Maritime Disasters at

Tatoosh Island


       ALOHA - Four masted schooner of 814 tons carrying a million feet of lumber was built in 1891 by Hall Brothers at Port Blakely. Owned first by A.H. Paul, San Francisco, she was later taken over by a single-ship company managed by Hind, Rolph and Co. Arriving off Tatoosh Island waterlogged in December, 1913, from the Fiji Islands to Grays Harbor, she was taken in tow by the tug Tatoosh. The weather rising, she was abandoned by the crew, broke loose from the tow, and foundered.

             BIBIYA - An American motor vessel, 29 tons, foundered off Tatoosh Island, near Cape Flattery, September 4, 1948. Vessel was built in 1945, fishing out of Seattle. Jim Gibbs, Shipwrecks off Juan de Fuca, Portland: Binfords and Mort, 1968.CHARLES B. KINNEY - An American bark, sailed from Port Townsend for Australia with lumber, November 20, 1886. Vanished with all hands somewhere off Tatoosh Island. A month later, the lighthouse keeper at Cape Beale reported that an abandoned hulk came ashore near the cape. The seas were heavy and the ship broke up that night, the wreckage drifting away. Among the wreckage on the beach was a broken quarter board with the letters Charles B.

E. MOODY - The full-rigged ship Charles E. Moody, a Bath-built Downeaster of 1882 belonging to the Northwestern  Co., made the passage of 1,350 miles from Puget Sound to Orca, Alaska in 10 days, in 1911. having been taken as far as the Cape by the tug Tatoosh. Capt. Peter Bergman commanded the ship on the voyage north, the average time for which, by sailing vessels of the fisheries fleet, was in excess of 15 days.

         CLALLAM - The Heath yards in Tacoma launched the ill-fated Puget Sound steamer Clallam for the Puget Sound Navigation Company. This vessel, designed to operate with the Majestic between Tacoma, Seattle, Port Townsend, and Victoria, was 168 feet in length, 32 - foot beam, with 13 - foot depth of hold. She was equipped with 44 staterooms and her fore - and - aft compound engine developed 800 horsepower, giving her a cruising speed of 13 knots. Those of a superstitious turn of mind were disturbed by two mishaps which marred her launching; the daughter of the Tatoosh Island weather observer, chosen by the people of Clallam County to christen their namesake vessel, missed the bow with the champagne bottle when the new craft slid down the ways with unexpected speed. As the Clallam took to the water her ensign was unfurled, but upside down in the universal signal of disaster at sea.

       COMMODORE - The American ship Commodore, Capt. Charles Hastorf, from San Francisco for Seattle, stranded two miles south of Tatoosh Island during a strong westerly gale January 10th. A heavy sea was running at the tune, and, when the vessel struck, a portion of the rudder was destroyed, rendering her unmanageable. The masts were cut away and three anchors dropped, but without avail, for she drifted ashore and was pounded to pieces in short order. The Commodore was about 1,100 tons register and was twenty-one years old. She was in ballast at the time and was insured for $16,000. The wreck was sold to Mr. Lands for $475.

      CYRUS WALKER - The tug Cyrus Walker appeared in a new role in the summer of 1867. In charge of Captain Gove and Engineer Williamson she was dispatched to Neah Bay to quell a disturbance among the Indians. A Clallam Indian had been killed by one of the Neah Bay tribe, and, when the agent arrested the murderer, his tribesmen forcibly released him. A messenger was sent to Steilacoom, and a lieutenant, surgeon and thirty-two privates were sent to Port Gamble by the Eliza Anderson. At this point they boarded the Cyrus Walker, equipped her with a couple of howitzers, and started for Neah Bay, arriving at the Indian camp at daylight. The lieutenant and twenty men landed, but before reaching the camp a kloochman gave the alarm, and the Indians fled to the woods. The howitzers were trained on them, and several were wounded. These, with other captives, were conveyed to Tatoosh Island, where word was sent to the chief. He came on board with about sixty of his followers, and they were promptly made prisoners in the lower hold. The chief was informed that, if he would give up the culprit and his rescuers and promise not to molest the agent, they would be released. After some parleying he consented, and in about two hours two of the guilty men and a brother of the murderer were surrendered. They were taken to Steilacoom, where they wore a ball and chain for several months. This was the Walker's first and only experience as a man-of-war.

