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Oregon Coast Shipwrecks in Coos Bay by Misserion
Coos Bay - North Bend - Charleston

The George Olson

Coos Bay Shipwreck


“According to unconfirmed reports the George Olson, plowing toward the bar, was caught in the suction of a ship entering the jaws and thrown off course onto the rocks. Attempts were made immediately to move her but she settled back. No one was reported injured.” The Coos Bay Times reported on June 24, 1944

Three days later, the ship was refloated after some of the lumber was taken off its decks. The vessel was pulled farther into the harbor to see whether it could be saved. Apparently, it was then grounded between Charleston and Empire alongside the shipping channel.

Over six months, crews salvaged lumber off the steamship. Samuels said 500,000 board feet of lumber was recovered off the ship. Some of it built the Baptist Church in Charleston.

Come early December 1944, the Coos Bay Dredging Company got the contract to salvage the doomed Olson. Within a couple weeks, the vessel was towed out to sea and cut loose.

Ultimately, it ended up grounded and breaking apart about a mile and a half north of the jetty on the spit. There it sat for several years. In the late 1940s, locals who ventured onto the spit in search of Japanese glass floats and other storm debris came across it. It made for a great picnic spot. They took photos of their kids and friends, grinning and standing on its deck. Then sands covered it. Storms moved sand off the George L. Olson in the 1960s, but then it again disappeared from view — and from most people’s memories.

The George L. Olson was a 223-foot-long wood-hulled schooner, launched on Jan. 22, 1917, from the W.F. Stone shipyards in Oakland, Calif., Samuels said. Originally, it was named the Ryder Hanify, built for J.R. Hanify and Company of San Francisco. By May, it was hauling lumber, powered by a 1,000-horsepower steam engine.

The New Carissa

Old Carissa

On February 4, 1999, the New Carissa was bound for the Port of Coos Bay, Oregon to pick up a load of wood chips. The ship's crew was informed by the local bar pilots that weather conditions would prevent the ship (which was empty at the time) from entering Coos Bay harbor until the next morning. The captain ordered the ship to drop anchor 1.7 nautical miles (3.1 km) off the coast in order to ride out the storm. The crew used a single anchor to secure the ship, and according to a United States Coast Guard review of the incident, used a chain that was too short. The short chain and the weather conditions, including winds of 20–25 knots (37–46 km/h), caused the ship to drag its anchor. Poor navigational techniques and inadequate watchkeeping led to the crew's failure to notice that the ship was moving. Once movement was detected, the crew attempted to raise anchor and maneuver away from the shore, but the weather and sea conditions made this difficult. By the time the anchor was raised, the ship had been pushed too close to the shore to recover.

The New Carissa was a dry bulk freighter optimized for carriage of wood chips owned by the Japanese shipping concern. The vessel using an all-steel construction. The freighter was 195 meters (639 ft) long and 32 meters (106 ft) wide.

After it was beached, an attempt to tow the bow section of the ship out to sea failed when the tow line broke, and the bow was grounded again. Eventually, the bow was successfully towed out to sea and sunk. The stern section remains on the beach near Coos Bay. Fuel on board the ship was burned off in situ, but a significant amount was also spilled from the wreckage, causing ecological damage to the coastline.

Stormy seas first began revealing the 40-foot wide ship in December. Since then, the seas have stripped away more and more sand, revealing about a 30-foot-long section of a large wooden vessel protruding from a dune about a mile south of the New Carissa shipwreck in Coos Bay, OR.

Waves so far have excavated about 30 feet of its bow, indicating that however it got there, it got there aft first.

The archaeologist with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management at Coos Bay sent out a press release around 4:30 2/21/08 announcing the discovery — not of the old beached schooner, but the name.

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