Schooner's wreckage pinpointed in sweep of ocean floor

POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE, Calif. -- The hulk of the Pomo, a 368-ton steam schooner that sank near San Francisco just after New Year's Day 1914, was detected inn electronic sweep of Drake's Bay, researchers from Texas A&M University said Friday.

The steamer was the first confirmed find from the two-week project off the Point Reyes National Seashore, said Jim Baker of the Texas Engineering Experiment Station, which completed the survey last weekend with the National Park Service.


TEES is a technological research arm of the Texas A&M University System and includes an environmental engineering division that regularly carries out nautical archaeology projects.

Baker said a number of other signals characteristic of shipwrecks were also recorded during the project and will be examined during the coming weeks by divers for the Park Service.

Historians say more than 60 ships have sunk in bay waters since Sir Francis Drake claimed the spot for England more than 400 years ago.

The search was widely touted as the most sophisticated ever organized on the Pacific Coast. The engineering team used magnetometers, underwater cameras, a microwave distance measuring device, land-based trisponders and a microcomputer for processing information.


The TEES team, consisting of Dr. Erv Garrison, James Tribble and Baker, worked from a 33-foot Coast Guard rescue ship donated for the survey, said Baker.

The Pomo was carrying 300,000 board-feet of lumber and 24 crew and passengers when it began to break up off Point Reyes, Baker explained. The disabled ship was being towed to port when the line broke and the Pomo ran aground. Later attempts to refloat the schooner failed and it sank in about 40 feet of water, he said.

Baker said the size of the magnetic scatter on the bay floor where the Pomo is located indicated there may be another shipwreck nearby.

One prospect is the Ayacucho, a sleek 250-foot sailing ship referred to dozens of times in Richard Dana's adventure story 'Two Years Before the Mast.'

Historical records show the Ayacucho, an English brig Dana described as 'my favorite,' sank Oct. 27, 1841, in the same general vicinity as the Pomo.

Baker cautioned against jumping to conclusions however, since dynamics of the bay floor suggest that the older a ship is, the deeper it will be buried and the harder it will be to detect.

Baker said two weeks of surveying thousands of acres in Drake's Bay also convinced him that the most eagerly-sought-after shipwreck of all - the 16th century Spanish galleon San Agustin -- is probably buried very deep in the bottom sands.


The 80-foot San Agustin is believed to be the oldest known shipwreck on the West Coast. It went down in Drake's Bay in 1595 with a load of priceless Ming dynasty porcelain and 130 tons of silk after reaching California from the Philippines. Twelve Spanish crewmen died and 80 more were forced to make their way to Mexico in the galleon's launch.

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