Thank you for attending the 2023 Columbia River Shipwreck Conference

The 2023 Columbia River Shipwreck conference returned in-person at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria from 12-5 pm on Saturday, February 4, 2023. We filled the room and look forward to doing it again in 2024! See the schedule from the 2023 conference below.


12:30 pm     Welcome, Intro to MAS – CRMM Staff, Scott Williams

1:00 pm       Session 1 – Youngs Bay Archaeological Landscape – Mike Brown

1:45 pm       Session 2 – Beeswax Wreck Presentations –

  • Drew Wendeborn – “Discovery and Initial Survey”
  • Scott Williams – “The Recovery”
  • Chris Dewey – “The Underwater Search Continues”
  • Nicholas Mead – The Land-based Search for the Beeswax Wreck

  3:00 pm     Session 3

  • Melissa Darby – “A Review of the Evidence: Drake on the Oregon Coast”
  • Keynote Speaker: John Pouley, OR State Archaeologist “The False Notion of Finders Keepers: Understanding the laws that protect archaeological sites, and why we have them.”

2023 MAS Presenter: Chris Dewey “The Underwater Search Continues”

We wrote a Book



Our first book, nearly two years in the making, is now available in hardcover and Kindle. Shipwrecks of the Pacific Northwest was released on March 1, 2020 (just as everything was about to shut down for the coronavirus!) Our book release party as well as all scheduled talks at museums and bookstores around the region are still currently on hold. You can purchase the book online or directly from many local PNW bookstores. If you are a reviewer or a member of the press, we are available so please reach out to us.

Our goal was to make the book approachable and interesting for a larger audience so we tried to pull together a more narrative, cohesive style rather than presenting a collection of essays or archaeological reports with multiple authors. We are greatly indebted to all of the primary researchers who volunteered countless hours to make this book a reality. I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to my co-authors Scott Williams, Jeff Smith, Christopher Dewey, Tod Lundy, Jim Sharpe, Jeff Groth, and Robert Johnson.

So what is this book about? Tales of famous local wrecks have passed into legend, but we wanted to see the real story from primary sources and archaeological evidence. Many of the existing books repeat rumors about buried treasure or insurance fraud without providing any evidence. And nearly all of the chapters end at the time of the wreck event. As an archaeology group, we want to know what happened afterwards and what remains of those wrecks today. The book will cover about a dozen wrecks, some well known and others nearly forgotten, between Willapa Bay in Washington and Tillamook Bay in Oregon. The time period ranges from the wreck of Oregon’s Spanish galleon in the 1690s to a Yuleship carrying Christmas trees for Pearl Harbor in December, 1941. Our chapters include all of the excitement and drama of the storms, survival, and loss but they also detail our investigations, surveys, and remote sensor data on what remains of those wrecks today.

We hope this book will be a helpful addition to the body of research on shipwrecks of Oregon and Washington: Shipwrecks of the Pacific Northwest: Tragedies and Legacies of a Perilous Coast.

Jennifer Kozik
Editor & Co-Author

Learn more about the book and the authors>>

Beeswax Wreck Project


There is a proto-historic wreck at Nehalem, which Indian oral history says was a large ship that wrecked many years before the white men came to the area; the ship was carrying many tons of beeswax, both as blocks and candles, and many of the blocks have Spanish shipping marks; she also carried a large and diverse cargo of Chinese porcelain in forms intended for the markets in the New World; she either had a Jesuit priest onboard or was carrying items associated with the Catholic Church, and she wrecked sometime between 1650 and 1725, with a range of 1680-1700 most likely given the porcelain styles and radiocarbon dates associated with wreck artifacts. These facts indicate the ship was a Manila galleon,

Read More about the Beeswax Wreck Project

Shipwreck Survey Project


The Shipwreck Survey Project was created to examine and record wrecks and abandoned vessels in Oregon and Washington. Read More about past and present projects here.

T.J. Potter


Over a dozen trained MAS volunteers helped survey the remains of a late 19th century side-wheeler steamboat.

Built by Port Captain J.W. Troup of the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company, T.J. Potter was considered the fastest sidewheel steamer in the Pacific NW for its time and weighed 1017 gross tons after a 1901 rebuild (230 feet long, 35 foot beam, and 10 foot 4 inch depth of hold; 32 inch x 96 inch engines). By 1916, the ship was condemned for passenger use and used by construction teams as a barrack’s boat until around 1920, when she met her fate in Youngs Bay and was burned down, her metal parts salvaged.


MAS volunteers surveying T.J. Potter in Astoria in the Spring of 2016 as part of the Shipwreck Survey Project.


Training Opportunities


Interested in remote sensing, site surveying, or shipwreck research? The latest information about our training opportunities can be found here.

One of the projects we have used for training is the Sylvia De Grass:

Silvia de Grasse Project

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 Silvia de Grasse

We know the fate of Silvia de Grasse (also commonly spelled Sylvia de Grasse and Silvie 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?

Silvia de Grasse image taken by MAS’s OpenROV


MAS was awarded a 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