Tuesday, May 15, 2007

An Interesting Find Close to Home

There are a lot of interesting things in and around Golden Gate Park. There are a couple of windmills, for one thing. And a herd of buffalo, and a very surreal museum coated in copper that’s going to slowly turn green. Oh, and a giant purple head. (Seriously, it’s like Easter Island on acid; it’s one of the scariest pieces of public art I’ve ever seen.)

Now there’s something else interesting just outside of the park, at Ocean Beach. It’s the bow of a shipwreck that poked itself up out of the sand last week.

It admittedly doesn’t make the most amazing photograph--although I’d like to say for the record that some pretentious guy with a tripod was hogging all the good angles while I was there today. But it’s pretty interesting nonetheless.

The story is that in 1878 a clipper ship called the King Phillip was anchored in open water not too far from shore. The weather was very rough and the anchor came loose, causing the ship to founder on the beach.

Nobody died in the wreck. There’s no treasure, either--the ship was leaving San Francisco empty, which is probably lucky because when full it usually carried guano to be used as fertilizer. (Well, at least looting wasn’t a problem.)

I don’t know why, but apparently the wreck was sold, stripped of its metal fittings, and then allowed to just sit there getting buried with sand and beach detritus. This section of beach does seem to attract a lot of stuff --walking south along the water, I got the sense I was getting close when I noticed an unusual amount of driftwood and garbage in the cove.

It’s said that the remains of the ship get uncovered every twenty years, but I’m not sure that’s true. I do know that the last time it was sighted was in 1983 after a very stormy winter. I don’t know if other apparitions are recorded.

I like that people seem to leave the wreckage alone, content to let it be a time capsule for the next generation. So if you go, please be gentle. Here’s a hint: It’s at the southern end of Ocean Beach, near Noriega Avenue. You can only see it at low tide. Do yourself a favor, and don’t park by the Beach Chalet like I did. It’s a long walk.

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