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25 Years Ago Today, Wild Tale of New Carissa Wreck Began on Oregon Coast (Photos)

Published 2/04/24 at 7:15 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Coos Bay, Oregon) – 25 years ago today, the freighter New Carissa lodged itself onto the North Spit of Coos Bay, setting off a historic chain of sometimes wacky events that put the international spotlight on the Oregon coast. (Photo BLM)

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February 4, 1999, was that wild day that made the news, and a collection of stunning photographs of that time surfaced on social media through the Coos Bay office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today. Like the story itself, they're an engaging set of images.

It's a very unique shipwreck in all of maritime history, as it ended up occurring in two places. Back then, Oregon Coast Beach Connection was almost ten years away, but future founder / editor Andre' Hagestedt was there to capture some of it as the saga continued in Waldport, over 100 miles away.

As BLM pointed out Sunday on social: “no one could figure out how to get it unstuck.”

“Strategies to sink the New Carissa and lessen the amount of oil it was spilling onto the Oregon coast included towing the ship, burning its diesel tanks, and firing a torpedo at its hull,” the BLM said.

Bizarre Oregon Coast History: Crazed Chaos of the Shipwreck New Carissa

This spot is a rather sensitive one for the endangered snow plover, and a top priority then was protecting the nearby population.

Photo BLM

The 639-foot vessel went through a bizarre set of mishaps as crews attempted to free it.

First, however, they wanted to set it on fire to burn that oil. The initial explosion by the Navy fails, but the second one – seen live on TV – only succeeds in splitting the ship in half. Later ignition attempts do not burn the remainder of the fuel.

That all occurred on February 10 and 11. It's not until early March that they get the bow half of the ship towed out to sea, and instead of sinking it as they hoped, it breaks free and crashes itself on a beach at Waldport on the central Oregon coast on March 3.

Photo BLM

It's here where Oregon Coast Beach Connection snaps photos of it, and it is gargantuan. Even just this half of the ship is a monster – it's impossible to convey that via images.

Oregon Coast Shipwrecks: List of Those You Can See - and Cannot - From Astoria down to Brookings, deep history and details of shipwrecks

A few days later this half of the ship is finally towed out to sea and sank.

Photo BLM

Down in Coos Bay, work goes on until the last of it is removed – finally – in 2008. All the snow plovers in the area survived, by the way.

Photo Andre' Hagestedt / Oregon Coast Beach Connection (Waldport in 1999)

“In July 2007, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians took title to nearly 3,900 acres of Oregon Coast Range forest as a result of the Oil Pollution Act,” the BLM said. “The New Carissa Oil Spill Natural Resource Trustees, with the BLM as the lead, jointly announced the land purchase and future management plans to benefit the marbled murrelet seabird population damaged by the oil spill.”


See the full New Carissa story Bizarre Oregon Coast History: Crazed Chaos of the Shipwreck New Carissa

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Photo BLM

Photo BLM - a baby seal watches the wreck proceedings

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Coastal Spotlight

Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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