It’s Good to Find a Mystery

We went for a hike today, enjoying some Washington sunshine. Our goal, a “shipwreck” we had spotted in Puget Sound.

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After a short hike, we made it to the sandbar which appears at low tide.

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We were rather surprised to find the hulk made of cement.

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It was broken pretty much in half and still has remains of a rudder. I am pretty sure it was an unpowered barge.

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We decided, on returning from our hike, to learn more about this cement corpse. That has proved a bit difficult to do. A local museum has a page on shipwrecks in the area. Apparently some of the collections of wood nearby are probably the remains of two old sailing vessels, but about the most prominent wreck in the area, it merely says

According to several residents, the cement hulk still visible was once a barge left on the reach, however no one seems to remember when it was abandoned, possibly 1960s/70s.

Amazing. No one knows where it came from or even when? From what I could gather through Wikipedia and a few other sites, it was likely made in the WWII era. Cement ships are heavy and costly to operate. The only real reason for them to be used is when there are steel shortages (as there were during the war).

A list of concrete boat builders looked promising, and includes descriptions of some of the vessels made, but most of the ones described seemed to be too big to be related to this vessel. I might have to revisit the wreck with a tape measure to be able to conduct more accurate comparisons.

The only identifying mark I saw on the boat was cast into the concrete of one of the hatchways. NETTON No. 223169 plus a few characters no longer legible.

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Searching for Netton and or the number turned up nothing. I think a return expedition to measure and sketch the vessel is in order. Maybe I will be able to find information on a similar barge that might help identify the origins of this one.

•••

It is intriguing to find something that Google doesn’t have the answer to. Especially something so prominent. It is visible on Google maps. It is visible from around the Sound. It is a reminder that not everything is known nor available with a few clicks on a computer. This barge was made, served some purpose, and then was presumably scuttled here as part of breakwater efforts at the mouth of the Nisqually River (as were the two wooden vessels).

It might not be a Dirk Pitt worthy adventure, but it certainly has made me curious. It’s not a common thing to find a cement shipwreck. It seems even less common to find a shipwreck that no one knows anything about. The two wooden vessels whose remains are nearby are much better documented. Perhaps because they were sailing ships and not just a barge.

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