Saturday, May 17, 2014

Astoria, OR - Lewis & Clark to Bumble Bee Tuna

We had several goals today: more of Lewis and Clark’s journey at the Cape Disappointment Museum, ‘Dismal Nitich’. Station Camp, the Columbia Maritime Museum and the Bumble Bee Museum. Can we get it all done? Can we get our daily walk in? Will we have time for lunch? Maybe, maybe not.

I covered our visit to the Cape Disappointment Museum in the other blog for the day, now it’s time to move on.

After we visited ‘Dismal Nitich’ and Station Camp, we headed across the Columbia on down to the waterfront in Astoria where we saw a cruise ship come in. Not the largest ship but lots of tourists for Astoria. Abutting the cruise ship dock is a lumber shipping yard. Two of the major industries in Astoria side by side. Across the street was a fish packing plant and lots of crab pots stacked high and wide.
Our next stop was the Columbia Maritime Museum in Astoria. This museum covers one of the main industries in Astoria, fishing with relicas of several different types of fishing boats and the equipment that the fishermen carried in them. There is also a large Coast Guard exhibit since it is the Coast Guard members who risk their lives heading out into gales force winds, towering waves and otherwise nasthy weather to rescue others who have gotten caught in it. This is one of the busiest Coast Guard offices in America and, because the Columbia bar is so treacherous, there is a training facility here. The thought is that if you can maneuver your CG rescue boat in this weather and on this bar, you can maneuer your boat anywhere.

No exaggeration in this mock-up. This is the kind of water the CC goes out in. But the weather in the museum was so much more pleasant that what they face on a day to day basis.
There were several sections of the museum devoted to the salmon industry, several boats there and lots of pictures of canning factories.


Salmon was considered a ‘limitless resource’ just like the forests in the Northwest and many entepreneurs opened canning busineses on the Columbia, beginning in the 1860’s. Soon, it was one of the largest industries in the area and profits were soaring. In 1878, Columbia River canneries produced 460,000 cases of salmon. At $4220 a case, the total value of that years canning was $1,932,000 or about $31 million in today’s dollars. No wonder businessmen flocked to this area for a quick buck.
However, all good things come to an end, and by the start of the 20th Century, overfishing, logging, mining, pollution, irrigation, and the 1930’s dam construction all contributed to the degradation of the salmon grounds. The mature salmon couldn’t get up stream and, their spawn couldn’t get downstream. And, that was the end of the salmon canning industry in this area. Tuna then took over since it was a ‘limitless resource.’ We visited the Bumble Tuna factory later in the day to see how it looked when the tuna played out in this area.

Amazing how often we see a ‘limitless resource’, use it up and then move on to the next ‘limitless resource.’ When will we learn that there are no limitless resources.

I love maps and can spend hours looking at them, tracing journeys, imagining being there and reading names of exotic locales. Was I ever in 7th heaven when I went into the map room with beautiful old maps.

Recognize anything here? Well, I can see Florida, and Cuba and I can imagine South America and North America from the outlines here. This is the first map of America and the western hemisphere with any significant accuracy. In 1524, explorer Varrazzano sailed along the outer banks of North Carolina and believed that he could see the Pacific Ocean in the distance. That’s why there’s such a narrow corridor between the Atlantic and Pacific where we usually find New York. This map, published in 1544 by Sebastian Munster, Cosmographer was off but a good start.

Some of the maps are more works of art than real geography. This is the first printed map centering on the Pacific rather than the Atlantic. It’s from 1589. Note the Great Wall of China in the far upper left. South America, Central America and Baja California are pretty accurate but the Pacific Northwest is just a blob on the map. The ship in the lower Pacific is Magellan’s, the first to circumnavigate the globe.
I always like the flourishing touches that early map makers added to their maps.
But, I’ve indulged enough. Suffice it to say, I spent a bit of time in this room.

The museum had several examples of scrimshaw which is usually done on whale bone. This is done is an ostrich egg. I don’t have the patience to decorate a cake, much less an ostrich egg.
Outside the museum was the lightship Columbia. A lightship is a floating lighthouse placed where a lighthouse should be but when a lighthouse is impractical: when the water is too deep to build one, or when the island is too small. The lighthouse is anchored in place and marks the entrance to a bay or river or marks a dangerous rock or shoal.
In back of it is the US Legacy, an ‘uncruise’ liner. Pretty posh, I would guess. (I once read that POSH is an acronym for the best accommodations for the England to India trip: book the Port side Out to India and the Starboard side of the boat for the Homeward part of the journey.)

We took a walk along the bike path along the shore after our touring. We saw this bald eagle perched on an old pier,checking the water below to see if there is a meal,
and this old canning factory, left to deteriorate in the river.
We also saw the old abandoned Bumble Bee Tuna plant, with some old machinery, cans, pictures and signatures of many employees on a memory wall.



It’s not a very polished museum but is more a piece of Americana, left for us to explore. Volunteers (probably old employees) maintain the museum and it is in the very buildings where the canning was.

Time to head home. We’ve seen a lot of the history of Astoria, the explorers, the industries, the factories, the geography and how it’s made Astoria what it is today.

We got everything in that we had planned, saw a lot, learned more than we thought we would and even got a lunch in. Well, it was eating some protein and fiber bars in the car. Nothing like a bar in the car.

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