  1. I.C. MEIGS - Early on the same morning that the Dona Anita went down with all hands, the San Francisco tug Gear put out to sea from the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the face of gale warnings, towing the 622-foot troop transport Gen. M. C. Meigs, formerly in layup at the Olympia Reserve Fleet and en route to the remaining West Coast reserve fleet at Suisun Bay near San Francisco. No sooner had the tug and tow rounded Tatoosh Island than the wind and seas tore the big two stack transport loose and drove her ashore seven miles south of Cape Flattery. Soon afterward she broke in two against a murderous cluster of pinnacle rocks. Although unmanned, the Meigs was carrying much material from the Olympia Reserve Fleet, including a steel harbor tug chained down on deck forward.

The loss o
f the Meigs and her valuable cargo  numerous questions in maritime circles, aside from the basic one of why the Gear, under contract to the U.S. Navy, proceeded to sea in defiance of a Force 8 gale. Several experienced mariners reported seeing the tug headed out with the transport on a short towline and an inadequate hitch. The Coast Guard does not investigate accidents involving naval vessels unless asked to do so, and the Navy made no such request, leaving many questions unanswered to the present day. Naval personnel were dispatched to the scene to clean up the spill of heavy bunker oil and to guard the wreck, although no effort was made to salvage anything from it. Subsequent winter storms have torn the ship into many pieces, with only a section of the bow and a mast remaining visible.

HATTIE BESSE - The American bark Hattie Besse, from San Francisco for Burrard's Inlet to load lumber for Shanghai, was wrecked November 20th about twenty miles south of Tatoosh light. The vessel came in too close to the land during a heavy fog, and as soon as the danger was realized the anchors were let go, but the chain parted and the vessel drifted ashore, striking heavily on a rock and parting amidships almost immediately, severely injuring two men. The heavy sea running prevented the crew from saving anything from the wreck except a few provisions. The revenue cutter Lincoln was dispatched from Port Townsend to the scene of the disaster, but the survivors were picked up and taken to Portland by the steamer California. The bark was valued at about forty thousand dollars and was insured for fifteen thousand. At the time of the accident she was in command of Capt. James H. Gragg.

HECLA - American bark, 1,529 tons, while being towed to sea by the tug Richard Holyoke, struck Duncan Rock broadside, August 10, 1907, just a few days after the schooner Winslow hit the same obstruction near Tatoosh Island. The Hecla like the Winslow, sustained serious damage. The license of Captain Michael Bourke of the Holyoke was suspended for a month as a result of the mishap, causing the Hecla to miss her charter. The damaged sailing vessel was towed back to port where costly damages were repaired. The Hecla was a New England-built sailing vessel dating from 1877.

IWANOWA - Iwanowa, American bark, was waterlogged and thrown on her beaxn ends in heavy squalls off Tatoosh Island, November 24, 1864. Her masts were carried away and three crewmen drowned. The vessel subsequently righted herself and the wreck drifted northward. Four days later she struck a reef at Nootka and broke up. Captain Mortage and Six Men, the rest of the crew, started for shore on a raft. Three drowned but the others gained the beach and were later rescued by the sloop Leonede.

JANE - The Jane was a motor vessel 33 tons, foundered on September 27, 1959, three miles off Tatoosh Island. Owned by P. H. Taft of Seattle, the vessel-built in 1930 was a commercial fishing craft.

nch full-rigged ship Laennec ( afloat in Finland as the training ship Suomen Joutsen ), Capt Guriec, arrived at Portland October 1 in damaged condition from Swansea via Hobart with a cargo of coal. In coming over the bar in tow of the Tatoosh in comparatively smooth seas, an apparent tidal wave suddenly made its appearance and swept completely over the vessel, breaking the skylights, flooding the cabin, and not only washed the two helmsmen from the wheel, but had all the officers and crew swimming around on the decks. Capt. Cann, the pilot who was aboard bringing the vessel in, saw the huge comber coming and as soon as it had passed jumped to the wheel and took charge unill the vessel was over the bar.

      LASBEK - Foundered off Tatoosh Island, 1913. Built in 1894 as Ben Dearg.

