Category: Pacific-Northwest

Columbia Rediviva

Columbia Rediviva sailed into history May 11, 1792 when she crossed the Columbia River bar under the command of Captain Robert Gray. As the discoverer of the Great River of the American West, she gave her name to the Columbia River.

Columbia Rediviva was built in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1787. She was decommissioned and salvaged October 15, 1806. She was named in honor of Christopher Columbus: “Columbia rediviva” translates to “Columbus revived”. She was a full-rigged three-masted ship with foremast, mainmast and mizzenmast. Coincidentally and appropos nothing, her measurements were nearly identical to those of the HMS Bounty:

h4 Specifications:

Length: 83 feet, 6 inches
Beam: 24 feet, 2 inches
Draft: 11 feet
Burthen: 213 tons
Crew: 16-18 minimum; 30-31 maximum

Columbia Rediviva, along with the sloop Lady Washington, was acquired by a group of Boston businessmen to engage in the burgeoning fur trade along the western coast of the North American continent. Together they set out on October 1, 1787. At the beginning of the commission, Columbia Rediviva, the flagship, was captained by Captain John Kendrick, who had earned a reputation as a privateer during the American Revolutionary War. Captain Robert Gray took charge of the Lady Washington, Columbia Rediviva’s tender. Rounding the Horn of South America, the two ships were separated by a storm. They reunited at Nootka Sound; Captain Robert Gray and the Lady Washington arrived before Columbia Rediviva which took almost a year from the outset of the voyage to reach the prearranged meeting place.

Taking on a load of otter furs, Columbia Rediviva sailed on to Asia, while Lady Washington traded along the American Pacific coast. The Japanese were unfamiliar with the use of animal pelts and trading proved unprofitable. The Chinese, by contrast, were very interested in Columbia Rediviva’s offerings, trading for tea, silk cloth and porcelain. Columbia Rediviva continued around the world to Boston, becoming the first American expedition to circumnavigate the globe.

On a second expedition from Boston the two captains exchanged ships. This time Captain Robert Gray took charge of Columbia Rediviva. Off what is now the Oregon coast, he noted a flow of muddy water fanning from the shore. Believing this to be the entrance to the “Great River of the West”, Gray crossed the treacherous sand bar on May 11, 1792. Captain and crew spent about a week or so trading for furs with the Indians, leaving without investigating the river further. Captain Gray took the Columbia Rediviva on her second circumnavigation, returning to Boston in July 1793.

A replica of Columbia Rediviva’s sailing partner Lady Washington, completed in 1989, is moored at Grays Harbor Historical Seaport and is available for tours when not off on a “goodwill” cruises.

Sources:
Discovering Lewis & Clark http://www.lewis-clark.org/FTCCOLUMBIA/co_redi2.htm
Andrew Buckley’s Search for the Lady Washington http://members.bellatlantic.net/~vze297s2/ladywashington/history.htm
Oregon Blue Book http://bluebook.state.or.us/notable/notgray.htm

© 2002-2006, originally published Aug 02, 2002