Number of lesser-known shipwrecks dot coast

July 04, 2007 11:00 pm
The Hobbs, Wall & Co. in Crescent City lost two ships, the Mandalay and the Sharp, off the Del Norte County coast in 1918 and 1924. (Photo courtesy of The Del Norte Historical Society).
The Hobbs, Wall & Co. in Crescent City lost two ships, the Mandalay and the Sharp, off the Del Norte County coast in 1918 and 1924. (Photo courtesy of The Del Norte Historical Society).

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

Although they are not some of the best-known shipwrecks, the foundering of the Magnolia and disappearance of the South Coast were big news in Del Norte County nearly seven decades ago.

Magnolia was a 49-ton coastal freighter, small when compared to the other vessels working their way along the Northcoast when the 20th century was young.

She ran into trouble as trying to cross Klamath River Bar on April 8, 1916. The seas were rough, and she was carrying a cargo of shakes as she attempted the crossing.

Caught in the breakers, Magnolia capsized, drowning her four-man crew. The vessel drifted out to sea, where the Coast Guard cutter Humboldt Bay found the stricken craft, put a line on her and towed her to Eureka.

An unidentified vessel was stranded at the same spot about eight years before Magnolia lost her battle with the breakers.

Between 1917 and 1929, two craft were lost off the coast along the coast of what later would become Redwood National Park.

Named the Mandalay and the Sharp, the two vessels wrecked in 1918 and 1924, respectively. Between them came the demise of a vessel owned by Hobbs, Wall & Co. The craft stranded on Point Arena on July 27, 1917.

Then came the South Coast, carrying lumber, 80 tons of high-grade chrome ore, tons of butter, seven passengers and her crew.

A veteran steamer, the 301-ton vessel was built in 1887 and purchased by Hobbs, Wall in 1915. She left Crescent City during calm weather in September 1930 with a track record of several charter trips between the city and Coos Bay, Ore. Capt. Stanley Sorenson commanded the vessel and her 18-man crew as she left Del Norte County heading north to Oregon.

She never made her destination.

That evening, residents of Gold Beach, Ore., saw a flash at sea, heard a loud noise described as a "dull boom."

The next day a crew aboard the General Petroleum Tanker Tejon spotted debris that included logs, lifeboats and a pilothouse about 40 miles south of Cape Blanco and 30 miles seaward.

Tejon's captain radioed word to Hobbs, Wall and the U.S. Coast Guard Station at Humboldt Bay.

Coast Guard cutter Cahokia headed to the scene. Finding no survivors, the crew recovered the pilothouse and lifeboats and took them to Eureka.

Examination of the debris found that the lifeboats were never lowered, rather they were ripped from their davits. The pilothouse was battered from the deck.

From that evidence, Cahokia's captain determined the vessel had struck Rogue River Reef in a fog, which caused the cargo to shift and capsized her.

Seven years later, South Coast's grave was located by a Department of Commerce-owned survey steamer, Guide, whose crew was taking soundings off Port Orford, Ore. The position she rested in confirmed her having hit Rogue River Reef.

During the 1940s, two vessels wrecked off the coast. Susan Olson stranded at Crescent City on Feb. 3, 1948, and the 69-ton Garrison went down in 128 fathoms of water off the north head of False Klamath Rock.