting for that operation to take place, and were overcome by smoke and gasses. One of them was trying to get out on his hands and knees, but got trapped in a corner. Another guy tried to go back to his stateroom to get something, and never made it back. We pretty much swept him up with a broom.

The deck was all teak, and heavily oiled, and there were a lot of hardwoods used in the construction, and lots of varnish, so that would make for bad fumes and gasses.

We only saved one hold, hold #5.

Eventually we got a lot of the water pumped out and the ship leveled out.

The Erria was quite a ship. She even had a swimming pool. One of the holds, hold #4, was refrigerated and was full of apples. The fire got into the insulation of the refrigerated spaces and caused us to wonder what would have happened if all those apples would have burst at once!

We all worked day and night, with not very much sleep, to get that fire out. I’ll never forget that I earned $600 the week of Christmas. And our normal wage back then was $1.85 an hour, so $600 was very big money for that time.

The Erria being towed by the Zwarte Zee. Bob West photo, 1952.

The Erria being towed by the Zwarte Zee. Bob West photo, 1952.

Anyway, the Erria was eventually towed to dry dock in Portland , to be completely checked out to be sure she was seaworthy to be towed back to Europe for rebuilding . She was brought back down to Astoria, and anchored at just about the same spot where the fire happened, while she waited for her tow by the tug Zwarte Zee.

The Zwarte Zee. Bob West photo, 1952.

The Zwarte Zee. Bob West photo, 1952.

She was rebuilt as a freight-only vessel and made it back to the Columbia River once that I know of. I remember one more funny thing: When we got to the crew quarters in the aft section of the ship, we found a stash of Danish 9% beer, which was pretty darn good. When the crew came back and found out what had happened to their beer, they were pretty mad at us, so we went out and bought them some Lucky Lager. They gave it one taste and weren’t very happy. They said “This stuff is like Kool-Aid!”
Links:
(and thank you) The original story hosted on Columbia River One Design’s website
Columbia River Maritime Museum

Advertisements

USS Shark Cannons-History in Cannon Beach Wednesday

Can you find the Shark on this small section of our chart representing the Columbia River Bar area and some of the shipwrecks there?

Can you find the Shark on this small section of our chart representing the Columbia River Bar area and some of the shipwrecks there?

On Wednesday, August 13, the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum will host a lecture by Greg Shine on the cannons discovered in Arch Cape in February 2008,/a>. Shine is the Chief Ranger and Historian at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and the Northwest Cultural Resources Institute. This free, public program will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the History Center.
The cannons are believed to be from the wreck of a Navy ship named the USS Shark, which was surveying the Columbia River Bar when it struck a shoal and ultimately sunk in 1846.
For more information about the program, please call the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum at 503-436-9301.
As always, you can call the office (503-338-6056), or drop by Astoria’s Sunday Market to pick up a souvenir of your visit, our
Dead Reckoning shipwreck chart, the newest and most complete listing of shipwrecks for this region, presented in a beautiful lithograph on high-quality paper, and the ultimate which is framed and has photographs of the wrecks and other historic memorabilia such as lighthouses.

Links:
Dead Reckoning of the Pacific Graveyard shipwreck chart at NW Limited…History in Vogue
Hear the stories of the USS Shark
Oregon Parks and Recreation Department: Arch Cape Cannons
Cannon Lecture on North Oregon Coast Beach Connection.net

Experience

 

 

the

 WOW!

(click on the “wow” for our gallery)

 

 

 

 

Dead Reckoning July

Even in July, the waters of the Pacific Graveyard can be lethal.
July 11, 2008. The sun shines warmly, winds are calm.
The river is smooth like a peaceful lake.

Columbia River Bar Pilot boat Columbia

Columbia River Bar Pilot boat Columbia

Large ships glide along the channel which is now amply marked for safe navigaton.
Tugboats traverse around them, and swift pilot boats designed to deliver a different captain for every portion of the journey maneuver for fuel refills, now staged to fulfill their job.
Pleasure fishing boats also ply the waters and flit back and forth at a whim.
Presiding over them all, the relatively new Megler bridge which was finished in 1966.

