As part of her Brownie work this summer, Anna is taking the Wonders of Water journey. Because she’s currently between troops (for reasons I won’t go into here), she’s taking this journey over the summer with us, and our Oregon Coast trip was a big part of it.
Our first stop on our way to the coast was Astoria, Oregon, the earliest European settlement on the Columbia River and a major West Coast port. While there, we visited the Columbia River Maritime Museum and learned about the river and its perils.
The Columbia River Bar is where the outward flow of the Columbia River meets the inward flow of the Pacific Ocean. The collision between two massive and opposing flows of water creates one of the most dangerous shipping areas in the world, long known to sailors as the “Graveyard of the Pacific.”
It’s the job of highly skilled bar pilots to guide numerous ships in and out of the mouth of the Columbia every day. The museum includes a life-sized reproduction of a pilot’s bridge, allowing you to see just how complex a job it is and how so many lives are dependent on this highly skilled profession.
Speaking of bridges, there’s another one at the museum connected to a historic event in the Twentieth Century.
The USS Knapp was a destroyer that saw plenty of action in World War II, guarding carriers in the Pacific Theater from 1943-45. But her most notable assignment came at the end of the war, when she accompanied the USS Missouri into Tokyo Harbor for the Japanese surrender.
After serving in both World War II and the Korean War, the USS Knapp was decommissioned in 1957 and later dismantled. The bridge was moved to Astoria and the current Maritime Museum was built around it. Visitors to the museum get the rare opportunity to “board” a ship with a connection to history.
We also learned about the history of shipping on the Columbia, the native species of fish, and saw a full-sized pilot boat, a troller, a couple of gillnet-fishing boats, and two Coast Guard rescue vessels on display.
But to see the biggest boat we needed to step outside.
The Columbia was the fourth and final lightship to serve at the mouth of the river, guiding ships from 1951 to 1979. Since then, she has served as a floating extension of the Maritime Museum.
She was both the last large ship, and the first lighthouse we saw on our coast trip.
(To be continued …)
Top photo via Wikimedia Commons. All other photos © 2014 by Julia M. Ozab.