A Brief History
On June 16, 1811, the remaining crew of an American armed fur trading ship purposely blew the ship up after it had been overrun by Native Americans near Vancouver Island.
The wilds of Western North America were dangerous in 1811, and the Tonquin, a 3 masted ship about 94 feet long was armed with 22 guns. Owned by fur tycoon, John Jacob Astor, Tonquin had been in the Pacific seeking to trade with Native Americans for furs.
After establishing Fort Astoria in Oregon, Tonquin sailed for Vancouver Island where a dispute with Tla-o-qui-aht people resulted in the ship being overrun and most of the crew killed. With only four crew members alive, the men decided to blow up the powder magazine, and with it the ship.
Only a Native American interpreter named Joseachal survived to return to Fort Astoria and relate the harrowing tale.
Question for students (and subscribers): What other incidents of sailors blowing up their own ship do you know of? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Charles Rivers Editors. Fort Astoria: The History and Legacy of the First American Settlement on the Pacific Coast. Independently published, 2018.
Steelye, James, and Shawn Shelby, editors. Shaping North America: From Exploration to the American Revolution. ABC-CLIO, 2018.
The featured image in this article, a painting by Edmund Fanning of Tonquin being boarded by Tla-o-qui-aht, is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer.
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