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

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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

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

Coast Guard Cutter Eagle and Privateer Lynx pictures

American flag flies at the stern of the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle
Old Glory framed against a blue sky, rippling in a northwesterly breeze and flying proudly on the United States Coast Guard cutter Eagle as she is moored alongside the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon.
Coast Guard Cutter Eagle, tall ship visiting Astoria, Oregon

 

 

The barque Eagle as seen from the Columbia River Maritime Museum on 6 June, 2008.
(Click for larger version)
Lightship Columbia, moored alongside, looks small in comparison to the 295′ long ship.

 

View of the stern of the ship, showing the draft markings at the hull

The Eagle was commissioned originally for the German Navy as the Horst Wessel in 1936.
Taken by the US as a war prize after WWII, she was re-commissioned in 1946 for the USCG.
More information on the Eagle’s history at this link
Click the image for a larger version.

 The rigging and mast of the USCG Cutter Eagle

Name plaque on the barque EagleThree ship's wheels!

The fuzzy stuff is called “baggywrinkle” and it is
designed to decrease chafing of the sailsBaggywrinkle in the rigging of the Cutter EagleThe 1812 Privateer Lynx under sail on the Columbia River

The 1812 Privateer Lynx under full sail on the Columbia River.

The tall ship Eagle turning on anchor, preparing to leave Astoria, Oregon

 

 

The USCG Cutter Eagle pivoting on anchor, turning from her Eastward-pointing direction as she prepares to depart out the mouth of the Columbia River, and navigate the waters of the Pacific Graveyard, where the bones of many ships and fishing vessels repose.

The barque pointed west on the columbia River near Astoria, Oregon
Pointed west, the barque then rides the ebb tide to the Pacific Ocean.

The USCG Cutter Eagle, escorted by an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter

The Eagle departing Astoria, escorted by an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter.

(click image at left for a larger version)

 Links:

Pictures and video on the USCG Press Release Page
If you love maritime history, sailing and boats in general, or know someone who does, have a look at our shipwreck chart, available for purchase: Dead Reckoning of the Pacific Graveyard.
 

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

HMS Bounty delayed by weather, will miss Ilwaco

Breaking news:
The HMS Bounty stayed moored to avoid a strong headwind and tough seas from Bodega Bay, and will not arrive in Ilwaco as planned this weekend.
The tall ship simply can’t make enough headway against the adverse conditions to make the event in time.
Instead, they are planning a stop in Coos Bay for fuel, and on to Port Angeles on their way to Victoria, BC. They were able to leave Bodega Bay just this morning (Thursday). Not enough time to arrive in Ilwaco.
Disappointing news, however not unexpected in light of the nasty weather pattern the left coast has been trapped in.

The Lynx will be in Ilwaco as planned, and the USCG Cutter Eagle is currently docked in Astoria near the Columbia River Maritime Museum.
Safe travel to the Bounty!

Links:
The Bounty navigating rough seas near Bodega Bay
Video showing the Bounty from the same blog
Bounty not coming Daily Astorian

Published in: on June 11, 2008 at 9:28 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , ,

Tall ships in Ilwaco, WA this weekend

The tall ships Privateer Lynx and the HMS Bounty will be in Ilwaco, WA this weekend, and open for public tours. (more information in the links below on dates/times)
Grand arrival for both ships is 3 p.m. and there will be free dockside tours.   
The Lynx was launched in 2001, built as a replica of the Privateer Lynx, originally built in 1812 in Maryland. “She was among the first ships to defend American freedom by evading the British naval fleet then blockading American ports and serving in the important privateering efforts.”
(quote from the Privateer Lynx’s site, link below).

HMS Bounty tall sailing shipThe HMS Bounty starred in the Pirates of the Carribbean, and in 1962’s “Mutiny on the Bounty” starring Marlon Brando.

Weather can often change the schedules; visit the ship’s websites for more information.
Can’t get enough of tall ships and maritime history?
Hop across the bridge to Astoria, Oregon and visit the USCG Cutter Eagle (click for link), which is another tall ship available for tours and multiple photo opportunities.

“The Eagle is a three-masted sailing barque with 21,350 square feet of sail. It is home ported at the CG Academy, New London, Connecticut. It is the only active commissioned sailing vessel in the U.S. maritime services. Before her Coast Guard duties, she was originally commissioned in 1936 by the German Navy under the name “SNS Horst Wessel”
(more information below at the USCG Cutter Eagle website).
Shipwreck chart by NW Limited...History in Vogue available for purchase

 
Dead Reckoning of the Pacific Graveyard” (shown at left) gives detailed information on each historic shipwreck of the southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon coast as well as the lower Columbia River.

 
The charts are available to purchase at NW Limited…History in VogueTM.  Find us at Astoria’s Sunday Market or contact us at 503-338-6056 or email bill@nwlimited.com

These events are rare opportunities to view ships similar to the ones that historically plied the waters of the Pacific Graveyard, in good weather and bad, for better or worse…sometimes meeting their doom, or “making the chart” as we say.

 
Links:
Privateer Lynx
HMS Bounty
USCG Cutter Eagle
Dead Reckoning of the Pacific Graveyard
Calendar of Events on the Oregon Coast at northwest magazines

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)

Mayday; May 3, 1934

What does may day mean to you?
The term “Mayday” as a distress signal originated in 1923.
May Day the holiday is celebrated May 1st, for varying reasons.
In some cultures, it is a celebration of Spring and the coming Summer, times when the elements are less threatening.
Not always so, as proven by these excerpts from “Dead Reckoning of the Pacific Graveyard” shipwreck chart by Bill Brooks of NW Limited…History in VogueTM:
“Tokuyo Maru -5/3/1921- Steamer: Unknown fire 60 miles SW of Columbia river; total loss – 8 die”
“Childar -5/3/1934- Norwegian MS: After a remarkable refloat on north Peacock Spit 4 still drown ”
MS Childar wrecked on Peacock Spit in 1934
MS Childar as she appeared in 1934, photo by Marty Bollinger, used by permission
A southwesterly gale drove the 377′ ship onto the treacherous spit, a grim reminder that even in the first days of May, the Pacific Graveyard could turn deadly.
If the MS Childar used a “may day” to call attention to her situation, it did not prevent the loss of four lives on that blustery May day.

As a side note, the wrecked MS Childar was towed to Vancouver and subsequently rebuilt as the Aakre (click for image), and later as the Sovietskaya Latvia (click for image), which was one of five ships used by Stalin’s KGB to move prisoners to the Kolyma Gulag, only accessible by sea. Many prisoners died en route, as conditions were horrible.
“Sovietskaya Latvia was deleted from register in 1967.” (from and thank you to: Norwegian Merchant Fleet 1939-1945)
To purchase a copy of NW Limited’s shipwreck chart, please call 503-338-6056 or email bill@nwlimited.com