Saturday, November 28, 2009

Today was mainly overcast with a cool wind and a high of about 9C (48F) but on the plus side it didn’t rain so we won’t complain.

We drove north to Astoria and toured the Columbia River Maritime Museum and the Lightship Columbia. The museum was really interesting, the first thing on the agenda was a 15 minute video “The Great River of the West”, showing how the Bar Pilots work the wind and waves during a severe winter storm. The mouth of the river is known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” because of its perilous bars and the number of ships that have been wrecked while trying to enter the river. Once in the river ships then require a river pilot to travel the river. One of the displays is a map of the river entrance and all the boats that have sunk are on the map with a brief story – not a nice place for sure!!

I took this picture of a diver and his suit as my grandfather was a professional diver and my father and a couple of his brothers helped my grandfather during their teens and early 20's - we have a picture of my grandfather in his diving suit like this.

In the late 1800’s Astoria was the salmon capitol of the west and had many canneries, mostly staffed by Chinese people who were poorly paid and poorly treated by the community. There is a large display on the salmon fishing era as well as hundreds of marine artifacts and displays, pictures of all sorts of boats that traveled the river etc. We could also experience what it would be like to pilot a tugboat and participate in a Coast Guard rescue on the Columbia River Bar.

We then toured the Lightship Columbia, which was basically a small town anchored five miles out at sea to mark the entrance to the Columbia River. Life on board the lightship is best described as long stretches of monotony and boredom intermixed with riding out gale force storm. There was a crew of 17 who worked two to four week rotations, with ten men on duty at all times. Thirty foot waves were not unusual during fierce winter storms and even the most experienced sailors got seasick. The lightship did not roll like a regular ship but bobbed like a cork in all directions – sounds like fun to me – NOT!!

The Lightship Columbia

and her replacement

A Couple of Ships in the Harbour

Next we drove to the Astoria Column that is located on Coxcomb Hill overlooking Astoria, the view was nice but would be even better on a bright sunny day. The column is 125 feet high and there are 164 steps (inside) leading to a viewing platform at the top (we did not climb up).

Astoria Column (If you click to enlarge the picture you can see the murals)

The Column is covered with 22 murals that celebrate the earliest moments of Northwestern history - most of the imagery deals with events between 1792 and 1818. The murals are done in a Renaissance art from called sgraffito (skra-fe-to) that combines paint and plaster carvings - very impressive. It was cold and windy up there so we were glad to get back in the truck!

The Columbia River Bridge to Washington (Note the Sandbar in the middle of the river)

The Neutel River from Coxcomb Hill

From the Column we crossed back into Washington and took Hwy. 101 to Ilwaco, but decided to turn around there and head back as it was would be dark soon. I would have liked to drive out farther on the peninsula but it was not to be as it was too late in the day.

When we got back we decided to go to Mo’s for dinner, it was good but we still haven’t found any fish and chips as good as the Erie Belle in Kincardine.

And so ends another great gift of a day here on the Oregon Coast and we look forward to another nice day tomorrow.

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