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Latest On Oregon Coast Historic, Geological Attractions
(Manzanita, Oregon) - Artifacts recently found on the coast apparently have a new owner and some exceptionally strange tourist attractions may be in danger.
Those famed and possibly historically significant cannon found last month on the north Oregon coast are, it turns out, owned by the U.S. Navy.
When a family of tourists found the pair of giant guns laying the sand of Arch Cape, evidence immediately pointed to the good possibility they were from the same ship that crashed in 1846, and from which the first found cannon got the nearby community of Cannon Beach its name.
Right off the bat, various state agencies had to decide who actually owned the pair of cannon. It was soon decided that the Department of State Lands had ownership because of where they lay in the sand. Although recently the U.S. Navy sent all parties involved a friendly reminder that it actually owned the pieces of the ship, even after more than a century.
The cannon could well be from the USS Shark, an 86-foot-long schooner that wrecked at the mouth of the Columbia River. The first cannon from the ship was found in 1898.
This reminder from the feds changes little to nothing on the approach of State Lands, Oregon State Parks and Recreation and the other local historians involved in the restoration of or decision as to the fate of the cannon. It simply means the Navy has ultimate say. The goals of all are the same: to preserve them, eventually restore them, discover their origin and then put them on display for the public.
Robert Neyland, from the Navy's Underwater Archaeological Branch at the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C., has publicly said the cannon should be in the public eye.
These types of guns – called a caronnade - are rare. Neyland’s office has said that not much is known about this period of naval war history, so this is an exciting development for the Navy as well.
The cannon are currently housed in Nehalem Bay State Park in Manzanita, undergoing preservation efforts.
So far, there is no record that the Navy tried to retrieve the first cannon that was proven to be from the Shark.
In the meantime, the low sand levels that resulted in these historic finds, as well as a bold display of ghost forests and other geologic oddities, has made for an uncomfortable future for one of the famed ghost forests.
Ghost forests are the almost petrified remnants of various stands of trees that are 1,000 to 4,000 years old, which have popped out of the sand in some spots along the coast, mostly in the form of stumps. They’ve been spotted near Yachats, near Seal Rock, north of Newport, Cape Kiwanda State Park (sometimes known as McPhillips Beach), at Cape Lookout State Park, Rockaway, Arch Cape and Hug Point State Park.
In Neskowin, however, where they’re larger than usual, the low sand levels are also much lower than many places, and seem to be receding at an alarming rate. Consequently, this eerie stand of stumps and twisted figures is visible year-round, enabling tourists to catch a very unusual glimpse of the coast’s past.
They may be in danger, however. Beach ranger David Woody, with Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department, said the stumps at Neskowin – about 1,000 to 2,000 years old – are showing so much they’re starting to get uprooted.
“I found some a ways up the road, at the beach at Winema,” Woody said.
One authoritative geologist agreed.
"Waves have torn up Sitka spruce trees that were rooted in place for one to two thousand years at Neskowin, south of Proposal Rock, and at Cape Lookout State Park, along with great chunks of forest soil,” said Roger Hart, a geologist with Oregon Department of Gem and Mineral Industries. “They’ve strewn them all over beaches between Cascade Head and Cape Meares.”
These ancient stumps around the coast were first killed and then preserved by encroaching sand, clay or some type of muck, which usually took a period of decades or so. This happened thousands of years ago.
Another dynamic has appeared which worries officials about these rarities. Normally, the ghost forest tree limbs and stumps at Neskowin collect barnacles and other sea life clinging to it during times when the tide surrounds it.
But some of them are missing that evidence of marine goo below a certain level. It’s the same dynamic as many rocks at tide pools which suddenly show areas without sea life, because sand levels have shrunk to expose an area that was normally off limits to these creatures.
Even these specimens at Neskowin – which are ironically the result of sand levels sinking low enough to expose them in the first place - are getting exposed so much they’re showing bare bark.
It all spells the possibility sand levels on the Oregon coast are getting historically, even alarmingly low.
But even these specimens at Neskowin – which are ironically the result of sand levels sinking low enough to expose them in the first place - are getting exposed so much they’re showing bare bark.
“I've been working with the Neskowin Valley School on a study of the Neskowin ghost forest,” Hart said. “The study is tied to a National Science Foundation grant on the possible effects of climate change. Is the forest being destroyed now because of an increase in erosion? The ghost forest at Neskowin is especially worth visiting.”
Other wild oddities visible at lower tides in Arch Cape and Hug Point include what are called “red towers,” which are giant deposits of reddish iron that have compacted into strange, surreal shapes.
Coverage of these, the ghost forests, the cannon and various shipwrecks that have appeared because of low sand levels have resulted in a massive surge of publicity for the Oregon coast. One Associated Press story about all these various finds made it around the world to at least 100 news outlets.
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