Thursday, July 2, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 201

Wrecked Strathblane by Will A. Barrows, 1901

The 1901 Pacific County Historical Society painting on this vintage postcard above is by Will A. Barrows of Chinook, Washington and shows the wreck of the Strathblane, a British cargo ship that ran aground off the mouth of the Columbia River at low tide during a storm on 3 November 1891 due to a navigational error.   The ship was a Glasgo-Built iron steamer, 235.4 feet long, 1363 tons, and had a 37.4 foot beam.  It left England sailing first for Hawaii and then going on to Portland, Oregon to pick up more cargo.  The construction of the North Head Lighthouse in 1898 was as a direct result of this wreck. 

There are several different accounts of the event but all seem to agree that the weather was extreme.   This area was called the Graveyard of the Pacific because there had been so many wrecks here before the lighthouse was built.  The stranded ship broke apart before rescuers could get to it.  Captain Cuthell and six or seven crewmembers either went down with the ship or at the last minute got into a small life boat that capsized and all drowned or were swept into the roiling sea by wind and waves and perished.   The remaining crew of between 21 and 26 members managed to get into the tender boat and “were rescued, mostly by trained stallions that swam out in the surf to bring in survivors” since rescuers in boats from shore had to turn back due to the terrible storm conditions.  

A 16 year old cabin boy, Charles Angus “Jack” Payne, was one of those who survived.   Jack joined the staff of the Chinook Observer newspaper and wrote colorful reports about pioneer life on the Columbia.  His living quarters were on the second floor above the printing room and made to look like a small ship’s stateroom with a built-in bunk, a porthole window, and a ship’s clock. 

A navigational error was blamed on defective chronometers by Mate Murray who survived the wreck and reported that he and Captain Cuthell had taken measurements coming away with differing numbers.  Both readings turned out to be significantly off track, putting the ship between 20 and 40 miles further out to the west than it actually was. 

The postcard was published by Photo-O’Neil of Long Beach, Washington and has a brief explanatory statement on the reverse.

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