PHOTOS: Channel Islands shipwreck identified as the famed George E. Billings

Photo courtesy San Francisco Maritime Historic Park

Five-masted lumber schooner George E. Billings shortly after launching flying the Hall Bros. house flag from the mast. The Hall Bros. built the 224-foot wooden vessel at Port Blakely, Washington for their own account in 1903.

Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

CMAR diver Patrick Smith examines one of two massive mooring bitts discovered at the George E. Billings site. Mooring lines were secured from the mooring bitts to similar bitts on wharfs and docks called bollards.

Terrence Shinn/NOAA

The second expedition to record the shipwreck George E. Billings on board the R/V Shearwater included divers from NOAA, NPS and CMAR; (left to right): Robert Schwemmer, Matt Davis, Ian Williams and Steve Katz .

Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

One of two massive mooring bitts discovered at the George E. Billings site. Mooring lines were secured from the mooring bitts to similar bitts on wharfs and docks called bollards.

Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

The first hawse pipe discovered in the bow region of the George E. Billings site. The anchor chain passes through the pipe that once was mounted inside the wooden hull and the chain would be attached to the anchor and anchor windlass.

Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

George E. Billings lower bobstay was mounted to the stem of the bow with a chain that attached to the bowsprit above and served to counteract the lifting strain on the forestay rigging.

Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

Santa Barbara Island is the smallest and furthest offshore of the five islands.


A team of divers discovered a shipwreck off the coast of the Channel Islands in February 2011, and now a recently published paper identifies the lost schooner as the famed George E. Billings.

The Billings was built in 1903 by the Hall Brothers. They built dozens of ships used in the Pacific lumber trade. Robert Schwemmer, the maritime archaeologist who published the paper, said this particular ship has historical importance.

“The significance of this ship and this find is that, not only is it the fourth Hall Brothers built ship lost in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary National Park, but it’s just unique in construction, because of 108 ships, this is the largest one they ever built, and represents the last sailing ship they built before ending the company’s history,” said Schwemmer.

The wreck site is now under the jurisdiction of the California State Lands Commission. There are talks of putting it on a shipwreck trail that will draw sport divers to the islands.

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