Graveyard of the Pacific

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Graveyard of the Pacific.jpg

The Graveyard of the Pacific is a somewhat loosely defined stretch of the Pacific Northwest coast stretching from around Tillamook Bay on the Oregon Coast northward past the treacherous Columbia Bar and Juan de Fuca Strait, up the rocky western coast of Vancouver Island to Cape Scott.[1]

Unpredictable weather conditions, including storms and fog, and dangerous coastal characteristics, including shifting sandbars, tidal rips, and rocky reefs and shorelines, have caused thousands of ships to wreck in the area since European exploration of the area began in earnest in the 18th century.[2][3]

More than 2,000 ships have wrecked in the area, with more than 700 lives lost, near the Columbia Bar alone.[4] One book lists 484 wrecks at the south and west sides of Vancouver Island.[5]

Although major wrecks have declined since the 1920s, several lives are still lost annually.[6]

Among its particularly dangerous landmarks are the Columbia Bar, a giant sandbar at the mouth of the Columbia River; Cape Flattery; the reefs and rocks lining the west coast of Vancouver Island; and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Salvage attempts are often unsuccessful or of limited success. Physical wreckage is usually minimal due to the age of many wrecks, the unpredictable weather and sea conditions, and the extensive damage often suffered by vessels at the time they were wrecked.[7]

The term is believed to have originated from the earliest days of the maritime fur trade. It reflects not only the danger of shipwrecks but also the state of open or near-warfare in the area between Russia, Spain, Great Britain, and native tribal peoples.

See also[edit]


  • First Approaches to the Northwest Coast, Derek Pethick
  • A Historicall Atlas of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest, Derek Hayes


  1. ^ Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (June 2014). "Places to Visit: Graveyard of the Pacific - Columbia River Bar (brochure)" (PDF). Oregon State Legislature. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
  2. ^ "Shipwrecks Map". Northwest Power & Conservation Council. Created 2020-02-07 based on above references plus James Gibbs' Pacific Graveyard.
  3. ^ "Interactive Map of the Wrecks of the Graveyard of the Pacific". BC Maritime Museum. Archived from the original on July 10, 2004. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
  4. ^ Saddler, Russell (29 January 2006). "Graveyard of the Pacific; Gateway to the Northwest" (Blog). Article. BlueOregon. Retrieved June 28, 2007.
  5. ^ Rogers, Fred (1992). More Shipwrecks of British Columbia. Heritage House – Douglas & McIntyre. ISBN 1-55054-020-3. Archived from the original on 2007-06-26.
  6. ^ "Graveyard of the Pacific". Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-06-28.