SHARK S1821  
  Two Masted Schooner USS SHARK (1821) 
 
 
Class: Alligator
Design: Baltimore Clipper, by William Doughty
Displacement: 198 tons
Dimensions: Length 86 feet between perpendiculars, 67 foot keel
Cannon Armament: 10 18-pounder (weight of shot) cannonades
and 2 9-pounder "Long Tom" guns
Launched: May 17, 1821, at the Washington D.C. Navy Yard,
Commanded by Lieutenant Matthew C. Perry
Complement: Normally; 70 Men
 
 
 
 


      The first USS Shark, was one of five small schooners that the United States intended for use in suppressing piracy in the West Indies. Four were of the Baltimore Clipper design and needed immediately and were built at different Navy Yards. The Alligator at Boston, the Dolphin at Philadelphia, the Porpoise at Portsmouth, and the Shark at Washington, D.C. These clippers required a large crew to handle them and they were somewhat dangerous when driven hard, consequently not replaced when they went out of service.
 
       Lt. Matthew C. Perry (pictured here as a Commodore) was assigned to the Shark on May 11, 1821, to supervise the outfitting, launching and ultimate commissioning. In 1822 the Shark was ordered to Key West (now Florida, but then known as Caya Hueste en Norte del America from the Spanish position in Havana, Cuba) to determine its adequacy as a United States installation. Lt. Perry was so convinced that he planted the U.S flag claiming the island as U. S. property in spite of both Spanish and English claims, naming it "Thompson's Island" after the Secretary of the Navy, Smith Thompson. The Shark continued to patrol the Caribbean, the West Indies, and the coasts of Africa monitoring the slave trade and piracy of that era, capturing or assisting in the capture of several slave and pirate vessels.

      From 1823 to 1839, under various commanders, she continued patrol duties primarily on the western coasts of Africa regulating slave trade. On July 11, 1939, she was ordered to the Pacific Squadron and was the first war vessel to pass east to west through the Strait of Magellan. In the Pacific the Shark protected American interests during the South American unrest and along the North American coast during trouble in California.
 
       The watercolor rendering, at the left, by Gunner William H. Myers, of the USS Cyane depicts ships of the Pacific Squadron circa 1842-1843. The ships, left to right, are USS United States, the USS Cyane, the USS Saint Louis, the USS Yorktown, and the USS Shark (barely able to be discerned).
      On May 1, 1843, Lt. Neil Howison joined the Pacific Squadron and soon took command of the Shark. On April 1, 1846, he was ordered to Honolulu for repairs, coppering, and provisioning. They were completed on June 23, 1846, and she set sail for the Columbia River in the Oregon Territory; there to protect American interests over the Canadian border dispute between the United States and Great Britain. (President Polk's "54-40 or fight" slogan of his campaign.}
 
       Shark arrived at the Oregon coast on July 15, 1846, and between August 4th and the 11th ten men deserted her. Howison's efforts to penetrate the Columbia and Willamette Rivers were frustrated by inaccurate charts (he was advised of this while in Honolulu), an inability to secure a qualified pilot, and frequent incursions (not of warfare) with the Hudson Bay Company representing the King of England. Consequently he frequently returned to Fort Vancouver, immediately to the north. On August 23, he entered the Columbia River, but was ordered to leave the river by September 1st. Prevailing conditions hampered his exit and by September 8, Howison brought the Shark into Baker's Bay and prepared to cross the bar partially blocking the channel.

      On September 10, 1846, the USS Shark was lost on the South Spit of Clatsop Beach while attempting to leave the Columbia River. Of course there was the resultant ordeal of the sailors leaving the Shark and those remaining.
      Howison: "On the 10, in the afternoon, an attempt was made, and resulted in the shipwreck of the schooner ..." as he reported to the Navy Court of Inquiry in March of 1847.


      "The Shark's tour of duty was much more successful than those of her sister ships. The Alligator wrecked of what is now Miami, Florida in 1823. The Porpoise was wrecked in the West Indies in 1833. The Dolphin, which was the first one launched, was found rotting away in 1835 and dismantled." from The Schooner Shark, Shark Rock. and Cannon Beach by Jim Dennon, and published January, 1988, by the Cannon Bay Historical Society.


      In the ensuring years, and even until relatively recently, artifacts from the Shark have been found washed ashore in the northern Oregon coast. Three of her cannon washed ashore in October, 1846, at Cape Arch which eventually gave the name of Cannon Beach, a great resort town, in Oregon in the proximity of where the Shark was shipwrecked. The shipwrecked sailors formed a community called "Sharksville" at Fort George (now Astoria) until they were taken to San Francisco by the schooner Cadboro on November 16, 1846. Their particular legacy was to have carved their names into a "Shark Rock" which remains to this day in Cannon Beach.
 
Lost By Misadventure September 10, 1846


 
 
 
 
DISCOVERY MATERIALS ... USS SHARK, A Two Masted Schooner, Commissioned in 1821
Reference Material Text Photos Links Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS)
Reference Material Text Photos Links Lieutenant (later Commodore) Matthew C. Perry
Reference Material Text Photos Links Booklet, Schooner Shark, Shark Rock, Cannon Beach ($9.50)
Cannon Beach History Center and Museum, Cannon Beach, Oregon
Of Interest Material Site Photos Links Washington (DC) Navy Yard History
Of Interest Material Site Photos Links Key West, Florida, History
Of Interest Material Site Photos Links The $30 Reward Poster and the Deserters
Of Interest Material Site Photos Links Cannon Beach, Oregon (Today)
 
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