Cape Disappointment Triumphs

73504D63-1634-49CA-9E01-D65A625AE3E7Captain John Meares, Lewis and Clark, “The Graveyard of the Pacific”, North Head Lighthouse, and the heroic Serving Coast Guard service aboard their rescue boats, the Triumphs are the history lessons gained from this Practical Application of the Coastal Edition of the Spring, 2018 Field Notes. I was motivated to do the historical research because of the contrast between “disappointment” and “triumphs”.

The first hybrid disappointment/triumph was when English fur trader and explorer John Meares named Cape Disappointment on July 6, 1788. He was looking for the mouth of the Columbia River. However, because of fog or his inability to cross the dangerous Columbia River Bar, failed to sail up the mouth of the wide river which flows into the Pacific Ocean near present day Ilwaco, Washington. He only saw the tall basaltic cliff that marks Cape Disappointment, and so he named it such.

In November of 1805, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark reached the mouth of the Columbia River after a 2000 mile journey commissioned by Thomas Jefferson. It was a triumph because they found their “Northwest Passage” to the Pacific Ocean. However, as any history buff who has read accounts of their long journey, there were many sadnesses.

What makes the mouth of the Columbia River such a hybrid of disappointment and triumph so dangerous? It is the combination of the influences of shallow water, swift current, and a steady strong wind which reach hurricane force during winter storms. Many boats have run aground and split in two at this “graveyard of the Pacific”.

On May 16, 1898 The North Head Lighthouse was put into service as the primary navigation aid at the mouth of the Columbia River.

To this day, the US Coast Guard maintains a rescue station for boats and sailors that founder and need help. Despite many rescue successes with their unsinkable Rescue boats named Triumph, on January 12, 1961 two legendary Coast Guard lifeboats went out to rescue The Mermaid which had lost it’s rudder. Bert and Stanley Bergman and five “coasties” died.

This is the fifth in a series of posts that follow a list of Practical Applications for the Spring, 2018 Special Edition of Field Notes, West Coast Series. You can read the suggested Practical Applications for each edition on the rear inside of the cover. It is a salutary exercise to to actually try each suggested use! I am using them as “writing prompts”.


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