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Found Cannons Likely From 1846 Navy Shipwreck Email

Monday, 28 June 2010 00:00
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 October 2010 15:10

CANNON BEACH, Ore. -- Conservation work at Texas A&M University on the two historic cannons recovered from the beach at Arch Cape on the Oregon coast two yeasr ago is starting to show results - and pointing toward their likely origins as an 1846 Navy shipwreck, officials said Monday.

The cannons, found in February 2008 by teen beachcomber Miranda Petrone while walking at Arch Cape with her father, were recovered from the ocean shore by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, with help from Arch Cape officials.

Arch Cape is on the north Oregon coast between Oswald West State Park and -- quite fittingly -- Cannon Beach.

The cannons were heavily coated by a concretion -- a thick, hard layer of solidified sand and rock -- after being buried deep on the beach for an unknown amount of time.

It is possible the two cannons are the remnants of the 1846 wreck of the USS Shark, a US Navy vessel that sank on the Columbia Bar. Three of the Shark's cannons broke away from the wreck, and one was recovered from the Arch Cape area in 1898. The other two were never found.

After being removed from the beach, the two cannons were temporarily stored in water tanks at a nearby state park. In early 2009, the department signed a contract with the Center for Marine Archaeology and Conservation at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

Since April 2009, the lab has been soaking the artifacts, to remove corrosive salt. Using hand-held tools, graduate students at the lab began to delicately remove the concretions under the guidance of lab director Jim Jobling.

After months of work, the lab has successfully revealed the metal and wood of one cannon. A symbol resembling a broad arrow is engraved on the cannon's surface, proving the cannon was at one time the property of the British Royal Navy. The early American navy frequently purchased cannon and other gear from overseas in the first half of the 19th century.

"We still don't know exactly where these cannons came from, but the information revealed by the lab is certainly pointing toward the USS Shark theory," said State Archaeologist Dennis Griffin of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

"This is where it gets interesting and exciting. What more clues will we find as the lab continues to work? What questions will be answered, and what new ones will be posed? We'll find out as the lab continues to do their excellent work."

The lab's physical work could still take several years to complete. As the group removes concretions, they then must chemically treat the wood and metal parts to shield them from corrosion.

The cannons will return to Oregon after the lab finishes conservation. A local, state and federal advisory team will make a recommendation to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department about long-term curation and public display of the artifacts.

Courtesy KTVZ Bend