Many of you know the story of the cannon that gave Cannon Beach its name. The cannon washed ashore an Arch Cape beach in 1846, after the shipwreck of the U.S.S. Shark, a naval schooner deployed to the Pacific Northwest during the border dispute between the British and the U.S. Built in 1821 as part of an anti-piracy fleet, the Shark sailed the waters of Africa and the Caribbean before wrecking on the Columbia River Bar.
The Bar, a system of sediment and sand at hte point where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, is part of what is known as the Graveyard of the Pacific. More than 2,000 ships have wrecked crossing this dangerous channel, which is about 3 miles wide and 6 miles long. The wreckes were normally so violent that not much was left for salvagers or shipwreck enthusiasts to enjoy.
The Bar may have claimed the life of the Shark, but a piece of the wreckage with three cannons floated down to Arch Cape. One cannon was recovered and placed in a creek bed for safekeeping. The other two cannons were too far out, and the weather was too poor to retrieve them.
The creek bed later shifted, and the recovered cannon was lost again until 1898, when John Gerittse ( a mail carrier and influential CB citizen ) pulled it from Shark Creek with his team of horses.
The cannon is now on display at the History Center in an outdoor viewing case.
What many people do not know is that two more cannons were found on an Arch Cape beach in February of 2008 and are now being restored by experts at the Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University.
The two carronades (specialized shorter guns on ships from the early 1800s) were discovered by a father and daughter and a family friend from Tualatin, Ore, and were housed at Nehalem Bay State Park before Texas A&M won the bid for their restoration.
Until January, the newly-found cannons were though to be another portion of the wreckage of the U.S.S. Shark, but recent work by the Texas A&M team might prove otherwise.
“A large piece of the concretion came off the barrel in one piece, to reveal and emblem of ‘Broad Arrow,'” the most recent lab report says. “The ‘Broad Arrow’ is used by the British Royal Navy . . . and has been in use since before the wreck of the Mary Rose in 1545.”
This emblem raises many questions about at least one of the carronades. What is a British Royal Navy cannon doing on an American warship? Are these carronades in fact from the U.S.S. Shark at all?
There will be a meeting on June 30 at the Nehalem Bay State Park headquarters to determine what the next step in the cannons lives will be. Check back soon for an update on the cannons, and check out http://www.oregon.gov/OPRD/PARKS/cannon.shtml for more pictures and detailed lab reports by Texas A&M.