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shipwrecks and lost gold  ...

Welcome to Offbeat Oregon History, a public-history resource for the state we love. Here's what you'll find here:

  • A weekly newspaper column published in about a dozen Oregon community newspapers;
  • An archive of columns we've published since 2008, with pictures (arranged by date of first publication);
  • A daily podcast (7 to 12 minutes long) optimized for mobile-device listening via iTunes, Stitcher, or the podcatcher of your choice;
  • An active Facebook page and Twitter feed to help stay in touch.

Enjoy! And if you have any comments on stories, suggestions for column topics or other feedback — or if you're coming by the OSU campus and have time for a cup of coffee with a fellow history dork — drop me a note at fj-@-offbeatoregon-dot-com any time!

About Pulp-Lit Productions:

Offbeat Oregon is a division of Pulp-Lit Productions, a boutique publishing house that specializes in classics from the pulp-magazine era — roughly 1910 to 1941. For more information or to check out our catalog, please see


Background photo of the beach at Whale Cove was made by Bryce Buchanan in 2004. (Via WikiMedia Commons, cc/by/SA)




Shipwreck treasure piqued FBI’s interest a day too late

By Finn J.D. John
June 1, 2021

DAWN WAS JUST breaking, and Tom McAdams had just barely crawled into bed, when he got the alarm. A 50-foot sailboat was washing ashore near Waldport.

McAdams had been up all night escorting a leaking fishing boat into port after it got caught in a bad storm 20 miles offshore. Now it was the morning of Dec. 13, 1973, and it was his wife Joanne’s birthday. He’d planned on snatching four or five hours of sleep and then maybe doing something with Joanne.

Instead, he was sprinting across the street to Newport’s U.S. Coast Guard station, jumping a fence, and bounding into his 44-foot rescue lifeboat.

A typical British gold sovereign coin. (Image: Money Metals Exchange)

McAdams was a master chief petty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard (and still is, albeit retired; he’s now in his 80s). In 1973 he was the commander of the Newport station, and was already probably the most famous enlisted man in Coast Guard history, a title he certainly holds today. By the time he retired in 1977 he had personally rescued hundreds of people, and taught hundreds of other rescuers how it was done.

On this particular morning, though, there wouldn’t be much for McAdams to do. He raced out across the Yaquina Bay bar — which was rough, but it takes a lot to stop a 44 from crossing any river bar — and turned south. But by the time he’d gone a mile or so, the station radioed that the yacht had gone up on the beach, out of reach for a rescue boat. Other Coasties, rescue swimmers Greg Albrecht, Lewis Cavina and Bill Masten, were on their way down Highway 101 to the beach; saving the people on the boat would be up to them.

When the rescue swimmers arrived, they found a middle-aged couple struggling feebly in the icy surf in their life jackets, trying to swim to shore. The rescuers quickly got them out of the water and onto dry land.....

This article is still under its initial two-month embargo, during which participating newspapers have exclusive rights to it. Then, on June 11, 2021, the rest of this article will appear here!

In the meantime, you can probably find it published on the Website of one of our member newspapers or community radio stations. Thanks for your patience, and thanks for supporting your community newspapers and radio stations!

In "reader view" some phone browsers truncate the story here, algorithmically "assuming" that the second column is advertising. (Most browsers do not recognize this page as mobile-device-friendly; it is designed to be browsed on any device without reflowing, by taking advantage of the "double-tap-to-zoom" function.) If the story ends here on your device, you may have to exit "reader view" (sometimes labeled "Make This Page Mobile Friendly Mode") to continue reading. We apologize for the inconvenience.]

(Jump to top of next column)

Master Chief Thomas McAdams stands near the steering station of a 44-foot motor lifeboat with his trademark cigar. (Image: U.S. Coast Guard)

(Sources: BMCM Tom McAdams Interview, an oral-history interview recorded on Feb. 13, 2004 by Foundation for Coast Guard History, accessed via Clive Lawford’s 44-foot Motor Lifeboats page at; archives of Portland Oregonian, Dec. 14-16, 1973)


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