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

St. Nicholas

The first recorded shipwreck along the Washington coast was the Russian brig St. Nicholas. In September 1808 the ship, under the command of Captain Nikolai Bulagin, left New Archangel (Sitka) with orders to sail south along Vancouver Island to trade for sea otter furs, and to locate a site for a permanent Russian settlement in the Oregon Country. On board were seventeen crew members, several Alaska natives and the captain's wife.

Near Destruction Island the ship was becalmed. With no wind to fill the sails, the ship and its crew were at the mercy of currents which pushed them toward the rocky coast. On November 1 they were already dangerously close to shore when gale force winds blew out of the southwest, pushing the St. Nicholas onto a rocky reef. The ship did not sink immediately, and everyone on board reached shore safely. At low tide the crew returned to the vessel to salvage sail canvas, food, munitions, and other supplies.

Even though there were stories of hostile natives in the area they decided to travel overland, hoping to rendezvous with another Russian vessel in Gray’s Harbor. As they were crossing the Hoh River three of the group, including the captain's wife, were captured. The rest of the crew then followed the Hoh River inland. They spent the winter in the valley, foraging for food and constructing a boat which they hoped would take them down the river and out to the freedom of the ocean. Captain Bulagin was so distraught over his wife’s fate that Tarakanov, the supercargo, took over leadership of the group.

In February of 1809 they attempted to leave in their new boat, but at the mouth of the river it capsized. All the rest of the crew was taken captive. They were sold or traded to various tribes along the coast where they lived in captivity for about 18 months. In May of 1810 an American vessel arriving in Neah Bay learned of their plight and attempted to arrange their release. All but seven members of the expedition were eventually freed. However both the captain and his wife died in captivity.


Read about individual shipwrecks in the sanctuary:

Austria

H.M.S. Condor

Emily Farnum

Lamut

Leonore

Pacific

Prince Arthur

Skagway

Southerner

Temple Bar

W. J. Pirrie

See Shipwreck Map



Contact for page content: George Galasso
Photo of peach coral
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