Work on Historic Cannon from Oregon Coast Showing Results
(Cannon Beach, Oregon) - Conservation work at Texas A&M University on the two historic cannon recovered from a north Oregon coast beach in February 2008 is starting to show results. One cannon is finally revealing its material, and more and more evidence is pointing to the conclusion many north coast history buffs are hoping for.
The cannon, found by teen beachcomber Miranda Petrone while walking at Arch Cape (near Cannon Beach) with her father, were recovered from the ocean shore by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department with help from Arch Cape officials.
The cannon were heavily coated by a concretion - a thick, hard layer of solidified sand and rock - after being buried deep on the beach for an unknown amount of time. It is possible the two cannon are the remnants of the 1846 wreck of the USS Shark, a US Navy vessel that sank on the Columbia Bar. Three of the Shark's cannon broke away from the wreck, and one was recovered from the Arch Cape area in 1898. The other two were never found.
After being removed from the beach, the two cannon were temporarily stored in water tanks at a nearby state park. In early 2009, the department signed a contract with the Center for Marine Archaeology and Conservation at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Since April 2009, the lab has been soaking the artifacts to remove corrosive salt.
Using handheld tools, graduate students at the lab began to delicately remove the concretions under the guidance of lab director Jim Jobling. After months of work, the lab has successfully revealed the metal and wood of one cannon. A symbol resembling a broad arrow is engraved on the cannon's surface, proving the cannon was at one time the property of the British Royal Navy. The early American navy frequently purchased cannon and other gear from overseas in the first half of the 19th century.
"We still don't know exactly where these cannon came from, but the information revealed by the lab is certainly pointing toward the USS Shark theory," said State Archaeologist Dennis Griffin of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. "This is where it gets interesting and exciting. What more clues will we find as the lab continues to work? What questions will be answered, and what new ones will be posed? We'll find out as the lab continues to do their excellent work."
The lab's physical work could still take several years to complete. As the group removes concretions, they then must chemically treat the wood and metal parts to shield them from corrosion. The cannon will return to Oregon after the lab finishes conservation. A local, state and federal advisory team will make a recommendation to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department about long-term curation and public display of the artifacts.
More information on the cannon is online at http://egov.oregon.gov/OPRD/PARKS/cannon.shtml.
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