Consider that more men have died in the Northwest Dungeness crab fishery since 1999 than in the Bering Sea crab fishery made famous in the TV series "Deadliest Catch." Crabbing is among our peninsula's most important industries, and yet every Dec. 1 when the season begins many families start losing sleep, awaiting the safe return of loved ones.
Nowadays, it is mostly crab boats and inexperienced weekend salmon fishmen that preserve our legendary but sad legacy as Ship Graveyard of the Pacific. The river, ocean or bay during a storm are wicked traps waiting to snap shut.
Innocent Peninsula sands hide the remains of many vessels. Lean into a gale on a stormy day on the rocky headlands overlooking Cape Disappointment State Park and you'll be able to imagine ghost ships bearing down on the rocks, sails tattered and masts splintered, sailors praying for deliverance.
These few miles of beach and cliffs, from Leadbetter Point in the north to Cape Disappointment in the south, have consumed more ships than just about any other real estate in the world.
Why is it so dangerous here for ships? In the days before satellite navigation and cell phones, sailors sometimes had little idea where they were in relation to the shore, especially during raging winter storms that can last for weeks.
Even when visibility was acceptable, ships often had trouble traversing the Columbia River bar, the area in which the gigantic flow of the river rushes headlong into towering ocean waves.
Ships and lives are still lost today. A somewhat choppy but manageable river can suddenly twist itself into an unimaginable chaos of tossing, turning, icy water.
Almost 2,000 vessels of all types and about 700 lives have been claimed by the treacherous sea over the past 300 years. Some vessels were stranded, while others sunk outright or simply disappeared in that infamous triangle formed by Clatsop Spit, Leadbetter Point and Astoria.
"Some boats survived the ordeal and went on to sail another day," says local historian and author Nancy Lloyd. "Others were complete shipwrecks, a few of which are still in evidence.
The Bettie M is visible on Jetty A. The Peter Iredale on Clatsop Beach may be the most photographed shipwreck anywhere. The Alice in Ocean Park occasionally shows a bit of skeleton. The Admiral Benson at Benson Beach continues to snag fishing gear.
The list below - covering only the early period of local settlement - offers the name of the vessel, the year she went down, her country of origin, the type of vessel and the lives lost, if known.
Chatham, 1792, British tender.
Small boat from the Hazard, 1798, American brigantine, five lost.
Small boat from the Tonquin, 1811, American ship, 10 lost.
Raccoon, 1813, British sloop of war.
William and Ann, 1829, British barkentine, 26 lost.
Isabella, 1830, Hudson Bay Co., British supply brigantine.
H.M.S. Sulphur, 1839, British Royal Navy ship.
U.S.S. Peacock, 1841, U.S. Navy ship.
U.S.S. Shark, 1846, U.S. Navy survey schooner, crew lost.
Maine, 1848, American whaler.
Vancouver, 1848, British barkentine.
Josephine, 1849, British brigantine.
L'Etoile du Matin, 1849, French ship.
Silvie de Grace, 1849, American packet ship.
Orbit, 1850, American brigantine.
Bordeaux, 1852, barkentine.
U.S.S. Dolphin, U.S. Navy brigantine.
General Warren, 1852, American steamship, 42 lost.
Machigone, 1852, American schooner, nine lost.
Marie, 1852, American brigantine, nine lost.
Potomac, 1852, brigantine.
I. Merrithew, 1853, American barkentine.
Mindora, 1853, American barkentine.
Oriole, 1853, American barkentine.
Palos, 1853, American brigantine, one lost.
Vandalia, 1853, American barkentine, nine lost.
Empire, 1854, American schooner.
Firefly, 1854, American tugboat, four lost.
Detroit, 1855, brigantine.
Desdemona, 1857, American barkentine, one lost.
Leonese, 1860, American barkentine, nine lost.
Rambler, 1860, American schooner, five lost.
Woodpecker, 1861, British schooner.
Fanny, 1864, sloop.
Jennie Ford, 1864, American barkentine, one lost.
Jenny Jones, 1864, American schooner.
Industry, 1865, American barkentine, 17 lost.
S.D. Lewis, 1865, brigantine.
