Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Site Image
Arch Cape cannon updates
Jump to our other cannon pages
Cannon homeArchaeology reportVideosPhotosRight now

One cannon revealed
The Conservation Research Lab at Texas A&M University has made significant progress peeling back the hard shell of rock and sand that built up around the cannon while they were buried on the beach. Visit the photos page for the latest images, and check out the cool 3D model video that shows a cannon the way it looked when it was dug up out of the sand.
After removing the rock on one cannon, the lab uncovered an arrow-shaped mark on the cannon's surface, a telling sign that indicates the cannon was made in England and was part of the British Royal Navy at one time. The US Navy bought many such armaments to outfit its young fleet in the 1800s.

Work is making progress
The professional and student marine artifact conservation team at Texas A&M University is making good progress removing century's-old concretions covering the Arch Cape cannnon. Read their latest report, or take a look at the photos they just sent!
The work is painstaking and meticulous. Using a small, air-powered pick (looks like the tip of a medium-sized knitting needle), they delicately vibrate the sand-and-rock shell covering the cannon loose. Once the cannon are free from their rock shell, the team will move on to treat the wood and metal so it can survive contact with the air.

Cannon are now in Texas
We've signed a contract with Texas A&M University to start work conserving the cannon, and delivered the cannon to their lab near College Station, Texas. This will involve sucking more salt out of the artifacts (they'll soak in an enormous tank for months), then removing the hardened shell of rock and sand, more salt removal (by soaking in a different tank and using electricity), and then coating with tannic acid and wax. Along the way, the conservation team will carefully pick the concretions off and look for surface marking that might nail down exactly where the cannon were made and what ship they were assigned to (smart money is still on the USS Shark, of course).
We'll get photos and video from the lab periodically as they do their work, which will probably take years. After the cannon have gone through this process, they'll be coming back to Oregon for public display. Check out our photos and video pages to see the lab!

Contractor and location update
We're negotiating contract terms with Texas A&M University (College Station, TX). The lab there has years of experience conserving marine artifacts, especially cannon. While we're doing the paperwork, the cannon have been moved from Nehalem Bay State Park to secure, indoor storage at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem (the fair and expo center are part of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department). We'll keep up with the regular weekly service -- changing the water, adding borax -- until the cannon head out to Texas for what will probably be several years of conservation work.
Shipping the cannon to Texas remains a challenge, but we have high hopes we'll be able to recruit a partner who can help us with the cost.
For now, the cannon are in good hands. The Nehalem Bay State Park crew did a terrific job from Day 1 ... protecting the cannon, becoming their caretaker, and telling their story. We'll let you know when the contract is signed and we have some idea about shipping.

The hunt begins
We're looking for a professional artifact conservator to work on the cannon
Most people who saw the cannon this summer were a bit surprised. They don't look much like cannons right now. More like big, blobby rocks. The fantastic crew at Nehalem Bay State Park have been the cannons' guardians since February, keeping them in tubs of water to draw out the corrosive salt. The next steps, though, involve some pretty specialized and technical skills ... the sorts of things professional marine artifact people know how to do. We need to hire an organization to do the work -- including removing the thick layer of concretions so we can finally see what's beneath -- and it will take years.

We have called for bids, and firms from around the nation are expected to respond. Here's what we're asking them to do:
"This project involves the conservation of two historic, early 19th-century cannons (including chain segments) that were discovered in February 2008 at Arch Cape along the Oregon Coast near Nehalem Bay State Park. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has taken the lead in handling the cannons, including removing them from the beach and housing them in tanks of water until more advanced conservation processes could be undertaken. The cannons are encrusted in concretions from 160+ years underwater and are largely unrecognizable as cannons. The primary goals of the conservation project are to preserve the historic materials to the greatest degree possible and to return the cannons to a condition and appearance that allows them to serve a long-term interpretive role in a museum."
The Oregon State Parks Trust will do some fundraising to help pay for the work (you can make a donation by printing out this form!), and we'll cover the whatever donations don't. The bidding closes September 16, and then our state archaeologist (Dennis Griffin) and a couple members of the volunteer advisory team will look them over and do the negotiating thing. We'll keep you updated here.