     LIZZIE MARSHALL - American bark, 434 tons, Captain Adolph Bergman, lost on Bonilla Point, B. C., February 22, 1884. The vessel was 14 days out from San Francisco when she first sighted Cape Flattery. Fog set in and the wind died, leaving the vessel little steerageway. With a heavy swell running and no foghorn blaring on Tatoosh island, the vessel lost her bearings and was carried toward Vancouver Island. Both anchors were dropped in 20 fathoms on February 21, and a boat with four volunteers was sent to Neah Bay for help. When a southeast gale came up, the vessel parted her anchor chains and went broadside on the rocks. A German sailor attempting to retrieve personal effects was drowned. The after part of the vessel wedged tight in the rocks and afforded a means of escape for crewmen. The vessel was built on the Sacramento River in 1870.

LORNE - On February 18, 1911, a small gasoline boat carrying four men and one woman from the isolated light station of Tatoosh Island to the tug Lorne, anchored offshore, was overwhelmed by heavy seas, drown- ing Forrest Cowan, son of Head Keeper M. E. Cowan and an assistant keeper at the light R. M. Waddell, an operator at the government wireless station, and Mrs. G. L. Talmadge, recent bride of Wireless Operator George Talmadge. Just before the boat's departure, Capt. H. Cutler of the Lorne dispatched a wireless message to the island canceling the trip due to the dangerous condition of the sea, but there was no time to deliver the message before the small boat had started on its ill-fated mission.

                 MATILDA - This American bark, 849 tons, 158 feet long, stranded on the rocks at the western end of Tatoosh Island in September 1897. The night was clear but the old craft got trapped in a powerful, incoming tide. The wind failed to bring her about and she stranded right below the probing shaft of light from Cape Flattery beacon. Though the vessel became a total loss, all hands were rescued. The vessel was old and tender, having been built at Searsport, Maine, in 1857. She was owned by Captain R. C. Calhoun, prominent shipping man of Port Townsend, himself a victim of many tragedies at sea.

MATTEAWAN - The 3,300-ton collier Matteawan, deeply laden with nearly 5,000 tons of coal, had departed Nanaimo the previous day. This 324-foot steel vessel, one of the largest of the Pacific Coast coal fleet, was built in England in 1893 as the Astorian -Prince, but had come under American registry and was operated by J. Jerome & Co. of San Francisco, commanded by Capt. H. B. Grosscup. Both Condor and Matteawan signaled the Tatoosh light station as they cleared Cape Flattery and stood out to sea in the face of threatening weather. Shortly thereafter a full gale struck the Northwest coast. Neither vessel was ever heard from again. It has been theorized that the two steamships collided during the storm, but wreckage of the Condor was later found on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, while that of the collier was picked up on the beach south of the Cape, indicating that the two were widely separated when they went down. The exact cause of the dual tragedy remains among the many sea mysteries of the North Pacific.

MIA - Mia was a 37-foot pleasure craft, was rammed on July 29, 1967, in fog off Tatoosh Island, by the SS Hawaiian Citizen, commanded by Cap Frank H Hickler. The impact sheared off the fore part of the pleasure craft, and the owner-operator, Dr. Harzy K. Bailey, Oak Harbor, with his son and Lieutenant Connnander George Lamm, abandoned the craft. They were subsequently picked up by another small vessel. The remaining portion of the Mia was towed onto the beach but was declared a total loss.

MOGUL - British (Canadian) tugboat, 123 tons, lost May 12, 1895. In command of Captain Henry Smith, sbe had towed the British bark Dharra to sea, and after dropping the hawser bad come alongside to recover the heaving line. The two vessels collided. The impact sprang the tug's stern and full steam was crowded on in order to beach her before she sank. She was beached in an exposed position two miles east of Tatoosh Island. Tugs rushed to the scene, but shortly afterwards the surf broke up the Mogul. The crew escaped but the vessel was a total loss. Built at Tacoma in 1886 as an American tug, she was later owned by the British Columbia Tugboat Co. of Victoria.

NICHOLAS THAYER - This American bark, 584 tons, went missing with all hands after rounding Tatoosh Island en route to Seward, Alaska, from Seattle, in January 1906. The vessel was owned by Alaska Packers Assn. of San Francisco and was built at Thomaston, Maine in 1868 by J. W. Small.

PALESTINE - A sailing vessel of this name was reported to have been lost south of Tatoosh Island in April 1859.

