Wooden Shipwreck Exposed on Ocean Beach

By Matt Baume
|  Monday, Jan 3, 2011  |  Updated 7:30 AM PDT
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Wooden Shipwreck Exposed on Ocean Beach

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Keep your eyes peeled on Ocean Beach: you might catch a little glimpse of history.

The King Phillip has made one of its rare appearances after the recent deluge of rain and wind. A clipper ship that was wrecked on the beach in the late 1800s, the King Phillip pokes its head above the sand every now and then before disappearing back beneath the surface.

Its last appearance was as recent as November, but it's been known to vanish for decades. Since it's on federally protected land, it's a crime to damage the historic remains. But historians are free to come by for a close inspection.

Currently, both the bow and stern are visible at low tide.

It was rough weather that originally sunk the ship. It dropped anchor off the coast, but the waves eventually cast it up onto the beach. After it ran aground, a notoriously shameless publication known as the "Chronicle" issued rumors that the captain had been drunk. His crew promptly refuted the gossip. It was a rare show of solidarity: previous crews on the ship had mutinied.

"With the parting of the cable, the ship roils at the mercy of a pitiless, heavy sea," went one newspaper account. "On the Cliff House veranda, on the beach, in the Park, anxious watchers, hoping for some relief. Tossing, pitching, rolling, tugging at her anchors, she holds on for hours in the fearful surf."

After it beached, the ship was stripped of valuables, then most of it was demolished with explosions. But bits and pieces still remain, nearly a century and a half later.

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