The Astoria-Megler bridge spans the Columbia River from Astoria, OR to Megler, WA

The Astoria-Megler bridge spans the Columbia River from Astoria, OR to Megler, WA

The United States Coast Guard is also nearby with boats and the occasional helicopter, carrying out practice maneuvers, or just keeping an eye on the unusually heavy traffic.

Beneath this idyllic scenery, the miscellaneous remains of more than 2000 ships, boats, and many of their passengers, crew and cargo have become part of the unseen, the ominous reminders of epic losses, or chance misfortune.

Some July entries from “Dead Reckoning of the Pacific Graveyard:”

Curacao -7/12/1940- Steamer: A boiler explosion sends her to a river tomb”
Zampa -7/14/1904- Schooner: Dead Reckoning into the Pacific Graveyard”
Perhaps the most historic of them:
U.S.S. Peacock -7/18/1841- Sloop of War: “Clear that white water” orders young Lt. Hudson as a shifting channel sets the ship amiss and strikes the bottom hard. “Man the pumps,” Hudson barks as an ebb tide secures the wedged ship for a constant pounding! “Remove yourselves and all pertinent papers”. The Lieutenant fears the worst and within 24 hours the ship is gone and the sandy tomb is renamed Peacock Spit!”


Though these ships have passed into history, you will find recognition of them and hundreds more on NW Limited…History in VogueTM‘s shipwreck chart.

River and mouth of bar detail of Dead Reckoning

River and mouth of bar detail of Dead Reckoning

 

The Columbia River bar at sunset as a ship heads over a calm bar

The Columbia River bar at sunset as a ship heads over a calm bar

Links:
Purchase a Dead Reckoning of the Pacific Graveyard shipwreck chart
History Link Online Encyclopedia of Washington History
Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon

Grand Opening-Columbia River Coffee Roaster’s Company Store

Exterior of Columbia River Coffee Roasters Company Store (doesnt show the cool weathervane, but the signs up!)

Exterior of Columbia River Coffee Roaster's Company Store (doesn't show the cool weathervane, but the sign's up!)

 Grand opening day at Columbia River Coffee Roaster’s Company Store (July 5) was great fun:
Live music, the ability to sample a multitude of delectable baked goods, ogle some fresh art and of course the aroma of freshly-roasting coffee beans is intoxicating.
The weather may have been drizzly out of doors,
 
but the overall mood inside the Columbia River
Coffee Roaster is always cheery and bright.  
Smells great!

Smells great!

    If not, then we know what true “liquid sunshine” really is! THUNDERMUCK!

Dead Reckoning Shipwreck Chart...thanks for letting us hang!

Dead Reckoning Shipwreck Chart...thanks for letting us hang!

USS Shark carronades on display this weekend

in Nehalem Bay Park near Manzanita, Oregon.
Here’s an excerpt from the Cannon Blog at Oregon State Park website:

“Posted June 20
Been a while between updates, so here’s a catch-you-up.

The next public viewing is July 5, from 1-2 p.m.
Carpool or find some other way to reach the park … this is a holiday weekend and parking will be tight.
The viewing is in the Nehalem Bay State Park maintenance yard (there will be signs … it’s just inside the entrance to the park).

We had an exciting time in May. Oregon Public Broadcasting produces TV episodes for the nationally-broadcast show History Detectives. They’re producing a show on the cannon with the question: Are these from the USS Shark? To help gather more information on their origin, the show arranged for some x-rays of the cannon. Fuji Corportation donated time on one of their portable x-ray machines, and a company called PSI from Portland volunteered their time as industrial radiographers. It was a challenge to get some good, clear images, but they did produce a couple. It was cool to watch them in action, and the x-rays give us a peek beneath the heavy, crusty shell (made of sand and iron, sort of a natural concrete).”

X-Ray of the USS Shark Carronades found near Arch Cape, Oregon in February 2008
Check out this photo from their photo gallery (click for larger).
Links:
Dead Reckoning Shipwreck Chart (includes the USS Shark among hundreds of other shipwrecks of the Pacific Graveyard)
Cannon Blog at Oregon Parks
Cannon Photo Gallery
Columbia River Maritime Museum
PBS History Detectives

The sinking of the charter boat Taki Tooo

June 14, 2003, approx. 7:12 a.m.:

The sinking of the charter boat The capsized Taki Tooo on the Tillamook Bar near Garibaldi, Oregon
Taki-Tooo on the Tillamook Bar is one of the worst tragedies occurring on the Oregon coast
Eleven lives were lost,
the captain among those.

