Boiler Bay is a rocky embayment 0.6 miles (1 km) wide between Government Point to the south and Rabbit Rock to the north, about 9 miles (14.5 km) south of Lincoln City and 1.6 miles (2.6 km) north of Depoe Bay, Oregon. The Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint is on Government Point and overlooks the Boiler Bay Research Reserve, a marine protected area that includes basalt bluffs and ledges, breaking waves, tide pools, and boulder and sandy beaches. As a designated research reserve managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the collection of intertidal shellfish and invertebrates is limited to abalone, clams, Dungeness crab, red rock crab, mussels, piddocks, scallops, and shrimp. Otherwise, a scientific collection permit is required. The bay was historically known as Briggs Landing for Joe Briggs, an early settler who lived nearby. The bay was renamed after a dramatic shipwreck that occurred here in 1910.
The J. Marhoffer was a single screw steam schooner driven by a triple expansion, compound steam engine, 175 feet (53 m) long, built in 1907 by Lindstrom Shipyard in Aberdeen, Washington by John E. Lindstrom Jr. On May 18, 1910, the vessel was northbound for Portland, Oregon from San Francisco under the command of Captain Gustave Peterson. According to crew accounts, the junior engineer apparently tried to light a new gas torch and lost control of the flame which quickly spread throughout the oily engine room. The engine continued to turn but was burning so hot that none of the crew could get close enough to extinguish the fire. Captain Peterson gave the order to abandon the ship, altering his course for the rocky shore 3 miles (5 km) east. Peterson’s wife, the ship’s dog, and half the crew were dispatched to a lifeboat that headed for shore. The captain and the rest of the crew followed in the second lifeboat a few minutes later. The ship in flames was seen from shore at Depoe Bay and Lincoln City and soon a crowd of spectators had gathered to watch the burning ship crash on the rocks. The abandoned J. Marhoffer ran aground on the rocky ledges, heeled way over to starboard and burned until the tanks exploded shooting timbers and chunks of steel into the trees a quarter of a mile (0.4 km) inland. The vessel was destroyed but nobody onshore was injured by the explosion. The lifeboats initially headed for a sandy beach at the mouth of Fogarty Creek turned around and rowed 3 miles (5 km) south to Whale Cove where they landed safely on the beach. The only fatality was the ship’s cook, who was severely burned. The rest of the crew and passengers, 19 in all, made it safely to shore. The remains of the vessel were left in the bay, including the steam engine boiler, which today can still be seen at very low tides on the same rocky ledges used by marine researchers for ecological studies.
Within the coastal ocean, the current focus for many experimental and theoretical studies is on kelp forests and rocky intertidal communities such as those at Boiler Bay. One of the greatest challenges for conservation biologists is to unravel the causes of changes in these ecological systems. All conservation efforts in the nearshore environment, such as the design of marine protected areas and fisheries management decisions, are crucially dependent on understanding these ecological dynamics. The coastal ocean is one of the most important and dynamic regions of the world. It is a critical habitat for more than 90% of all marine organisms and these are strongly affected by physical conditions, including winds, waves, salinity, as well as the geomorphology and topography of the seafloor and coastline. Changes in these environmental conditions can drastically affect the abundance and size of marine organisms, as well as the complexity of community structure. In order to understand how coastal ecosystems will be affected by natural and human-caused environmental changes, ecologists must understand the complex interplay between the physical forces and biological communities. Boiler Bay is one of many study sites on the west coast of North America where ecologists are gaining an understanding of these system dynamics. Read more here and here. Explore more of Boiler Bay and the Oregon coast here: