Mary D. Hume, Rogue River

Mary D. Hume, Rogue River

by | Jun 27, 2023

Mary D. Hume sank in 1984 on the south bank of the Rogue River during a restoration effort to convert the vessel to a museum ship for the Curry County Historical Society and now rests on the bottom in shallow water with a portion of the hull and superstructure exposed at low tide near Gold Beach, Oregon. Mary D. Hume was originally designed as a coastal freighter and tow boat and built of timbers cut from the Coast Range and floated down the Rogue River. The keel is a single beam of Port Orford cedar measuring 10 inches (25 cm) by 36 inches (91 cm) by 140 feet (43 m) long. The ship’s frame timbers were hand-cut from Port Orford cedar roots, and planking was secured to the frames with wood pegs called trunnels. The ship was built by Robert D. Hume, a pioneer and early businessman of Ellensburg, which is present-day Gold Beach, and christened after his wife and launched in 1881 as a schooner-rigged auxiliary steamer with a length of 96 feet (29 m), a beam of 22 feet (6.7 m), a draft of 9 feet (2.7 m) and displaced 150 tons. The steam engine was salvaged from the Varuna, another vessel owned by Hume that wrecked on the Rogue River bar.

Mary D. Hume was first engaged in the coastal trade, hauling cargo between San Francisco and Gold Beach. In 1889, the ship was sold to the Pacific Steam Whaling Company of San Francisco and re-rigged as a brigantine for use as a whaler in the Arctic at Herschel Island in Mackenzie Bay off the north coast of Canada. During the first Arctic voyage, the main mast and fore-topmast were lost in a gale south of the Aleutian Islands. After repairs in Unalaska, Mary D. Hume proceeded to the Arctic and from 1890 to 1892 caught 37 whales valued at $400,000. The second voyage lasted 6 years from 1893 to 1899 and is among the longest recorded whaling voyages in American history. On the return voyage, four boats were lost during a storm and hatches were torn off causing leaks that stopped the engine. In 1900, Mary D. Hume was sold to the Northwest Fisheries Company for use as a cannery tender in Alaskan waters, and four years later she sank in ice in the Nushagak River on Bristol Bay. The vessel was salvaged and taken to Seattle for repairs. About 1906 or 1908, she was acquired by the American Tug Boat Company of Everett, Washington and began a long career as a barge and log-towing boat on Puget Sound. Housing with two levels was added sometime in the early 20th century. In 1954, the steam engine was replaced with a 600-horsepower diesel engine. In 1973, the American Tug Boat Company was purchased by Crowley Maritime Corporation of Seattle and Mary D. Hume continued working as a tugboat.

In 1977, Mary D. Hume was retired as the oldest commercial vessel in service in the Pacific Northwest and the last of the Arctic steam whalers constructed on the West Coast to remain afloat. The historical significance of the ship’s association with the southern Oregon coast and the start of the salmon canning industry by Robert D. Hume prompted Crowley Maritime Corporation to recondition the vessel and make it available to the Curry County Historical Society. Mary D. Hume returned to Gold Beach, where the vessel was moored near the site of initial construction and plans were made for maintenance and permanent display as an historical exhibit. A cradle was constructed beside the dock where Mary D. Hume would be displayed as a museum ship. On November 13, 1985, an attempt was made to place the ship in the support cradle, but a lifting sling broke causing the ship to sink in shallow water. Several salvage attempts were made but they all failed, and the vessel is now derelict partially exposed by low tides. Read more here and here. Explore more of Mary D. Hume and the Rogue River 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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