I'm going!!! Tonight!!!
The bones of a 129-year old shipwreck that surfaced on San Francisco's Ocean Beach this week appear and disappear every 20 years or so, like Brigadoon, the mythical Scots village that appears out of the spring mist.
The wreck is of the clipper ship King Philip, which appeared out of the sand Monday. The King Philip was wrecked at high tide in January 1878 and shows itself on very low tides every so often. The last time the ship showed up was after storms in 1985.
The King Philip's latest appearance has drawn hundreds of people, who come and stare at the old ship's timbers, which are awash where the foamy surf meets the shore at the foot of Noriega Street.
"It's wonderful,'' said Stephen Haller, a National Park Service historian who is one of the authors of a book on shipwrecks of the Golden Gate region. "People can see history right under their feet.''
A small piece of wood no bigger than Haller's foot was all that poked though the sand at the stern of the ship. The bow, 174 feet north, was much more impressive. Its pointed prow rose several feet out of the wet sand, exposing vertical ribs, a double row of sealing planks on the interior of the hull and wooden pegs called trunnels holding exterior sheathing planks.
Ocean Beach is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, so the wreck is federal property, like Alcatraz, or Half Dome in Yosemite. "I would hope the public treats the ship with respect,'' Haller said.
So far people have treated the relic with curiosity and awe.
Mila Zinkova and George Kaskanlian live nearby. They'd taken sea trips to Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands. And here was history on their doorstep. "It's just amazing,'' said Zinkova. "I put a picture of it on a Wikipedia site for Ocean Beach history.''
Like most artifacts from the past, the King Philip comes with a story.
The vessel was built as a full-rigged, three-masted clipper ship -- one of those long, lean ships that historian Samuel Eliot Morison called "the noblest of all sailing vessels.''
American clippers were built to sail from the East Coast to San Francisco around Cape Horn at the tip of South America. They carried high-value cargo and were built for speed, as the 19th century defined it. The fastest of the clippers, the famous Flying Cloud, made the trip from New York to San Francisco, 14,500 miles, in 89 days, eight hours, a record that stood for 135 years until a yacht broke it in 1989.
The King Philip -- named for the Indian chief who was involved in King Philip's war in 1675 -- was not as fast as the fastest clipper. It was launched in 1856, in Alna, Maine, and was advertised as "a strictly first-class clipper ship with quick dispatch.''
However the King Philip was advertised, it seemed to have been a hard-luck ship. There were at least two mutinies -- one in Honolulu in 1869 and one off Annapolis, Md., five years later. In both cases, the mutinous sailors set the ship on fire, seriously damaging it twice.
"They worked the ship hard in those days,'' said James Delgado, a maritime historian, "and they worked the crews hard, too."
After its glory days as a clipper, the King Philip went into the lumber trade, working for Pope and Talbot, a San Francisco lumber merchant.
The King Philip was old for a wooden ship, and the best cargo went to newer iron and steel sailing ships, and steamers. The King Philip carried grain and even guano, a fine name for bird droppings used as fertilizer.
On Jan. 25, 1878, the King Philip left San Francisco without cargo -- in ballast, sailors call it. It was customary in those days for steam tugs to tow sailing ships out of the Golden Gate.
There were two other sailing ships in the area, and one of them -- the collier Western Shore, had a serious accident in which the captain was killed. The tug went off to help the other ship, and the King Philip dropped anchor. The seas were heavy, the ship rolled, and the anchor did not hold.
The King Philip ran up on Ocean Beach at high tide and was stranded there, high and dry. No one was killed but the ship was a total loss. The next day, the wreck was sold at auction to a San Francisco businessman named John Molloy for $1,050.
He salvaged the metal fastenings, cut down the masts and sails, and blew up the hulk with black powder.
Storms and human activity -- like building the Great Highway or the San Francisco sewer outfall, changed the beach.
Now the King Philip has appeared again. Haller says the low tides from now until the weekend, will make the ship visible most afternoons for at least a while.
"I thought it was really romantic,'' said Darla Bernard, of San Francisco, who stopped by with her dog, Kodi, to see the ship. "Until I learned that the Philip used to haul manure.'
STOLEN from the blogs of John & James Sakkis:
Here's the tide chart for the next few days. Since the moon is near the New Moon phase, it's pull is waning. In two weeks the tide will get lower and the wreck will become more visible.
2007-05-10 12:31 PM PDT -0.07 feet Low Tide
2007-05-10 7:59 PM PDT 4.78 feet High Tide
2007-05-10 8:08 PM PDT Sunset
2007-05-11 1:30 AM PDT 2.30 feet Low Tide
2007-05-11 6:03 AM PDT Sunrise
2007-05-11 7:04 AM PDT 4.45 feet High Tide
2007-05-11 1:24 PM PDT 0.19 feet Low Tide
2007-05-11 8:09 PM PDT Sunset
2007-05-11 8:33 PM PDT 5.18 feet High Tide
2007-05-12 2:29 AM PDT 1.47 feet Low Tide
2007-05-12 6:02 AM PDT Sunrise
2007-05-12 8:24 AM PDT 4.39 feet High Tide
2007-05-12 2:15 PM PDT 0.54 feet Low Tide
2007-05-12 8:10 PM PDT Sunset
2007-05-12 9:08 PM PDT 5.61 feet High Tide
2007-05-13 3:21 AM PDT 0.55 feet Low Tide
2007-05-13 6:01 AM PDT Sunrise
2007-05-13 9:40 AM PDT 4.44 feet High Tide
2007-05-13 3:03 PM PDT 0.94 feet Low Tide
2007-05-13 8:11 PM PDT Sunset
2007-05-13 9:43 PM PDT 6.04 feet High Tide
2007-05-14 4:11 AM PDT -0.34 feet Low Tide
2007-05-14 6:00 AM PDT Sunrise
2007-05-14 10:49 AM PDT 4.54 feet High Tide
2007-05-14 3:50 PM PDT 1.39 feet Low Tide