PERSEVERENCE - American brig, sprang a leak and began to sink 40 miles off Cape Flattery, September 15, 1861. Bound for Victoria from San Francisco, the ancient, Dutch-built vessel carried merchandise for Chinese storekeepers. She had been idle in San Francisco many months before her last voyage. As soon as she began to sink, the crew made a rush for the boats, leaving everything behind. No sooner had the last man left the ship than she plunged to the bottom. The survivors rowed to Tatoosh Island, where they were picked up by the SS Sierra Nevada, Portland-bound.

            PRESIDENT - Much additional tonnage was added to the fleet of the Pacific Coast Steamship Co. in 1907, including two fine new passenger liners, President and Governor, the former reaching the Coast May 8, 1907, and the latter in September of the same year. In hull design and accommodations they were sister ships, being 417 feet in over-all length, 391.9 between perpendiculars, 48.2 beam and 19.7 depth of hold, the funnel vessel with two engines (251/2, 4OV2, 70 x 48), developing the same power as the single engine of President. Both were fitted with eight single-ended Scotch boilers, delivering steam at 180 pounds working pressure. BuUt as coal burners, they were identified by their extremely tall funnels, which were later reduced in height after oil burners were installed in 1913. Both steamships were built by the New York Shipbuilding Co. at Camden, New Jersey. The President was always a bit the faster of the two, and when the change was made to oil fuel she was able to do an easy 17 knots, while Governor's top speed was fifteen and a half. They were excellent passenger liners and handled cargo efficiently. President made a run to Nome following her arrival, breaking the record for that trade, as she already had on her voyage up from San Francisco, after which the two ships were put on the through run between Puget Sound, Victoria, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, a service which had been established shortly before their arrival. The two excellent ships, operating on the expanded route, generated greatly increased passenger and cargo traffic, developing a heavy trade in citrus fruits between southern California and Puget Sound. Capt. H. P. Weaver was placed in charge of the President upon her arrival, while Capt. John J. Shea, assistant marine superintendent of the company, commanded the Governor on her voyage from New York, being relieved by Capt. N. E. Cousins, who had previously brought the President around. Both liners were equipped with Massie wireless telegraph equipment, and it is of historic note that the first commercial wireless message ever sent from a vessel on the North Pacific Coast was dispatched by operator Arthur A. Isbell aboard the President, 300 mues at sea on her Nome voyage, June 7. The message was dispatched by Jafet Linderberg, prominent Nome mining man, to J. W. Kelly at Seattle, and was relayed via land stations at Carmanah and Tatoosh Island. A return message from Kelly was received by the President.

            PRINCE ARTHUR - The year of 1903 had hardly begun before another tragic shipwreck was added to the long roll of North Pacific sea disasters. On the dark and stormy night of January 2 the 1,600-ton iron Norwegian bark Prince Arthur was just off the almost uninhabitedWashington coast north of Grays Harbor. She was on a northerly course, her officers seeking the beacon of the lighthouse on Tatoosh Island which would indicate the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the final lap of her long voyage from Valparaiso to British Columbia for lumber. Twelve miles south of the Ozette River mouth Capt. Hans Markusson discerned a light dimly visible on the desolate shore ahead and to starboard. It was the light in the window of a cabin belonging to Ivar, Ole and Tom Birkestal, who were working a timber claim in that remote country. Their feeble light doubtless looked brighter than it was amid the surrounding unbroken darkness and the officers of the Norwegian bark made the fatal mistake of assuming that it was Tatoosh light. The yards were ordered around and the crew, made up largely of young seamen, responded smartly. The big sailing vessel swung toward the safe harbor that was not there. Under her bows, instead, lay a forbidding shore where breakers smash against great boulders and jagged rocks, hurling themselves against the sheer cliffs. The iron bark, built at Birkenhead in 1869 as the British Hoghton Tower, struck on the offshore rocks and quickly broke in two, only the stern remaining visible. The only survivors of the 20-man crew were Christopher Hanson, second mate, and Knud Larsen, a seaman. After being washed ashore, Hanson found his way to the cabin of the Birkestal brothers and informed them of the wreck. They accompanied him to the beach and found Larson on the rocks nearly frozen.When news of the tragedy reached Seattle, Capt. John Johnson, owner and master of the schooner Pilot, accompanied by Carl Sunde, L. W. Sandstrom and C. J. Johnson, a Seattle undertaker, sailed for Neah Bay, where an Indian guide was obtained and the party reached the Birkestal cabin through the forest. They cleared a 14-foot square plot on the cliff above the wreck, where the 18 victims were buried in a common grave, wrapped in a sail from the Prince Arthur. After their return to Seattle, these men met with Seattle Norwegians, who acquired title to the little burial plot and later erected a monument to their memory. The monument still stands, marking the resting place of the crew of the Prince Arthur, which foundered January 2, 1903.

