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Researchers uncover origin of cannons found on beach at Arch Cape

Published: Monday, June 28, 2010, 7:59 PM     Updated: Monday, June 28, 2010, 8:21 PM
08-exposed.jpegView full sizeThis shows one of the cannons found at Arch Cape with nearly all deposits removed from the outside.
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Researchers are one step closer to identifying the origin of two historic cannons found more than two years ago near Arch Cape. They also can now say conclusively where the remarkably well-preserved cannons were made.

Tualatin beachcomber Miranda Petrone spotted a part of one of the cannons while walking on the beach with her dad, Michael Petrone, in February 2008. They didn't know what they'd stumbled upon until they dug deeper and recognized the emerging shape. The second cannon was soon discovered nearby. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department removed the antique weapons from the beach and stored them first in water tanks, then moved them to the Center for Marine Archaeology and Conservation at Texas A&M University.

Now, researchers said, after months of working to delicately remove the hard layer of sand and rock coating the cannons, they have uncovered the symbol of a broad arrow engraved on the surface of one of the cannons.

"That broad-headed arrow mark indicates the cannon originated with the British Royal Navy," said Chris Havel, parks spokesman. "That's conclusive as to the maker of the cannon."

11-arrow-mark.jpegView full sizeBroad arrow symbol engraved on cannon by maker, showing it originated with the British Royal Navy.
It also leads researchers to believe that, as suspected, the cannons likely came from the USS Shark, a Navy vessel that sank on the Columbia River bar. Three of the Shark's cannons broke away from the wreck. One was found in 1898 in the Arch Cape area, but the other two remained missing.

"The Shark was built in 1821," Havel said. "It was in that period that the U.S. Navy was buying a lot of its armaments from the British Royal Navy. Those two pieces of the puzzle fit together pretty well."

But that still doesn't prove that the cannons came from the Shark. To do that, researchers will need to uncover more evidence.

"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," state Archaeologist Dennis Griffin said in a statement. "This is where it gets interesting and exciting. What more clues will we find as the lab continues to work?"

Havel said the researchers will look for more marks and numbers that match Navy records for the Shark. "Every time a piece of major equipment like a cannon is installed on a ship, they keep a record of it," he said.

The work could take years. Meanwhile, those entrusted with the care and research of the cannons are enjoying the privilege.

"Yes, there is corrosion," Havel said. "But it's remarkable how intact the cannon is under the rock and sand. I've seen cannons pulled up out of river bottoms and lakes that were horribly pitted and barely recognizable. To see these beautiful cannons emerge after 160 years buried on the ocean floor, it's tremendous and delightful. You are seeing this beautiful piece of history emerge and you can almost imagine what it looked like when it went down it is so intact."

-- Lori Tobias 
Related topics: arch cape, cannons, uss shark

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eastcomom June 28, 2010 at 5:23PM

Cool. Absolutely cool.

I walk this same area on many weekend excursions over to the beach. Would that I could unearth such a true treasure. Fantastic. Something to dream about the next time I am over there.

Keep your eyes peeled people. You too could find something as rare and extraordinary and historic as this, too. Soooooooooooo cool. I am very impressed.

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alicynx June 28, 2010 at 5:36PM

I think it's sad that we don't have a local marine archaeology office, beings as we're on the coast and certainly equipped to have a top notch facility. It's sort of like a cattle ranch shipping in hamburger...

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RedFly June 28, 2010 at 5:53PM

Or building bike lanes and providing scholarships with water and sewer money.

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lost2time June 28, 2010 at 8:33PM

We use our money for sidewalks east of 82nd. Wait - sorry- there aren't any.

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