Eight survived.

Including the wreck of the Pearl C, the loss of just four vessels make up the majority of lives lost in the charter fishing industry on the Oregon and Washington coasts combined.

The Taki Tooo on the beach NTSB investigates
 

 

 

In an area rich with recreational fishing as well as a lengthy history of commercial fishing combined with the forces of nature unique to the region, it is no surprise to learn that there is also a matching roster of lost fishing vessels, with dates as old as the industry itself.
Even when we take heed of all the safety regulations, give consideration to the warnings, lives and boats are lost.
The elements will not be denied their due, it would seem.
A list of lost fishing vessels of the Oregon and Washington coast and Columbia River Bar from Bill Brooks' shipwreck chart Dead Reckoning of the Pacific Graveyard
Detail of the lost fishing vessels list, printed using an antique letter press and using handmade paper.
Each name on the list, which is included on the framed version of “Dead Reckoning of the Pacific Graveyard” by NW Limited…History in VogueTM represents a story, fates intertwined, never to be forgotten, and always respected.

Links:
NTSB Press Release Update on the Sinking of the Taki-Tooo
Coast Guard Safety Alert
Northwest Sea Disasters: Beyond Acceptable Risk
9 Die in Oregon Boat Accident (CBS News)

Sailing? Not on Friday the 13th

Legend and superstition of the maritime world suggest that a Friday is not the best day to begin a voyage:
“Sailors prefer not to set sail on Fridays. This superstition comes from the Norse myths, for that was when evil witches gathered. To sail on Friday the thirteenth was to doubly jinx the voyage. The seventeenth and the twenty-ninth of any month, however, were good days to set sail, particularly if the sailors’ voyage would last many months.”
It’s possible that some of the ships depicted on Dead Reckoning at their sinking, grounding or disappearance were intrepid enough (or that other “i” word) to leave on a Friday…maybe even chanced a Friday the 13th?
Detail of Dead Reckoning showing the Columbia River Bar area
If you are departing today, make sure to pack your raft!

Links:
Dead Reckoning of the Pacific Graveyard Purchase your shipwreck chart, here.
Friday the Thirteenth History
Legends and Superstitions of the Sea

US Coast Guard Cutter EAGLE to visit Astoria

Coast Guard Cutter Eagle tall ship under sail off the coast of Oregon
The Coast Guard Academy’s three masted training Barque, Coast Guard Cutter Eagle (WIX 327), sets sails off the coast of Oregon during the 1999 summer trip. The cutter, which is homeported in New London, Conn., holds the distinction of being the largest tall ship to fly the Stars and Stripes. USCG photo by BORTHWICK, BRUCE YN1

ASTORIA, Ore. – The Coast Guard Cutter Eagle will be in Astoria and open for public tours from June 12 until June 16. This is Eagle’s first visit to Astoria since 1999, and a unique opportunity to climb aboard an extremely unique Tall Ship. Public tours are tentatively scheduled as follows:
.
Thursday June 12: 2 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
.
Friday June 13: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
.
Saturday June 14: 10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
.
Sunday June 15: 10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
.
The USCGC Eagle (WIX-327) is a 295′ barque used as a training cutter for future officers of the United States Coast Guard. She is the only active commissioned sailing vessel in American government service. She is the seventh U.S. Navy or Coast Guard ship to bear the name in a line dating back to 1792.
.
Each summer, Eagle conducts cruises with cadets from the United States Coast Guard Academy and candidates from the Officer Candidate School for periods ranging from a week to two months. These cruises fulfill multiple roles; the primary mission is training the cadets and officer candidates, but the ship also performs a public relations role. Often, Eagle makes calls at foreign ports as a goodwill ambassador.
###

“U.S. Coast Guard, when things are at their worst, we’re at our best. ”
Link to NW Limited’s Pacific Graveyard shipwreck chart:
Dead Reckoning of the Pacific Graveyard