Viewing & History Detectives!
The final public viewing is Sunday, Aug. 31 at Nehalem Bay State Park from 1-2 p.m. Busy weekend ... carpool if you can.
The PBS series "The History Detectives" has produced an episode on the cannon. It will air in Oregon on this schedule:
Episode: #609, 56 minutes
Encrusted objects on the Oregon coast may house cannons from the 1846 shipwreck of the USS Shark.
HDTV 10.1 Friday, September 12, 2008 at 7:00 AM
HDTV 10.1 Sunday, September 14, 2008 at 9:00 AM
HDTV 10.1 Monday, September 15, 2008 at 9:00 PM
TV Monday, September 15, 2008 at 9:00 PM
TV Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 3:00 AM
HDTV 10.1 Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 11:00 PM
TV Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 11:00 PM
PBS viewers in other areas of the country will see the epsiode a week earlier (Sept. 8 ... check your local listings).
The show production crew (based out of Oregon Public Broadcasting), were a real joy to work with. They did their homework, really got the story, and even arranged donations to cover x-rays through Fuji Corp and PSI.

Next public viewing Aug. 2
Posted July 24
The next public cannon viewing is Aug. 2 from 1-2 p.m. in the Nehalem Bay State Park maintenance yard.
A special treat after this viewing: drop by the campground amphitheater at Nehalem Bay State Park at 8:30 p.m. to hear National Park Service historian Greg Shine talk about the USS Shark - his speciality. Greg really knows his stuff ... you may have heard him speak either at Fort Vancouver where he works, or at a recent Portland presentation sponsored by the Oregon Historical Society. The guy's passionate about this chapter in Oregon history.
We're getting ready to issue a request to have conservation organizations bid on the work to stabilize the cannon and prepare them for public display. Updates coming!

Work mostly behind the scenes
Posted June 20
Been a while between updates, so here's a catch-you-up.
The next public viewing is July 5, from 1-2 p.m. Carpool or find some other way to reaxch the park ... this is a hgoliday weekend and parking will be tight. The viewing is in the Nehalem Bay State PArk maintenance yard (there will be signs ... it's just inside the netarnce to the park).
We had an exciting time in May. Oregon Public Broadcasting produces TV episodes for the nationally-broadcast show History Detectives. They're producing a show on the cannon with the question: Are these from the USS Shark? To help gather more information on their origin, the show arranged for some x-rays of the cannon. Fuji Corportation donated time on one of their portable x-ray machines, and a company called PSI from Portland volunteered their time as industrial radiographers. It was a challenge to get some good, clear images, but they did produce a couple. It was cool to watch them in action, and the x-rays give us a peek beneath the heavy, crusty shell (made of sand and iron, sort of a natural concrete). Here's a sample:

You can see the fullsize photos on our photo page ... just scroll to the bottom. We also had a another volunteer ... from another northwest outfit called EpicScan ... bring a laser-powered 3D object scanner out to create a digital model of the encrusted cannon. We'll bring this to you when it's ready. All these people ... OPB, History Detectives, Fuji, PSI, Epic Scan ... deserve a big round of applause for stepping up.
Our advisory committee is working on some documents right now we can use to select an outfit to do the conservation and restoration work. They're making good progress ... hard workers, all ... but stuff like this always takes longer than you thought it would. Everyone wants to do it right, and sometimes that means taking it slow.

USS Shark presentation on 5/8
Posted 5/5
Greg Shine, Chief Ranger and Historian at the National Park Service's Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, is an expert on the USS Shark. The Shark visited what is now Oregon in 1846, just as the debate over where to draw our nation's boundary with British-ruled Canada was coming to a head. The Shark wrecked at the mouth of the Columbia River. Three of its cannon floated down to Arch Cape on a chunk of the ship's deck. They could be (could be) the same cannon found by Miranda Petrone near Arch Cape in February (one other cannon, also presumed to be from the Shark, was found on the same beach in 1898).
Greg will present a paper on the Shark at an event hosted by the Oregon Historical Society on May 8 (that's this Thursday). Details:
Sympathy and Prompt Attentions: the US Schooner Shark in the Oregon Country, 1846
May 8, 2008, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Ave., Portland, Oregon.
For more information, read the news release (Acrobat required).

Public viewing and team update
May 2, 2008
The public viewing on April 29 was fantastic. There were a dozen or so people around mid-day, but the real treat came in the morning. About 50 north coast schoolkids came out and heard about the artifacts and the possibility they're from the Shark. Seeing kids like these get excited about history and reach out and touch a piece of Oregon's past was amazing.

The advisory team (see list below) met the same day, and we got a lot done. Our first order of business is to figure out how we're going to select a professional contractor to work on the artifacts -- safely getting the thick shell of the concretions off, and making it possible to put these on public display. The process takes years and is delicate work, so we want to be careful and select the right organization for the job. We're lucky to have professional archaeologists and historians working for our Department to steer the team forward.
Some more photos are online. A TV program called The History Detectives is filming a show on the mystery of the cannons' origin. Our very own Oregon Public Broadcasting produces some of the episodes televised nationally. We'll share some of those details next week.

