Cape Sebastian, Gold Beach

Cape Sebastian, Gold Beach

by | Nov 2, 2021

Cape Sebastian is a prominent headland with an elevation of about 640 feet (195 m) and is one of the 11 named capes along the Oregon coast, about 6.7 miles (10.8 km) south of Gold Beach and 3 miles (4.8 km) north of Pistol River, Oregon. The most conspicuous headlands were named by Spanish and British explorers who required navigational references for charts they made while sailing along the Pacific coast. Spanish expeditions arrived in the 17th century, often with Portuguese navigators, and named the more southern headlands such as Ferrelo, Sebastian, and Blanco. British explorers arrived in the 18th century and named the more northern headlands such as Meares, Foulweather, and Lookout. In 1603, Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno spotted a headland and named it Cape Saint Sebastian after the patron saint of the day of the discovery. Due to inaccurate navigational records of the time, the exact location of Vizcaino’s Cape Sebastian is difficult to verify, and in 1869, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey applied the name to this headland. The cape lies within the Cape Sebastian State Scenic Corridor, a state park that was acquired between 1925 and 1963 by purchases from several property owners. Trail and road improvements were started by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. In 1942, a park caretaker was checking the trail to the cape when he reputedly heard voices coming from the sea below the headland. A brief break in the fog revealed a submarine on the surface recharging its batteries, which was likely the Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-25.

I-25 was a submarine in the Imperial Japanese Navy that served in World War II and took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor and was the only submarine to carry out aerial bombing raids on the continental U.S. during the so-called Lookout Air Raids, and the shelling of Fort Stevens in Oregon. I-25 was 354 feet (108 m) long and carried a two-seater Yokosuka E14Y reconnaissance floatplane. The plane was stowed in a watertight hangar in front of the conning tower. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor on November 7, 1941, I-25 and eight other submarines sailed eastwards to patrol the west coast of the United States. I-25 patrolled off the mouth of the Columbia River. In June 1942, I-25 followed a fleet of fishing vessels to avoid minefields near the mouth of the Columbia River and fired 17 cannon shells at Battery Russell, a small U.S. Army coastal defense installation at Fort Stevens. The only significant damage to the fort was to a baseball backstop and some power and telephone lines. In September 1942, Warrant Officer Nobuo Fujita flew an incendiary bombing mission to trigger wildfires along the coast at Wheeler Ridge near Brookings, but light winds, wet weather, and two quick-acting fire lookouts kept the resulting fires under control. Later in September 1942, the seaplane was launched again off Cape Blanco but fire crews from the Gold Beach Ranger Station were unable to locate any evidence of the two incendiary bombs that were dropped. I-25 was sunk less than a year later during a series of naval engagements in the New Hebrides Islands. In 1962, Nobuo Fujita was invited back to Brookings to serve as Grand Marshal for a festival. At the festival, Fujita presented his family’s 400-year-old samurai sword to the city as a symbol of regret. Fujita made a number of additional visits to Brookings, serving as an informal ambassador of peace and friendship. Impressed by his welcome in the United States, in 1985, Fujita invited three students from Brookings to Japan. Fujita returned to Brookings in 1990, 1992, and 1995. In 1992, he planted a tree at the bomb site as a gesture of peace. In October 1998, his daughter buried some of his ashes at the bomb site.

The geology of Cape Sebastian was first mapped in 1916 and then in greater detail in 1961. The massive sandstone unit was later named the Cape Sebastian Sandstone having a cumulative thickness of about 1640 feet (500 m) that was deposited as marine sediment during the Cretaceous, a geological period that lasted from about 145 to 66 million years ago and is the third and final period of the Mesozoic Era. It was a period with a warm climate, resulting in high relative sea levels that created numerous shallow inland seas. These oceans and seas were populated with now-extinct marine reptiles, ammonites, while dinosaurs dominated on land. The world was ice-free, and forests extended to the poles. Cape Sebastian Sandstone is typically a conglomerate in its lower part with embedded small fossil oysters suggesting shallow, near-shore, and beach environments of deposition. It seems likely that the conglomerate was formed essentially in place and that the sands infiltrated around beach pebbles and cobbles as the area became submerged. As sea level rose during the Late Cretaceous, a series of embayments formed, and rivers deposited sands and mud that accumulated as deltas and shallow shelves. As the sea level rose further, the energy level of the depositional environments decreased and periodic influxes of mud produced alternating layers of sand and shale. In the early 1960s, a dinosaur fossil was discovered in the shallow-marine sandstone of a sea-cliff exposure at the southwestern tip of Cape Sebastian by paleontologists of the U.S. Geological Survey. In March 1969, the fossil was relocated, and based on a sketch, the bones were identified as a dinosaur. In 1994, the Northwest Museum of Natural History Association excavated the specimen and ascertained that the fossil is a sacrum. Preliminary preparation revealed at least eight sacral vertebrae, which suggested a hadrosaur. Hadrosaurs are known as duck-billed dinosaurs for the flat bones in their snouts and were among the most dominant herbivores during the Late Cretaceous in Asia and North America. Remains of terrestrial vertebrates are not common in marine sediments such as the Cape Sebastian Sandstone, but they do occur sporadically and hadrosaur fossils are more common than any other terrestrial dinosaur, but it is not well understood why. Read more here and here. Explore more of Cape Sebastian here:

About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2022 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

Credit: Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading). Click here for more information about the #warmingstripes.

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