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Oregon Coast Spanish Galleon Discovery: Meet Those Involved at Nehalem Event

Published 10/07/22 at 5:54 AM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Coast Spanish Galleon Discovery: Meet Those Involved at Nehalem Event

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(Manzanita, Oregon) – Earlier this year, the Oregon coast exploded onto the international scene and limelight with the discovery of a lifetime: parts of a Spanish galleon were found near Manzanita. For more than 300 years, bits and pieces of this legend were washing up around Nehalem Bay beaches, and stories of such a ship went back well into the recesses of native people's oral histories. (Above, Oregon Coast Beach Connection photo: the timbers were found somewhere near these sea caves, near Manzanita)

When the news broke, it shook Oregon's coastline, even more than the two 150-year-old cannon found 14 years ago (that were linked to Cannon Beach getting its name).

It was a local fisherman, Craig Andes, who happened upon the ancient timbers in a remote sea cave. Later, he joined with archaeologist Scott Williams and Captain Frank Wright of Nehalem Fire District’s Surf and Rescue – along with others – and some of the timbers were retrieved. Now going through a rigorous testing process lab, others search for the bulk of the wreckage offshore.

The public can't get enough of this Spanish galleon discovery. Those three men will be presenting their story live and in-person in Nehalem on Saturday, November 5, 2022 at 3:30 pm at the North County Recreation District (NCRD).

Among the big mysteries over the centuries were the tons of beeswax that kept appearing until just a few decades ago, much of which had particular markings on them. That was later identified as a kind of ID for the ship they resided on – something proven by the PBS show The History Detectives last decade. The beeswax was used for ballast onboard, but local tribes found numerous uses for them.

See Pieces of Legendary Oregon Coast Spanish Galleon Wreck Retrieved Near Manzanita - Part 1 

Then there were the pieces of porcelain, and timbers from the ships themselves.

“And for more than 100 years, people have been prospecting for the timbers, made of tropical wood, to build houses, furniture, walking sticks, even a gavel used by a local judge,” said Explore Tillamook Coast, in a press release on the event.

This year's timber discovery made worldwide news, with stories in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Egypt Today, Oregon Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio, and many more media outlets. Only a handful, however, did actual interviews with the archaeologists or personnel involved – Oregon Coast Beach Connection being one of those few.


Photo courtesy Scott Williams

Onhand for the discovery was the National Geographic Society, but Williams was the key archaeologist. Williams told Oregon Coast Beach Connection he agreed with the PBS show's findings that the missing galleon was the Spanish ship Santo Cristo de Burgos.

Williams said he was fairly certain this is from the same ship – it's definitely from the same era. Not only is this a momentous find on the Oregon coast but for Spanish galleon historians as well.

“This would be one of only three Manilla galleon wrecks in the world where wood was preserved,” he told Oregon Coast Beach Connection.

How these were found by Andes is a bit of an adventure in itself, and how Williams and others got involved is like an exciting sequel. For one thing, it all started during the COVID shutdowns when getting a group together for a scientific expedition like this was not possible. A year later, the outing was canceled due to losing the right conditions for the year. Meanwhile, research on samples of the timbers was being done and it was groundbreaking – but it all remained a secret until these three and their colleagues could make it to this spot last spring.


Photo courtesy Scott Williams

It's a story befitting a nerdy James Cameron flick.

Nehalem Valley Historical Society has a new exhibit on 17th-century Spanish galleon trade routes and their exploration of Oregon’s west coast, as well as beeswax artifacts. The society is open Saturdays from 1 - 4 pm. 225 Laneda Ave. Manzanita.

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