Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

What We Lost

Astoria, Oregon

Astoria is the oldest European settlement west of the Mississippi River.

First we visited the Astoria Tower. It was built on a hilltop overlooking the little port of Astoria. The story that celebrates the Lewis and Clark expedition that arrived at the mouth of the wild Columbia River in 1805 is wrapped on the tower in word and mural. You would have to walk rapidly around the tower about 15 times to get the whole story. Our legs feel very rubbery after walking up the 160 stairs to the top of the tower.

We spent time in the Astoria Maritime Museum. The Columbia River is an unforgiving place to sail into. "Crossing the Bar" where the massive output of the Columbia meets the wild Pacific has done in thousands of ships and small boats. We watch a movie about the specialized river pilots and "bar" pilots that help the ships navigate in and out of the Columbia.

The early settlers here pretty much wiped out the fur-bearing creatures in a few years and turned to salmon fishing. The apparently inexhaustible supply of salmon led to the establishment of dozens of canneries. There are pictures in the museum of horses drawing in nets with 60,000 pounds of Chinook salmon in each net. Fat, healthy fish, averaging 50 pounds each.

The wild Columbia has been tamed into a series of placid lakes by 13 great hydro-electric dams. A few confused salmon and sturgeon make their way up specially constructed salmon runs around the dams. Sea Lions have discovered these runs and gorge themselves on the spawning salmon, often staring directly into video cameras.

We are near a factory that hunted whales for mink feed and fertilizer until the 1972 ban on whale killing was established. They used to make ladies corsets out of the baleen that whales use to filter plankton and pretty much hunted that species to extinction.

Back down in Trinidad, California the second growth redwoods are only about 100 years old and five feet in diameter. Everywhere you look you see 18 foot diameter stumps that were logged out as if we had a license to cut down or kill anything with commercial value.


  1. I'm jealous. Spent 35 years in many parts of Oregon, including Coos Bay and Coquille, Portland, Salem, and Roseburg. You're lucky you're on the coast right now, though. Too hot elsewhere.

  2. It's a lovely state...but time to leave now. Take a shot of transmission fluid and away we run....