“Ship traps” describes a phenomenon where northern and southern swells, strong channel currents, strong consistent trade winds and fringing reefs force unsuspecting vessels into areas of harm – resulting in concentrated shipwrecks.
The north shore of the Island of Lānaʻi, locally referred to as “Shipwreck Beach,” is the best example of this phenomenon. Here, the channel acts as a funnel, depositing material directly onto Shipwreck Beach.
Any vessel that broke its moorings at Lāhainā would end up there; sometimes ship owners intentionally abandoned worn-out vessels there by simply casting them adrift upwind from the treacherous shore. (Naval Historical Center)
The first reported wreck occurred in 1824 when a British vessel named the Alderman Wood ran into the reef there. Two years later, an American ship, the London, sunk there with its cargo of gold and silver bullion. No one knows how much – if any – of the gold and silver was recovered. (Brost)
Known wrecks include: British ship Alderman Wood (lost 1824); American ship London (lost 1826;) Hawaiian schooner Onward (lost 1875;) Hawaiian schooner Mary Alice (lost 1884;) Hawaiian schooner Malolo (lost 1887;) Hawaiian schooner Golden Gate (lost 1901;) Hawaiian steamship Hornet (disposed 1927.)
In addition, other victims include, Hawaiian schooner Helene (disposed 1929;) Hawaiian vessel Manukiiwai (abandoned 1929;) private yawl Charlotte C (lost 1931;) private auxiliary Tradewind (lost 1934;) three US Navy steel LCM landing craft (lost 1940s;) Hawaiian barge Oregon Reefer (disposed 1954; US Navy oiler YO-21 (disposed 1957?) and US Navy barge YOGN-42 (disposed 1950s?.) (NOAA)
A constant reminder of Shipwreck Beach is the last one – from the US Navy, YOGN-42 – a number, not otherwise named. It is 375-feet long, with a beam of 56-feet and draft of 26-and-a-half feet.
Contrary to some of the reports on this vessel, it is neither a WWII Liberty ship nor was it even a motorized vessel. The ship sitting on the reef at Shipwreck Beach is actually a non-self-propelled Navy gasoline barge.
On September 28, 1942, Commander Service Force, Pacific Fleet requested that fuel carrying barges be acquired without delay to meet the serious fuel storage problem of the naval forces in the South Pacific.
The construction of these barges was such that they could be towed to the required locations and used for fuel storage, thus providing the needed fuel storage and expediting the turnaround of tankers serving those areas. (Roberts)
On October 24, 1942, the Auxiliary Vessels Board estimated that a minimum of six barges were needed and recommended that the Navy acquire the first six to be completed.
“Concrete No. 5” was put into service in June 1943 as “YOGN-42.”
On November 11, 1942 they asked for six more of these barges to meet the expanding fuel storage requirements in the South Pacific.
Most the vessels built by the Concrete Ship Constructors at National City, California eventually ended up as floating oil barges; two were sunk as blockships during the Allied invasion of Normandy (scuttled to create sheltered water at the landing beaches.) (Naval Historical Center)
Some saw life following the war; one became a restaurant and later a fishing pier. One became a ten-room hotel. Nine were sunk as breakwaters for a ferry landing at Kiptopeke, Virginia. Two more are made into wharves in Yaquina Bay, Newport Oregon. Seven are part of a giant floating breakwater on the Powell River, Canada.
During the war, YOGN-42 was sent to Espiritu Santo, as part of a forward staging area for US forces in Vanuatu in Oceania. While there, its tug, Tug USS Navajo (AT-64,) was sunk by Japanese submarine I-39, 150-miles east of Espiritu Santo.
YOGN-42 survived the war, but was stricken from the active register in 1949 and abandoned on Shipwreck Beach sometime after that. (Maly)
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