SIERRA NEVADA - This American bark, 664 tons, sailed from Seattle, September 19, 1886, for San Francisco with a full cargo of coal. In command of Captain F. H. de la Roche, with a crew of 12, she rounded Tatoosh Island September 20, and was never seen or heard of again. She was believed to be a victim of a severe northerly gale sweeping the area. The 23-year-old ship was grossly overloaded with 1,209 tons of coal and probably went down so fast there was no chance for the crew to escape.

SKAGWAY - The steam schooner Skagway, Capt. Eric Strandquist, caught fire off Cape Flattery while en route from San Francisco for Puget Sound laden with explosives and highly flam mable general cargo on December 16. As a brisk head wind was fanning the flames, Capt. Strandquist headed the steamer for more sheltered water between Tatoosh Island and the mainland, where the fire was gotten under control after a three-hour battle. It was impossible to extricate the vessel, then waterlogged by the streams played into her holds from her pumps, and it was necessary to beach her. The wreck was afterward purchased and dismantled by the Foss Company, Capt. Strandquist having being absolved of blame for the vessel's loss.

SURPLUS - American motor vessel, 16 tons, burned on October 3, 1961, one and a quarter miles south of Tatoosh Island. Built in 1943, she was a fishing vessel owned by L. Y. Cook of Port Angeles.

Suzy  M. PLUM
MER - This American four-masted schooner, 920 tons, departed from Everett, Washington, for San Pedro in December 1909. A couple of days later, the vessel was sighted cap@ed off Cape Flattery, but no trace of her crew of ten was ever found. The vessel was owned by W. C. Tibbitts of San Francisco. She was built at Thomaston, Maine, in 1890. The lumber laden vessel was sighted, just before Christmas, off Tatoosh Island, by the NYK steamer Kaga Maru and Hill's SS Minnesota. She was on her beam ends, dismasted and boats gone. No one was aboard. The cutters Snohomish and Tahoma, plus the tugs Tyee and Pioneer, went out to search for the derelict. The wreck eluded the searchers and menaced shipping lanes until January 1910, when she was reported to have gone aground and broken up far to the north at San Josef Bay. She carried a crew of 14 and was commanded by Captain Harry L. Hansen.

SUSY LANE - American motor vessel, 30 tons, wrecked by stranding on reef off Tatoosh Island, August 5, 1951. She was a fishing vessel owned by Edgar W.Lane of Seattle and had been built just two years earlier.

WEBFOOT - British bark, 1,061 tons, departed Tacoma for Callao with 862,000 feet of lumber, November 10, 1886. In command of Capt. Gilbert Yeates, she was off Tatoosh Island next morning, heeling badly from a heavy southwest sea. A portion of the deckload was jettisoned with little result. By November 12, the ship was sinking fast, so she came about and headed back into the strait. A pilot was picked up and the vessel headed for Royal Roads. Then fire broke out and spread rapidly. AH hands abandoned except the captain and one sailor. They were eventually driven off by the intense heat. They were picked up by the tug Pilot and taken to Victoria. The burning, 30-year old hulk drifted off the strait entrance, and the wreckage washed ashore near Clo-oose.

WINSLOW - American four-masted schooner, 566 tons, plowed into Duncan Rock near Tatoosh Island, July 28, 1907. She was inbound under a full suit of canvas, Puget Sound from San Francisco, when she was caught in a severe storm while endeavoring to enter the strait. Captain Oscar Friedrich, her master, found visibility reduced to virtually nothing when the Winslow struck the rock, knocking a huge bole in her bows. Water poured in rapidly until the decks were awash. With great skill the skipper kept his command off the treacherous Vancouver Island shores as they drifted northward. The next day the tug Tacoma found the vessel and towed her into Winslow, Washington, where costly repairs were made.