W.B. Scranton, 1866, barkentine.
Anna C. Anderson, 1869, American schooner, 7 lost.
Champion, 1870, American schooner, three lost.
Ellen, 1870, American schooner.
U.S. Grant, 1871, American steamer.
Windward, 1871, American ship.
Rose Perry, 1872, Canadian schooner.
Rescue, 1874, American steam tugboat.
Sidi, 1874, French brigantine.
Architect, 1875, American barkentine.
Orient, 1875, American brigantine.
Sunshine, 1875, American schooner, 25 lost.
Dreadnaught, 1876, American sloop, seven lost.
Nabob, 1876, British barkentine.
Nimbus, 1877, American ship.
City of Dublin, 1878, British ship.
Allegiance, 1879, ship.
Great Republic, 1879, American sidewheel steamship, 11 lost.
Dilharee, 1880, British barkentine.
Edith Lorn, 1881, British barkentine.
Emily Stevens, 1881, American schooner.
Fern Glen, 1881, British ship.
G. Broughton, 1881, British barkentine.
Lammerlaw, 1881, British barkentine.
Rival, 1881, American barkentine.
Corsica, 1882, British barkentine.
Harvest Home, 1882, American barkentine.
Primrose, 1882, vessel.
Cairnsmore, 1883, British barkentine.
Queen of the Pacific, 1883, American steamship.
J.C. Cousins, 1883, American pilot schooner, four lost.
Whistler, 1883, American barkentine.
Devonshire, 1884, British ship.
Abbey Cowper, 1885, British barkentine.
Dewa Gungadhar, 1885, British barkentine.
Ariel, 1886, American schooner.
Carrie B. Lake, 1886, American schooner, three lost.
W.H. Besse, 1886, American barkentine.
Grace Roberts, 1887, American barkentine.
Telephone, 1887, sternwheeler, one lost.
Gleaner, 1888, American river steamer, three lost.
Artemisia, 1889, American schooner.
Douglas Dearborn, 1890, schooner, all lost.
Governor Moody, 1890, American pilot boat.
Strathblane, 1891, British schooner, six lost.
Cadzow Forest, 1896, British barkentine.
Glenmorag, 1896, British ship, two lost.
Point Loma, 1896, American steam schooner.
Potrimpos, 1896, German barkentine.
Orion, 1897, American schooner.
Samaria, 1897, American ship.
Gamecock, 1898, sternwheeler.
Staghound, 1898, American sternwheeler.
Columbia River Lightship No. 50, 1899, American.
Protection, 1899, American steamship, one lost.
Andrada, 1900, barkentine.
Poltalloch, 1900, British barkentine.
Cape Wrath, 1901, British barkentine, 15 lost.
Henriette, 1901, French barkentine.
Monitor, 1901, American barkentine.
Pinmore, 1901, British barkentine.
Alsternixe, 1903, German barkentine.
Cavour, 1903, Italian barkentine.
Frank W. Howe, 1904, American schooner, two lost.
Zampa, 1904, American schooner.
C.A. Klose, 1905, American schooner.
M.F. Hazen, 1905, American launch.
Unnamed vessel, 1905, Japanese junk.
Alice McDonald, 1906, schooner.
Drumcraig, 1906, British barkentine.
Emma Claudine, 1906, schooner.
Galena, 1906, British barkentine.
Melanope, 1906, British barkentine.
Peter Iredale, 1906, British barkentine.
Solano, 1907, American schooner.
Broderick Castle, 1908, British ship.
Alice, 1909, French ship.
Aurelia, 1911, American steamer.
Oshkosh, 1911, American motor vessel, six lost.
Roanoke, 1911, American steamer, one lost.
Washington, 1911, American steamship.
William Nottingham, 1911, American schooner.
Admiral, 1912, American schooner.
Daisy Freeman, 1912, steam schooner.
Marie, 1913, American motorboat.
Rosecrans, 1913, American tanker, 33 lost.
Rochelle, 1914, American steam schooner.
W.T. and B. No. 3, 1916, American barge.
Captain James Fornace, 1917, American steamship.
Lenore, 1917, American fishing boat.
Americana, 1918, American schooner, 13 lost.
