Blacksplash, December 2009

Last winter was unusual because the erosion never stopped, nicely, during the summer, as it should, and there was dramatic erosion where it usually isn’t, up by Warrenton Cannery Road. Usually 150 feet a year falls into the ocean, but last year over 700 feet fell in. Consequently, this strange mess of beams emerged out of the dunes, looking like something from Gilligan’s Island.


It was clearly, REALLY old, with these big, blacksmithed Cro-Magnon nails 18 inches long and massive beams from a bygone era of old-growth forest.

Massive beams.


Then the Seattle Times reported that it was believed to be a Canadian shipwreck from the 1920’s, the Exporter. Suddenly, everyone was a shipwreck expert. My neighbor Stanley said, “Bah, it’s just a LOG SKIFF!” A guy in a pickup was rattling off the precise dates of different Northwest shipwrecks. “April 10, 1886!” In the dead of winter, there would be 40 people on the beach in the sideways rain to see the shipwreck. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much to look at.

Shipwreck watchers

Shipwrecks are hip!

Les Strange advanced his outlaw fame by telling the Seattle Times that the shipwreck was the rightful property of the resourceful scavenger. Then all these people wrote in, saying, “Oh no, the plunder of a historical treasure!” The fact is, no one, historian or pirate, could, or did, budge the thing. I know a few people who were able to free up a nail or two. I couldn’t.

So, if 700 feet fell in, what was a boat doing that far inland? Maybe it was even older than we think, from when Cape Shoalwater had shoals, fingers of land, and it was in one of the inlets,then buried. If it was the Canadian Exporter, then it should’ve had a metal hull. Why was it burned? The mystery of it was part of its allure. Then, the ocean broke it apart and started moving it around.

Shipwreck on the move.

For a while, part of it was in front of the fallen Fish Trailer, way down the beach.

Shipwreck sunset

Nobody owned it. It was this magical thing that showed up amid the destruction to remind us of mystery in the world, of things past. Then it returned to the sea. It was a sand castle, like everything else here.




About washybeach

Washaway Beach This Week is a blog by photojournalist Erika Langley. See more work at
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One Response to Shipwreck

  1. Tom says:

    I was also utterly seduced by washaway beach when I visited. Your photos are great Erika.

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