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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

01 January 2016

❖ Wrecks Ships G-H (7) ❖

Ships Logged: G-H (7)
Work in progress

Lost 9 January 1972
US Navy troop transport ship.
7-mi south of Cape Flattery, WA.

GENERAL M. C. MEIGS wreck, 1972
Near Tatoosh Island, WA.
Photo by Roy Scully 
Original photo from the S. P. H. S.
Early 9 January 1972, 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-ft 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 Fran. 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 7 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 on a deck forward [visible in photo].
Burning wreckage from the GENERAL M. C. MEIGS, 1972
"Smoke rose from a pile of burning driftwood and timbers
as US Navy enlisted men mop-up oil washed ashore from
ruptured tanks on the MEIGS. The Navy is burning oil-soaked
 timbers and shoveling globs of the tar-like substance into bags.
The beach is owned by the Makah Indian tribe.
The MEIGS was carrying 116,000 gallons and only about
5,000 have appeared." 
Seattle Times 1/1972.
      The loss of the MEIGS and her valuable cargo aroused numerous questions in maritime circles, aside from the basic one of why the GEAR, under contract to the US 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 [at press time].
Above text: The H. W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest (1966-1976). Gordon Newell, editor. Superior, 1977.

Liberty Ship hull #0344
7,176 G.t. 4,380 N.t.
Built 1943, Savannah, Georgia. 422.8' x 57' x 34.8'
Lost to fire off WA. coast.
Died: 1 by explosion and 5 by drowning, according to McCurdy's.
Another source claims more died.
Capt. Alfred Bentsen
Lost en route to India loaded with a cargo of wheat.
Acme Wire Photo to US Coast Guard.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.

"The steamship GEORGE WALTON was swept by fire 390 miles off the WA coast on 6 Nov. 1950 as a result of a boiler explosion which killed Second Engineer Gus Larsen. Capt. Bentsen and the crew launched boats in heavy seas that capsized one of the boats. Five more members of the crew were drowned as a result of this accident. The Greek freighter KATHERINE picked up 12 survivors, the Japanese freighter KENKON MARU rescued 12 and the Coast Guard cutter WACHUSETT, six. The injured seamen were flown to Seattle hospitals, the remainder being landed at Port Angeles. The GEORGE WALTON, a Liberty ship, had departed Portland with 9,000 tons of grain for India. It was first assumed that the burned-out vessel would sink, but she maintained an even keel and, almost two weeks later, was towed to Puget Sound by the tug Barbara Foss. She was later scrapped."

Above quote from The H.W. McCurdy's Marine History of the P.N.W. Newell, Gordon, editor. Superior. (1966)


O.N. 204548
422 G.t. / 408 N.t. Sternwheeler
Built 1907, Stanwood, WA.
Aground 6 December 1940.
Owned by Skagit River Trading and Navigation Co.

Skagit River sandbar, 1940
Photographer unknown.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

"No more bends in the river for the abandoned Skagit River sternwheeler GLEANER that ran afoul of a sandspit at the north fork of the river on 6 December 1940. Lying upstream from the North Fork Bridge, the steamer had her machinery and fittings removed. She operated between Seattle and Mt. Vernon.


ON 10870
269.91 G.t. Barkentine
129.5' x 32.' x 9.'
Blt Port. Orchard, WA. 1868
Home Port in 1886 was listed as San Francisco.
Wrecked Oysterville, WA.
8 Dec. 1887 Capt. M. Larsen

Photo by Charlie Fitzpatrick.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

      The American barkentine stranded two miles south of Leadbetter Point, 8 Dec. 1887, without loss of life. The vessel, commanded by Capt. M. Larsen, was feeling her way along the coast in a thick fog when she drifted into the breakers, knocking several holes in her hull. The crew had to take to the boats. Shipbreaker Martin Foard, purchased the wreck for a small sum and salvaged the cargo and equipment. The ROBERTS was built at a cost of $30,000. It was said that the owners of the barkentine had run the vessel hard, overlooking badly needed hull repairs which may have caused her to bilge on the sands. Parts of her barnacle encrusted remains could be seen on the peninsula as late as 1953. They are the oldest visible ship's remains in the Pacific's Graveyard.
Above text from:
The Pacific Graveyard. James A. Gibbs, Jr. Binfords and Mort, 1950


April 1921
Capt. F. P. Bartlett
Capt. Thomas Marsden.
Pacific Coast Steamship Co.
Near Port Townsend, WA.
Loss of life: 7 passengers and 3 crew.

