Shipwreck of the Pacific Enterprise

September 9, 1949 – The Pacific Enterprise, a British tramp steamer, ran aground on treacherous rocks about a mile offshore of the Point Arena lighthouse in a heavy coastal fog. The ship was traveling from Vancouver, B. C. to Glasgow, Scotland, and its cargo of lumber, wheat, canned salmon, and zinc and lead ingots was estimated to be worth $4 million.

Ship sinking with rocky shore in foreground
The Pacific Enterprise at Point Arena, 1949. (Gift of Emery Escola)

Captain M. E. Cogle was on his final voyage before retirement and had an unblemished record after 50 years at sea. He had been captain of the Pacific Enterprise for 19 years and had made four trips between Canada and Europe every year without incident.

No one was injured during the wreck. The Point Arena Coast Guard took off five passengers, leaving the crew of 54 aboard in an attempt to keep the 435-foot, 11,000-ton cargo vessel afloat. However, the crew was evacuated the following day as the ship slowly began breaking up in the pounding waves. On the third day, the stern broke off and sank, leaving only the tips of her masts above the waves.

Heavy timbers from the cargo, many 40-50 feet long, washed ashore. A large barge with divers and modern equipment arrived to begin salvaging the cargo. The Beacon reported that the divers had salvaged 15 tons of lead by the end of November. The salvage rights were sold repeatedly over the next few years, and the Beacon was still reporting salvaging operations on this wreck 15 years later.

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