Buried treasure: Ship's skeleton emerges at Washaway Beach

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For more than a century, the Pacific Ocean has clawed away at Washaway Beach, a 2-mile stretch of eroding coastline just south of Grayland.

With nature claiming so much, it seemed only fair that it offer something in return. Now it has — the buried wreckage of an old vessel revealing more of itself with every outgoing tide.

According to maritime experts and others, the wreckage could be part of the Canadian Exporter, a freighter that broke in two in August 1921 while carrying 3 million board feet of lumber and 200 tons of general cargo, as noted in a contemporary issue of American Shipping magazine. If so, the remains could belong to whoever bought salvage rights, or to a private landowner, or to the state.

If ownership cannot be determined, the wreckage could become a salvageable piece of history. But even as the Assessor's Office tries to sort that out, the worst fears of museum officials and maritime buffs are being realized as scavengers reap the sea's rewards on their terms, stripping the remains for usable or sellable scrap.

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