Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture

Shipwrecks

Skagway shipwreck Since the dawn of the Age of European Exploration, the Olympic Coast has occupied a special place on the map. As early as the 17th Century, the rumor of a Northwest Passage was associated with this area. European "discovery" of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the 1790s brought a rush of explorer/traders and sparked intense competition among Spain, Russia, England and the fledgling United States. Shipwrecks mark the history of maritime shipping on the Olympic Coast, their remains broken by the intense natural forces of the coastline or concealed from us in deeper parts of the Sanctuary.

Austria shipwreck The combination of fierce weather, isolated and rocky shores, and heavy ship commerce established, early on, the Olympic Coast as a graveyard for ships. More than 180 wrecks have been historically documented in the vicinity of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, an amount proportional to the commercial development in the region and the region's significance in the economic lives of the United States and Canada. However, due to the destructive forces of wave and current, very few ships remain intact, particularly near the shore.

There are few recorded shipwrecks prior to the mid-nineteenth century, and no authentically-reported wrecks during the eighteenth century. The number of losses increased significantly as Puget Sound developed as an economic center and as Victoria developed on the north side of the Strait in the later 19th century.

modern shipwreck Ship losses were predominantly weather-related, including vessels adrift, collisions and groundings. Many ships simply disappeared, their last known location recorded by the lighthouse tender at Tatoosh before they disappeared into watery oblivion. "Last sighted, Cape Flattery," is the grim epitaph for many unfortunate ships and crew.

One of the best-known wrecks on the Olympic Coast was that of the Austria, a Bath, Maine-built "downeaster" converted from a full-rigged ship to a bark to ply the West Coast trade. Fragments of the Austria remain visible at Cape Alava during extreme low tides.


Read about individual shipwrecks in the sanctuary:

Austria

H.M.S. Condor

Emily Farnum

Lamut

Leonore

Pacific

Prince Arthur

Skagway

Southerner

St. Nicholas

Temple Bar

W. J. Pirrie

See Shipwreck Map



Contact for page content: Robert Steelquist
Photo of peach coral
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