By James P. Delgado

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As we ride the roller-coaster seas off Cape Disappointment, the team gains a new perspective on the predicament of Captain William Ryan and Isabella’s crew more than 150 years ago. ISABELLA: COLUMBIA RIVER, MAY 3, 1830 The Hudson’s Bay Company supply ship Isabella had survived a long and hard six-month voyage from London’s docks to the “North West Coast,” marked by rough seas, a stormy passage around Cape Horn that had damaged the ship and a mutinous carpenter whom Captain William Ryan had clapped in irons for several weeks.

As the sun set, Grabowsky lowered the flag while Masterson gathered up the oily cloth in his arms. They returned to Maryland and handed over the flag to the officer of the deck, who sent it off to be burned. Drifting over the spot where the two officers performed that final ceremonial duty, I think not only of Masterson and Grabowsky but of all the men who died that day. Backing up, I drop down to look at the fantail. A buoy chained to the wreck here marks the stern to passing boats. The buoy’s mooring chain drags across the steel hull, back and forth, scraping off corrosion and marine growth.

I have dived in the freezing waters of the Arctic to study the wreck of Maud, the last command of polar explorer Roald Amundsen. There are many others, and you are about to share those adventures in the pages that follow. Sadly, in those same years, I have also seen serious damage done to wrecks by thoughtless souvenir seekers and treasure hunters. S. Navy to suffer a mutiny and whose story inspired Melville to write Billy Budd—I discovered that souvenir hunters had ripped into the ship’s stern, taking some of the small arms, swords and the ship’s chronometer.

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