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Book Cover for: Graveyard of the Pacific: Shipwreck and Survival on America's Deadliest Waterway, Randall Sullivan

Graveyard of the Pacific: Shipwreck and Survival on America's Deadliest Waterway

Randall Sullivan

A vivid portrait of the Columbia River Bar that combines maritime history, adventure journalism, and memoir, bringing alive the history--and present--of one of the most notorious stretches of water in the world

Off the coast of Oregon, the Columbia River flows into the Pacific Ocean and forms the Columbia River Bar: a watery collision so turbulent and deadly that it's nicknamed the Graveyard of the Pacific.

Two thousand ships have been wrecked on the bar since the first European ship dared to try to cross it in the late 18thcentury. For decades ships continued to make the bar crossing with great peril, first with native guides and later with opportunistic newcomers, as Europeans settled in Washington and Oregon, displacing the natives and transforming the river into the hub of a booming region. Since then, the commercial importance of the Columbia River has only grown, and despite the construction of jetties on either side, the bar remains treacherous, even today a site of shipwrecks and dramatic rescues as well as power struggles between small fishermen, powerful shipowners, local communities in Washington and Oregon, the Coast Guard, and the Columbia River Bar Pilots - a small group of highly skilled navigators who help guide ships through the mouth of the Columbia.

When Randall Sullivan and a friend set out to cross the bar in a two-man kayak, they're met with skepticism and concern. But on a clear day in July 2021, when the tides and weather seem right, they embark. As they plunge through the currents that have taken so many lives, Randall commemorates the brave sailors that made the crossing before him - including his own abusive father, a sailor himself who also once dared to cross the bar - and reflects on toxic masculinity, fatherhood, and what drives men to extremes.

Rich with exhaustive research and propulsive narrative, Graveyard of the Pacific follows historical shipwrecks through the moment-by-moment details that often determined whether sailors would live or die, exposing the ways in which boats, sailors, and navigation have changed over the decades. As he makes his way across the bar, floating above the wrecks and across the same currents that have taken so many lives, Randall Sullivan faces the past, both in his own life and on the Columbia River Bar.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Grove Press
  • Publish Date: Jun 18th, 2024
  • Pages: 272
  • Language: English
  • Edition: undefined - undefined
  • Dimensions: 8.20in - 5.50in - 0.90in - 0.60lb
  • EAN: 9780802163370
  • Categories: United States - State & Local - Pacific Northwest (OR, WA)Adventurers & ExplorersWater Sports - Kayaking

About the Author

RANDALL SULLIVAN was a contributing editor to Rolling
for over twenty years. He is the author of Dead Wrong, The
Price of Experience
, LAbyrinth, The Miracle Detective,
and Untouchable. His work has been published in, among many other
places, Esquire, Outside, Men's Journal, Washington
, and the Guardian. He lives in Oregon.

Praise for this book

Praise for Graveyard of the Pacific:

evoking Sullivan's deep fascination with the Pacific Northwest and thirst for
friendship and adventure, this is a thrill ride." --Publishers Weekly

riveting story of maritime tragedies and a personal passage... It is Sullivan's
gripping, vividly detailed accounts of nautical disasters at the Columbia Bar
that make the book such an achievement... The author's personal story--from
growing up with an abusive father to his 2021 attempt to cross the Bar by
trimaran--courses through the book like an intermittent current... A strikingly rendered
tale of the hard and lasting costs of courage." --Kirkus (starred review)

"The point where the Columbia River spills into the Pacific
Ocean has long been known as the 'Graveyard of the Pacific' for all the deadly
shipwrecks that have occurred there over the centuries... Sullivan challenges
himself to traverse these turbid waters in a fragile trimaran... Defying nature's
fury, Sullivan also faces down his own demons... Ultimately, the struggle to cross
both physical and emotional bars defines for Sullivan manhood in the
contemporary world." - Booklist