The shipwreck that destroyed the Pier

The SS Coos Bay cut the pier in half.

by Richard Senate

One hundred and seven years ago, on December 19th, 1914, the small steamship SS Coos Bay was forced by surging tides into the Ventura Pier, cutting the structure in half. In these early years the wharf was a working pier where coastal steamers and schooners landed to take on cargo and passengers. The discovery of oil made the pier more economically attractive with tankers coming to fill their bunkers with oil from Santa Paula.

The rail roads had taken much of the business from the pier but it was still the cheapest way to bring in goods. Still, it was never a good place to land and without a breakwater several ships were pushed onto the beach and wrecked. The SS Kalorama and SS Crimea in 1876 were wrecked lending their names to Ventura Streets.

In the winter months the tides became unpredictable and treacherous to coastal shipping. The SS Coos Bay was coming in to deliver a cargo of toys for the Christmas season that year. Three years before the same vessel was ran aground in Ventura but was refloated. Perhaps memories of that disaster caused the captain to steer the craft toward the wooden pier, but he overcompensated and the inrushing tide pushed the bow of the Coos Bay with such force that the ship cut the pier in half! In so doing it also cut the oil pipeline from Santa Paula causing a massive oil spill. The shut off valve was miles away. The small steamer went right though the pier and beached itself of the sand where the vessel was pounded to pieces by the surging tides. In time the hull was buried by the sands only to expose the rotting ribs of the streamer in storms (the last one in 1941).

The pier was out of commission until reconstructed by the People’s Lumber Company in 1917. They used it to off load lumber from Oregon and Washington State. With silt packing the coast it was no longer able to have ships land there with the last barge leaving the pier in the 1930s. Perhaps an archaeological dig should be undertaken to see if anything of the ill fated SS Coos Bay still rests near the Ventura Pier?

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