Jupiter, 1918, American fishing boat, four lost.
State of Washington, 1920, American sternwheeler.
Welsh Prince, 1922, British steamship, seven lost.
Alpha, 1924, American gasline propeller.
Caoba, 1925, American steam schooner.
Coaster, 1925, steamer.
Nemanosha, 1925, American fishing boat, 2 lost.
Columbia, 1928, American fishing boat.
North Bend, 1928, American schooner.
Laurel, 1929, American steamship, one lost.
Multnomah, 1929, steamship.
Admiral Benson, 1930, American steamship.
Sea Thrush, 1932, steamship.
Pescawha, 1933, American motorship, one lost.
Childar, 1934, Norwegian motorship, four lost.
Iowa, 1936, American steamship, 34 lost.
Efin, 1937, American feighter.
Trinidad, 1937, American steam schooner, one lost.
Nisqually, 1938, brigantine.
Buster, 1940, American barge.
Treo, 1940, American fishing boat.
Mauna Ala, 1941, American freighter.
Nightingale, 1941, American minesweeper.
Vaslav Vorovsky, 1941, Russian freighter.
29C822, 1944, American trawler, two lost.
Donna, 1944, American trawler, three lost.
Electra, 1944, American trawler.
La Belle, 1945, American trawler, four lost.
Republic, 1945, American trawler, four lost.
Rudolph, 1945, American fishing boat.
U.S.S. Arrow, 1947, U.S. Army transport.
Drexel Victory, 1947, American steamship.
P.T. and B. Company No. 1684 and 1685, 1947, American barges.
29P859, 1948, American trawler, two lost.
Marbet, 1948, American crab boat.
Neptune, 1948, American tugboat, one lost.
Rose Ann, 1948, American dragger, four lost.
Sea Lion, 1948, American trawler, two lost.
Ricky, 1949, American fishing boat.
Deneb, 1950, American motor ship.
Lucky, 1950, fishing boat.
Sause Brothers, 1950, American barge.
Erria, 1951, Danish motorship, 11 lost.
Mizpah, 1951, American fishing boat, one lost.
Oleum, 1951, American oil tanker.
Sil-Char, 1951, American motorboat.
Susan, 1952, American cannery tender.
Ida-Mae, 1953, American fishing boat.
Otsega, 1953, American barge.
Flora, 1954, American fishing boat, two lost.
Intrepid, 1954, American barge.
Permanente Cement, 1954, American freighter.
Baby Doll, 1955, freighter.
Doris J., 1956, American trawler, two lost.
Sandra Lee, 1960, fishing boat, one lost.
Mermaid, 1961, American crabber, two lost.
No. 36454, 1961, U.S. Coast Guard motor lifeboat.
No. 40564, 1961, U.S. Coast Guard motor lifeboat.
Triumph, 1961, U.S. Coast Guard cutter, five lost.
C-Trader, 1963, American freighter.
Bell Buoy, 1964, American fishing boat.
General John Biddle, 1964, American dredge.
George Olson, 1964, American lumber barge.
Meteor, 1972, American crabber.
Private American boat, 1973, two lost.
Bettie M, 1976, American tuna seiner.
Pearl C, 1976, American charter boat, eight lost.
No. 41322, 1977, U.S. Coast Guard motor lifeboat, three lost.
Carolina, 1978, American trawler.
Hei-She, 1980, American sailboat, one lost.
Elfin, 1980, American crabber.
Dori-Lee, 1981, American trawler, two lost.
Jennie Decker, 1981, American schooner-dragger.
Midnight Express, 1981, American dragger, four lost.
Fargo, 1982, American fishing boat, one lost.
Proud Mary, 1984, American fishing boat, one lost.
Bonnie, 1985, American fishing boat, two lost.
McKinley, 1986, American dragger-trawler, one lost.
Bad Check, 1987, American fishing boat, three lost.
Nickie Joe, 1987, American fishing boat, three lost.
Sea King, 1991, American fishing boat, three lost.
Unnamed pleasure craft, 1991, American fishing boat, two lost.
Caroline, 1992, American fishing boat, two lost.
Ida E, 1996, American fishing boat.