I am a wanderer. And a photographer. Sometimes i ask myself, am i simply wandering and the camera is just a happy passenger capturing moments along the way? Or does some image in my mind make me wander – looking to give shape to the emotions in my soul? Either way, the other day i found myself rambling along a lonesome stretch on the banks of the Sacramento River. And as serendipity would have it, i stumbled across an old lost soul – a broken-down riverboat listing hard to starboard.
In fact, she was sunk in silt and water past her starboard rail and the water rippled softly across the main deck all the way to her port deck guards. She was an eerie sight. Doorways opened into darkness where imagined ghosts of men wandered. It sounds cliche, but the sight made me shiver and i couldn't stem the flow of questions. What was her name? Why did she sink? Who had abandoned her to this fate?
And then, standing there on the banks of the River with the sun setting low, i imagined how haunting and magnificent she would be in the moaning winds of Autumn with swaying lanterns hanging from the upper decks and pilothouse. I would sit inside the dark doorways and watch as people stopped to whisper and wonder. Yeah. I’ve got a bit of deviousness in me – for some reason that makes me smile.
However, Sacramento is also known as a port city. Really? Does anyone out there know the stories of the ships and sailors who sailed to this port? Sacramento was founded because it was a port. So where’s our maritime history? Where's our museum? San Francisco? That’s the closest one i could find. There are teasing bits of info on the web, but nothing that constitutes a real collaborative collection of maritime history for a city who’s named after the River. Amazingly enough, the best local info i have found is at the aforementioned museum, the California State Railroad Museum. They have some fine B&W prints, mainly from the early 1900’s, depicting maritime traffic on the river. Yet there is so much more to discover.
I am now intrigued to the point of making phone calls - which i loath above all things. I want to know about these ghosts of the past. The ships. The men who sailed them. The tall tales of the sea and rivers. Is there anyone out there that has some knowledge of the nautical history of the area? Who knows about this haunting ship that lies rotting on the banks of the Sacramento River – what is her story?
1. A brief history of Sacramento, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Sacramento,_California
2. A history of San Joaquin Delta,
3. Historic Old Sacramento Foundation run by the City, http://www.historicoldsac.org/shm.asp
4. An excellent site devoted to maritime history in San Francisco Bay area which also includes lists of ships that sailed to Sacramento, http://www.maritimeheritage.org/index.htm
5. Recent (‘09) discovery of a sunken ship, the Clarksburg, in the Sacramento River, http://www.kcra.com/news/20270043/detail.html