Astoria, Oregon

Oct 12, 2017 - National Geographic Sea Lion

Rain was falling at 0700 hrs when the National Geographic Sea Lion docked at Astoria, Oregon. This was the site of the first permanent U.S. settlement on the West Coast where John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company established Fort Astor in 1811; this only five years after Lewis & Clark and their Corps of Discovery spent the winter of 1905-1806 at Fort Clatsop. The weather was rainy, as it was for most of the cold winter experienced by the Lewis & Clark party. We were soon off to Fort Clatsop where learned about Lewis & Clark and toured a replica of their fort. Then we took a beautiful walk in the woods—a temperate rain forest with giant Sitka spruce, western hemlock and western red cedar trees towering above us while huckleberries, salal, and ferns grew along the trail.  We walked down to Canoe Landing and beyond, along a marshy shore. Mallards upended as they dabbled in the mud. A great blue heron stood motionless awaiting any hapless fish that might swim by and sparrows fluttered about in the bushes.

Our next stop was at the Columbia River Maritime Museum, one of the finest maritime museums in the country. Here we learned, among many other things, about the Columbia Bar, which is known as The Graveyard of the Pacific. Here thousands of ships have been lost in the treacherous waters created as the Great River of the West collides with Pacific Ocean swells, creating shifting shoals that form the bar.  Commander Wilkes of the U.S. Navy, in 1841, said the roaring and tumultuous waters over the bar were “ . . . one of the most fearful sights that can possibly meet the eye of a sailor.”

The afternoon found most of us at Cape Disappointment and the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, located on a high bluff of basalt with a view of Cape Disappointment lighthouse and overlooking the Pacific Ocean. From here we went to beautiful Waikiki Beach to see the waves rolling in and walk in the sand—some waded barefooted in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

A small group took a guided tour of the town of Astoria. This included driving to the crest of Coxcomb Hill and climbing Astoria Tower for a magnificent view of the area. A visit was also made to a dock that has been commandeered by hundreds of California Sea Lions. There was much loud barking by these rowdy creatures and jostling for positions on the dock.

On this, the last evening of our voyage, we enjoyed the camaraderie of newfound friends sharing the adventure of sailing together on these great western rivers, the Snake and the Columbia. The evening was topped off with our guest slide show that was met with much approval by the audience.

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About the Author

Grace Winer


Geologist and naturalist, Grace is a Montanan now living in Seattle. Grace received her degrees in geology (BS and MSc) from Montana State University. Funded by a grant from the National Geographic Society, she pursued her master’s degree in Alaska’s remote Pribilof Islands. Here she investigated the volcanic evolution of St. Paul Island, creating a geologic map, and predicting volcanic hazards in the event of a future eruption. Her knowledge of the Pribilof Islands and the Bering Sea region led to her work as a consulting geologist on St. George Island for NOAA’s Pribilof Restoration Project.

About the Videographer

James Napoli

Video Chronicler

Jim was born in rural New England where he quickly developed an appreciation for the outdoors and a love of exploration.  Four years with the U.S. Navy further enhanced his appetite for travel. Always interested in the visual arts, he studied Television at Boston University and Northeast College of Communications, landing his first job in the industry working as an editor at a Boston television station. His wanderlust drew him to a job with two major cruise lines; installing and managing broadcast centers onboard a total of over a dozen ships. He has since moved on to specialize in expedition travel and wildlife productions.  

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