One photo and one lithograph postcard 
from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

The Sinking of the Steamship GOVERNOR

A letter from E. W. Horsman to author R. H. Calkins of Seattle:
      "The memory of the collision is especially vivid in my mind as I had the unique experience of actually seeing the impact of the WEST HARTLAND on the starboard beam of the GOVERNOR. I was employed at that time by the Pacific Steamship Co. and was working out of the office of A. F. Haines on special assignments and happened to be on board the GOVERNOR in a deluxe stateroom directly under the bridge. I had retired but was not yet asleep and on hearing the danger signals, jumped up and went to the starboard railing. I saw the dark outline of the WEST HARTLAND about 20-ft from the GOVERNOR.
      One or two minutes after the collision, the lights on the GOVERNOR failed. This made a particularly dangerous situation on the starboard side, as the nose of the WEST HARTLAND had pierced considerably into the promenade deck of the GOVERNOR, leaving a large hole which extended into the engine room. This, I fear, may have caused some of the loss of life.
Captain F.P. Barlettt
Master of the GOVERNOR on this day. 
He was a graduate of the famed New York nautical school 
ship St. MARY'S and one of the senior masters in the employ of 
H. F. Alexander. Bartlett was exonerated of any blame
for he was not on watch at the time of the wreck.
Original photo from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©

      Immediately after the collision, I reported to Captain Bartlett and was instructed to assist in getting the passengers out of their rooms and into lifeboats, which I did with all of my energy. After we had checked all of the staterooms and no other passengers seemed to be on board, I again reported to Captain Bartlett near the bridge and he instructed me to slide down the boat falls. He followed immediately behind me. To the best of my knowledge, we were the last persons leaving the ship.
      Our lifeboat pulled a safe distance from the sinking GOVERNOR and we watched her slowly settle by the stern. Finally, when the deckhouse was just about submerged, a bulkhead collapsed and the stern settled very fast. The bow of the ship rose high in the air and as she took her final plunge, there was much noise of escaping steam and crashing wood.
      One of the peculiar incidents the next days was the attitude of a well-known Seattle man, the president of one of the railroads. He had two valuable horses on board the GOVERNOR and they, of course, were lost. The Seattle railroad president threatened steamship company officials with everything but murder because of the loss of his horses."
Capt. John Alwyn
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Above text by R. H. "Skipper" Calkins. High Tide. Marine Digest Pub., 1952.
For an excellent in-depth report by Douglas Egan with fine drawings from the pen of Ron Burke, see the Sept. 1993 issue of The Sea Chest, the quarterly membership journal of the
Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society.

And then the salvage crews––

Here's a link to read more about the divers' efforts over the years.

Maritime Venture, Inc., Aug. 1987.

Two divers in a pressurized bell 
drop into the water off Pt. Townsend, WA.
An effort to recover an estimated $9 million
 in gold coins, fine wines, and other goods
that went down with the luxury liner 
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Blt. 1944, Duluth, MN
G. t. 3,805.
323.9' x 50.1' x 26.5'

Seattle, WA. 1948

In this year this vessel was moored in Seattle and
classed as a US Navy ship but under US Army jurisdiction.

Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

Four US Navy helicopters hover over the disabled ship.
Leghorn, Italy, 16 Dec. 1952.

AP Wire photo via radio from London,
Archived with S.P.H.S.©

Italy, 1952.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

On 16 December 1952 the freighter,  GROMMET REEFER, supplying food to servicemen, ran aground on a rocky reef on the coast of Leghorn, Italy, splitting in two during a violent storm. The first operation involved breeches buoy, small boats, and swimming with the rescue of 26 crewmen. 
      Next, the Navy helicopters rescued the remaining 13 crew during a daring aerial rescue from wave-lashed decks, as viewed in these two dramatic APWire photos from the S.P.H.S. archives.

Built in 1898 for Coast Fish Company of Anacortes, WA.
31 G.t.. 58' x 12.4' x 5.5'
Scanned photo courtesy of J. Canavit.

San Juan Islander, 9 June 1911.
From the archives of the S. P. H. S.
San Juan Islander newspaper, 9 June 1911.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.

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