Sunken clipper ship appeared on SF beach in '80, also on Monday

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The sea, a thing of infinite mystery, was up to its mysterious ways today on San Francisco's Ocean Beach.

At high noon, in the middle of low tide, two large pieces of a wrecked 19th century clipper ship decided to poke out above the sand and reveal their long-hidden selves to the world...

The visible parts of the shipwreck were nothing more than two 10-foot-long arrangements of lumber in the shape of a V, poking about a foot or so above the shoreline near the end of Noriega Street, and separated by about 200 feet of sand. One V was the bow of the ship and the other V was the stern.

That was it. Everything else was up to the imaginations of passers-by...

Actually, a historian for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area said the wreckage was surely that of the three-masted clipper ship King Philip, which was built in Maine in 1856. According to the records, which are frequently less romantic than the speculation, she spent much of her career carrying bird manure fertilizer around the world. In her last years, she carried lumber from the Pacific Northwest to San Francisco.

On Jan. 25, 1878, she was towed by a tug through the Golden Gate, then laid anchor to allow the tug to assist a nearby vessel in distress, according to historian Stephen Haller. The anchor didn't hold, however, and the King Philip drifted onto the sand at Ocean Beach, where she foundered.

Fortunately, everyone got off safely, which could be why the King Philip never got the fuss made over it as did a certain other vessel that hit an iceberg 34 years later.

The King Philip made a brief appearance in 1980, Haller said, when El Niño currents washed away an unusually large amount of sand. But no one had seen the ship since.

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