I did a small archaeological survey project in the community of Warm Beach, Washington today.  It was a quick and dirty field job that took a few hours. Once I leave Washington I’m going to miss these quicky one day in the field type projects. It’s really nice to get to come home at the end of the work day.

I didn’t find anything in the field (with the exception of modern trash) but while doing historic background research for the project I discovered a cool little bit of history. During the period of contact in the late 18th century, there were two Stillaguamish villages and a potlach house in the vicinity. It’s a nice spot for a long-term winter village as it’s situated right near where the Stilliguamish River delta meets Port Susan, part of the northern Puget Sound. The river has dumped tons of silt into the marine estuary over the years creating extensive mud flats, where shellfish harvests would have been very rich,  reliable and predictable.

The photo above shows only a portion of the flats near the area I worked on today, and this photo was taken after the tide began to come in.  At really low tide the flats  reach out about halfway down the body of water seen in the photo. That’s Port Susan, and in the distance is Camano Island. The point is that with such dramatic low tides and so much muddy silt you could really get into a bind if you’re a sailor unfamiliar with the area.

That was exactly what happened on  the morning of June 1, 1792. The HMS Chatham, and the HMS Discovery were the first European ships to sail into the northern Puget Sound. In the foggy morning, the Chatham soon became stuck in the mud off the coast of Warm Beach. The Discovery  sent its ships boats to assist but they promptly became stuck as well.  By midnight that day as the tide came back in the Chatham became unstuck, but the lead man taking the depth soundings that morning, one David Dorman received 36 lashes for his negligence.  The punishment was ordered by none other than the leader of the expedition, and captain of the Discovery,  the well known British explorer Capt. George Vancouver.

Oh yeah, two chins at the same time!

We all know that Vancouver has had a sizable island and major metropolitan area in British Columbia named for him.  Meanwhile Dorman, for his troubles, gets nothing more than a lousy blog entry.


2 comments on “Mudflats

  1. Clams says:

    I’m following you know…watch your back!

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