The Beeswax wreck of Nehalem

May 6, 2008
Manzanita, Oregon, United States-A team of scientists, archaeologists and divers are planning a dive this week with the goal of locating information, or even proving the identity of what is known as “the Beeswax wreck” of Nehalem.
They are hoping for some cold, hard facts in order to separate the vast amount of fiction surrounding one of the oldest known shipwrecks on the Oregon coast.
Chunks of beeswax dating from as long as four centuries ago have been washing ashore on Oregon beaches. Some as recently as this past Winter.  A piece found in Gold Beach, Oregon in December, 2007, is likely from the shipwreck off of Manzanita.
The origin of the wreck near Nehalem is most probably a Spanish “Manila” galleon, either the Santo Christo de Burgos or the San Francisco Xavier, traveling eastbound and off course when they met their fate:
“The galleon “San Francisco Xavier”, General Don Santiago Zabalburu says, sailed from Cavite in August. “Nothing is known of its fate; not a fragment, no object whatever, large or small, has ever been found to serve as evidence or support for even a conjecture as to its fate, whether it was shattered on some unknown rock or was swallowed by the waves, crew and all—commander, seamen, and passengers, among whom were whole families of high rank. The ocean has kept the secret of this terrible tragedy.””
(quote taken from the Beeswax project website)

Other past speculations as to origin have included Chinese or Japanese origin of the
wreckage found at Nehalem. beeswax from a Nehalem oregon shipwreck

                                                                                                                  Frank J. Kumm of the Tillamook Historical Museum holds a chunk
of beeswax found on
the Nehalem Peninsula

The evidence, however, strongly points to the San Francisco Xavier, whose last known voyage from the Phillippines was in 1705. Laden with silk, porcelain from China and spices, she had also been carrying 75 tons of beeswax.

dead reckoning shipwreck chart by bill brooks of nw limited in astoria oregon
Detail of the stamp displayed on NW Limited‘s Dead Reckoning of the
Pacific Graveyard
shipwreck chart, published in 2007

One of the reasons for the beeswax wreck’s likelihood to be the Xavier rather than the Santo Christo de Burgos is the tsunami of January, 1700, which would have forced the remains of any wreck in existence at the time further inland than the site of the current location.
Beeswax in itself helps to date the wreck, as well as locate its origin.
There were no native bees in the New World. Any beeswax, which was favored among Catholic churches in Mexico, would have come from Asian honeybees. This was proven to be the source of the beeswax originating from the Nehalem wreck.
Radio-carbon dating of the wax and wood from the site confirms 17th-century origin. The porcelain and miscellaneous wood also found near the site dates to around 1638.
How did that beeswax arrive as far south as Gold Beach, Oregon?
Simple: The wax was traded up and down the coast by native people.
The impact of a shipwreck to local surroundings was not always measured in the worth of its cargo, however.
When Lewis & Clark arrived here in 1805, they observed a young male living among the native Clatsop tribe who appeared to them to be half-white. 
Was he perhaps a descendant of a survivor of the very same beeswax wreck?

Dead Reckoning of the Pacific Graveyard” for sale by NW Limited…History in VogueTM
(pictured above-click for larger) includes the beeswax wreck of Nehalem in its listing of shipwrecks.
The chart, completed in late 2007 by Astoria’s Bill Brooks of NW Limited, is the newest, most complete list of shipwrecks on the north Oregon and south Washington coasts, including the mouth of the Columbia River, the area known as the Pacific Graveyard.
His research spanned more 3 years and 8 months, from concept to publication. Local museums, noted shipwreck authors and historians as well as local residents helped to confirm the facts, and has resulted in the most complete, unique and beautiful sunken ship chart ever published for this region.
Each chart is numbered in an edition of 500, and hand-built beginning with the lithograph.
When finished, they are custom-framed and ready to hang.
Dead Reckoning of the Pacific Graveyard is the ultimate collection of shipwreck facts and lore, and the framed variation includes lost fishing vessels as well as US Coast Guard tributes.
For more information, or to purchase Dead Reckoning of the Pacific Graveyard, call 503-338-6056 or click bill@nwlimited.com

Links:
NW Limited…History in VogueTM
Beeswax is not typical treasure hunt October 25, 2008 article at the Olympian newspaper
The BeesWax Project
Columbia River Maritime Museum
Scientists Search for Buried Treasure off the Oregon Coast
The Manila Galleons (Treasure Expeditions)