Friday, May 11, 2007

King Philip of the Bird Manure

Some excitement occurred in San Francisco earlier this week, and it all goes back to Maine! Thanks to Telstar Logistics for highlighting this item:
Ghost Ship Surfaces on San Francisco Beach

This week in San Francisco, residents were shocked to see a long-lost shipwreck re-emerge from its watery tomb.

During a low tide on Monday, the wooden skeleton of the sunken ship mysteriously appeared above the waterline on San Francisco's Ocean Beach, not far from the city's zoo. Tourists and beachcombers were befuddled by the sight, but government officials were hot on the case. According to the San Francisco Chronicle:
A historian for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area said the wreckage was surely that of the three-masted clipper ship King Philip, which was built in Maine in 1856. According to the records, which are frequently less romantic than the speculation, the ship spent much of its career carrying bird manure fertilizer around the world. In its last years, it carried lumber from the Pacific Northwest to San Francisco.

On Jan. 25, 1878, it was towed by a tug through the Golden Gate, then laid anchor to allow the tug to assist a nearby vessel in distress, according to historian Stephen Haller. The anchor didn't hold, however, and the King Philip drifted onto the sand at Ocean Beach, where it foundered.

Fortunately, everyone got off safely, which could be why the King Philip never got the fuss made over it as did a certain other vessel that hit an iceberg 34 years later.

The King Philip made a brief appearance in 1980, Haller said, when El NiƱo currents washed away an unusually large amount of sand. But no one had seen the ship since.
Until now.

(Above: The wreck of the King Philip emerges from Ocean Beach. Photo by David Gallagher)
I found a little bit more about the wreck here, again in a San Francisco Chronicle article:
The King Philip -- named for the Indian chief who was involved in King Philip's war in 1675 -- was not as fast as the fastest clipper. It was launched in 1856, in Alna, Maine, and was advertised as "a strictly first-class clipper ship with quick dispatch.''

However the King Philip was advertised, it seemed to have been a hard-luck ship. There were at least two mutinies -- one in Honolulu in 1869 and one off Annapolis, Md, five years later. In both cases, the mutinous sailors set the ship on fire, seriously damaging it twice.

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