Point Grenville, Quinault Nation

Point Grenville, Quinault Nation

by | Apr 26, 2021

Point Grenville is a headland with cliffs 120 feet (37 m) high, located on the Quinault Nation lands about 5.6 miles (9 km) north of Moclips and 3 miles (5 km) south-southeast of Taholah, Washington. On July 12, 1775, Bruno de Heceta, Juan Perez Hernández, and others from the Spanish ship Santiago landed on the shore of the wide bay south of Point Grenville and claim Nueva Galicia (the Pacific Northwest) for Spain. This was the first European landing on the coast of the future Washington State. The point was named Punta de Los Mártires (Point of the Martyrs) in response to an attack by the local Quinault Natives. Captain George Vancouver sailed by on April 28, 1792, and named the point for Lord William Grenville who was the Secretary of State for the United Kingdom at that time. From 1949 to 1979, the U.S. Coast Guard operated a LORAN-A radio navigation station at Point Grenville. The point is considered sacred by the Quinault and is now the site of the Quinault Nations’ Haynisisoos Park.

Point Grenville and the nearby sea stacks of the Copalis National Wildlife Refuge are composed largely of volcanic rock, a material more resistant to erosion than most other rock formations along the coast. These volcanic rocks were formed many millions of years ago when hot magma was spewed onto an ocean floor from fractures in the earth’s crust. The rapid cooling of the magma by seawater formed a highly fractured and glass-like igneous rock that is now poorly welded together with secondary minerals. These rocks are sometimes referred to as breccia. Some of the ocean floor mud was incorporated in the volcanic material and can now be seen, particularly on the southeast side of the point, as somewhat contorted and irregular beds of siltstone. Microscopic fossils from these siltstone beds indicate that they were deposited some 45 to 50 million years ago, in middle Eocene time. These fossils represent the oldest geologic record known in the rocks along the coast between this point and the Hoh River. Crustal movements have been nearly continuous since the rocks of Point Grenville were formed, and over the centuries have been contorted. Today, these rocks are steeply tilted and form one of the major promontories along the Washington coast.

Point Grenville is known for green flash sightings, an optical phenomenon that occurs under certain meteorological conditions just after sunset on the west coast. Green flashes are best observed from locations with an unobstructed ocean horizon such as capes and headlands. The phenomenon is explained by the scattering of sunlight through the atmosphere when the sun is just below the horizon so that the distance light travels through the atmosphere to the observer’s eye is maximized. All the colors of light are preferentially scattered, and the only remaining wavelength corresponds to green light. When the conditions are right, with a clear and still atmosphere, a distinct green spot is briefly visible above the upper rim of the Sun’s disk. The green light usually lasts for no more than a second or two. Read more here and here. Explore more of Point Grenville here:

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