Many places have old buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, but how many have shipwrecks on the register? We do.
Two of the first recorded shipwrecks in the mouth of the Columbia River were the Hudson Bay Company Co. supply ships William and Ann and Isabella. The William and Ann was lost March 10, 1829, and all 46 persons aboard perished. Its final resting place has never been known for sure.
The Hudson Bay Co. purchased the Isabella that summer to replace the William and Ann. But upon reaching the Columbia River on May 3, 1830, the captain mistook Chinook Point for Cape Disappointment. The ship drove onto a sand bar and after four days-during which time the crew and part of the cargo were rescued-it sank in deep water in probably the roughest part of the river.
The Isabella lay largely buried in the sand just off Sand Island on the Oregon side of the river, across a narrow channel from Ilwaco. For 156 years, she rested undisturbed in her sandy bed.
A commercial fisherman, Daryl Hughes of Chinook, snagged his gillnets on a hidden obstruction. He kept wondering what he had snagged onto so he hired a diver to go down and take a look.
The diver found what he thought to be an old shipwreck. Speculation favored the thought that it might be the Isabella. Additional diving confirmed that suspicion.
Such examples as the Isabella are rare. Historians know of only one other intact wooden wreck of the 1830s era on the entire Pacific Coast. The Isabella was nominated for placement on the National Register of Historic Places. It was accepted.
Funds are scarce for marine archaeology and the site of the Isabella is very challenging. So she waits as she has for so many years, entrapped in the Columbia's rollicking waters.