Silvia de Grasse

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Here’s a quick video of the highlights of our first ROV field test in the Columbia River. Silvia de Grasse was a lumber schooner that sank in Astoria in 1849.

We didn’t find the hull, but our primary goal was to test the ROV outside the pool, and that was a big success. Great job MAS ROV team!

History of Sylvia de Grasse

We know the fate of Sylvia de Grasse was her being stranding on a rocky ledge in the Columbia River in November of 1849. The ship was over loaded with lumber acquired in the ports upriver and bound for San Francisco. Captain William Gray tried unsuccessfully to offload the lumber and re-float the ship. The ships remains can still be found at the base of that rocky ledge.

In 1895 her timbers could still be seen at low tide. Sylvia de Grasse most likely started her career in 1822 with Francis Depaw’s founding of the line of Havre packets with six ships. A packet line refers to a regularly scheduled service carrying freight, passengers and mail between ports. Sylvia de Grasse sailed as a packet ship between New York and La Havre France from 1822 to 1848. The Packet line Sylvia de Grasse sailed with changed names several times between 1822 and 1849. By 1849, Sylvia de Grasse sailed for the Union Line of Havre Packets. In 1849, Union Line of Havre Packets chartered Sylvia de Grasse and Rhone to the US Government to transport troops from the New York to San Francisco. Sylvia de Grasse arrived in San Francisco April 18th 148 days out of New York. Records indicate the master of Sylvia de Grasse when she arrived in San Francisco was named Rider. We do not yet know if this is a clerical error or if the ship was sold to Gray in San Francisco. Gray was clearly by many sources the master of Sylvia de Grasse in her time on the Columbia River.

We still have other holes in our knowledge of Sylvia de Grasse’s history. We do not know when the ship was built. The first we find her in history is in 1822. Was Gray one of Union Line’s captains or did he purchase the ship in San Francisco? There is also information that the medicine chest from the Sylvia de Grasse was still around in the 1880’s. Where did the chest go and does it still exist?


MAS was awarded a 2016 grant from the Clatsop County Cultural Coalition to fund the purchase of an OpenROV. We wish to thank the Clatsop County Cultural Coalition, which is funded by the Oregon Cultural Trust http://www.clatsopculturalcoalition.orgcultural_trust_1280x550