Next public viewing set
Posted April 11 // public viewing date is April 29
The cannon are sitting in tanks of water, drawing out the salt and protecting them from the air. This prevents further corrosion. Once a week, we change the water, and can sometimes open our maintenance area to visitors so you can get a closer look at the artifacts. The next public viewing will be on April 29 from 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m..
Cannon in tub

Advisory team formed
Posted Apr. 4, 2008
We have a team! Local, state and federal partners have stepped up to help us come up with a plan to protect and display the cannon. Here they are as of today:
  • Roger Roper, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Assistant Director, advisory team leader
  • Dennis Griffin, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, state archaeologist
  • Jerry Ostermiller, Columbia Maritime Museum
  • John Williams, Cannon Beach Historical Society and Cannon Beach Mayor
  • Dale Mosby, Arch Cape Community
  • Julie Curtis, Oregon Department of State Lands
  • Greg Shine, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
  • Dr. Bob Neyland, US Navy
  • Cyndi Mudge, Destination The Pacific
  • Deborah Wood, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park
  • David Brauner, Oregon State University
  • Pam Endzweig, University of Oregon
  • Dave Eshbaugh, Oregon State Parks Trust
Thanks to these folks for agreeing to give us some much-needed advice. The team will discuss how best to preserve the cannon (which could involve paying specialists tens of thousands of dollars to work on the artifacts for a couple of years), and then how to display them afterward.

Cannon education day
March 18, 2008
We had more than 150 schoolkids come out from Cannon Beach and other nearby communities. Check out our video page for the highlights, but the Nehalem Bay State Park crew did a fantastic job exploring naval cannon technology, the history of the USS Shark, even why things buried on the beach end up all crusty. The whole crew pitched in, but park interpreter Shelley Parker led the charge with help from Ramona Radonich, John Benson and Jim Newell.

Cannon stored in water tanks
Feb. 19, 2008
Cannon found at Arch Cape have been moved to Nehalem Bay State Park. Dennis Griffin, the state archaeologist, supervised. Dennis is part of our Heritage Programs Division. The people in this part of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department are the specialists who help land owners and other government agencies understand the importance of Oregon's history (and pre-history). They provide advice, permits and other aid when people need expert help understanding state and federal laws.
Using some heavy equipment, straps, shovels and a lot of care, state park staff carefully excavated around the cannon and hoisted them up on to a truck. They drove the two cannon to Nehalem Bay State Park, purchased large stock tanks to hold them, and lowered them in. You can see video.
Several universities and businesses contacted Dennis when the story broke, and lent advice on what we should do with the cannon until we figure out what should happen to the cannon. They advised keeping the cannon under water; exposure to the air could cause a lot of damage. We'll keep them in the tanks, changing the water once a week, and get to work on figuring out what the next steps are. We'll need help with that ...

Cannon found at Arch Cape
Feb 18, 2008
An alert teen stumbled into history over President's Day weekend. Miranda Petrone was walking with her Dad on the beach near Arch Cape (on the north Oregon coast south of Cannon Beach). We lose beach sand in winter in Oregon ... the waves take their toll. We've had a particularly strong winter storm season, and this beach had lost sand 10-15' deep in places, exposing centuries-old tree stumps. Miranda saw a stump ... with rusty bits. This is where alertness pays off ... she knew it was something more than another cool ancient tree relic.
Cannon Beach, just north, is so named for a cannon recovered in the mid-1800s. The salvaged cannon was one of three that washed up here in 1846, after the wreck of a U.S. Navy survey ship, the USS Shark. One of the three was hauled off the beach, but the other two were left on the beach ... and lost.
The crowds gathered, and our local state park staff (out of Nehalem Bay State Park, just south) brought in our North Coast Beach Ranger to survey the scene. Another visitor found a second cannon-shaped lump, much closer to the ocean than the first. The tide was very low, and storms were poised to move in. Staff acted quickly, with fast help from the Arch Cape community. The second cannon was photographed in place (that's important to archaeologists), then moved up to the first cannon. Even this high position wasn't safe from high tide, though.
The beach here below the high tide line is owned by the public ... the Department of State Lands. They signed off on an archaeological permit, giving us permission to move the cannon off the beach before the ocean moves back in and reclaims its prize. Now all we need is the means and a place to store them.