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The Coast of Oregon

 

Of those American States bordering the sea none can have a more varied and picturesque coastline than the State of Oregon. Some 400 miles in length, much of it is visible and easily accessible from Highway 101, which hugs the coast from north to south. It is by this main road that I, as a traveller from Yorkshire, came to view two landmarks sighted and named by another exploring Yorkshireman in March 1778 - Cape Foulweather and Cape Perpetua. However, whilst James Cook had the misfortune to see them only from a distance in rather bad weather, I enjoyed their exploration on foot in the August sunshine of 1982.

Having first sighted the coast of New Albion on the 6th March 1778, Capt. Cook's Log for the 7th March reads, "The land appeared to be of a moderate height, diversified with hill and Valley and almost everywhere covered with wood. There was nothing remarkable about it except one hill... At the northern extreme the land formed a point which I called Cape Foul Weather from the very bad weather we soon after met with. I judge it to lie in the latitude of 44° 55' North, longitude 235° 54' East". He was never nearer than 3 leagues (about 10 miles). Tribute to Cook's sighting and his naming of the Cape are to be found today on a board erected by the Lincoln County Historical Society. Beyond lies a souvenir shop - 'The Lookout' - the only building visible on the 1000 ft. high headland.

Not mentioned in his journal until 11th March 1778, but first sighted on the 7th, was Cape Perpetua - some 30 miles to the South of Cape Foulweather. Still experiencing stormy weather Cook records, "Each extreme of the land seemed to shoot out into a point; the one to the north we saw on the 7th it was called Cape Perpetua, on account of its first being seen on that day. The one to the south I called Cape Gregory." It is assumed that Cook named the cape for St. Perpetua who was martyred in Carthage for professing her faith, on March 7th 203 A.D. The other possibility is that the tremendous storms of March kept him in 'perpetual' sight of the flat topped headland. (Cape Gregory is some 719 ft high and is now named Cape Arago.) Cape Perpetua today offers the hospitality of a Visitor Centre operated by the US Forest Service. The name of Cook occurs frequently both on the shore and in the woods - Captain Cook Trail, Captain Cook Ridge, Cook's Chasm. Regrettably there is naught for the philatelist with neither stamp nor cancellation. There are however postcards portraying the Capes and their rugged beauty and acknowledging their origin of name to Yorkshireman, Captain James Cook.

Alwyn Peel

Board at Cape Foulweather (50k)

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 244, volume 7, number 1 (1984).

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