|Pacific Steamship Company's ADMIRAL BENSON|
Wrecked 15 February 1930.
Captured on film by the well-known Charley Fitzpatrick of North Beach.
Original from the Fitzpatrick Collection,
Saltwater People Historical Society archives©
"What was first reported on 15 February 1930 as a minor stranding turned out to be a major steamship disaster.
By noon on 17 February, most of the passengers had been removed and all efforts were directed towards saving the crew who had remained with the ship hoping to refloat her. The situation appeared less hopeful as a high wind approached and kicked up a nasty surf. By 9:06 am the following morning the five remaining passengers were taken off, followed by the steward's staff and the ships orchestra.
The wreck was located 400 yards west of the north jetty directly in view of the remains of the LAUREL, which served as a grim reminder to those still aboard the liner.
The following day, Captain Graham watched the last of the crew go ashore by breeches buoy, and he alone remained aboard the vessel. The holds had been pumped full of water to keep the ship from pounding, but when a 40-mph gale arose, the BENSON was given a salt bath by mountainous breakers. On the morning of 20 February, the riveting began to pull loose and the ship showed signs of breaking up. The decks cracked, the engine room was flooded and the surplus water saturated the cargo in the holds.
On 21 February, the redoubtable captain was still aboard, his spirits warmed by the friendly bonfire that was kept burning night and day at Cape Disappointment. It wasn't until four days later that Graham abandoned his vigil, and signalled the Coast Guard for assistance.
A line had been made fast between the wreck and the shore and the ship's master began an arduous journey through the air on a lifesaving conveyance.
The passengers and crew had been landed at Astoria and each had a version of the disaster. Several agreed that the wreck of the LAUREL had been mistaken for a range buoy, which may have misled the liner to the spit in the fog. Though the loss of the BENSON was attributed by some to faulty navigation, existing conditions on the Columbia bar can be confusing to the most experienced navigators.
|Ten days later the captain comes ashore in the breeches buoy.|
Original photo by Wesley Andrews.
From the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©.
After the captain was evacuated, a salvage crew using Coast Guard lines, ran a tram gear to the wreck and removed some of the cargo which was trucked to Astoria.
Though the BENSON was sucked into the sand stern first, part of her bow was still visible at extreme low tide two decades after her loss".
Text by James A. Gibbs, Jr.
Courtesy of Oregon Historical Society
Binfords & Mort, 1950