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Historic Shipwreck Profile

british bark harlech castle
British bark Harlech Castle at anchor. Courtesy of San Francisco Public Library.

Harlech Castle


shipwreck location map

Casualty Location: Harlech Castle Rock (off Piedras Blancas), San Luis Obispo County, California, USA

Location Status: Located (see Important Note)

Casualty Date: 1869 (Aug 29)

Owner: Richards & Company

Home Port: Liverpool, England

Length: 174.2 feet Beam: 28.3 feet

Gross Tonnage: 600 Cargo: Barley

Builder: Evans

Launched: 1867 (Liverpool, England)

Official Number: n/a

Description: Bound for Iquique, Peru (modern-day Chile) with a cargo of barley, Harlech Castle experienced bad weather crippling the vessel (owned by Richards & Company). Returning to San Francisco for repairs, the vessel struck sunken rocks during thick fog off Piedras Blancas. Vessel and cargo a total loss, including two fatalities. Rock northwest of Piedras Blancas now bears vessel name, Harlech Castle Rock, located within the Piedras Blancas State Marine Reserve. Artifacts from the wreck are held by the Piedras Blancas Light Station, including ceramic tile and plate pieces, brass ladder tread, wood and iron dead eyes, and brass grill from ventilation system.

Nature of Casualty:

Newspaper clipping from Daily Alta California 7Sep1869 of shipwreck Harlech Castle

(NOTE: low quality digital scan)

Source: Daily Alta California (San Francisco, CA), 7 Sept 1869, p. 1, col. 3.
Courtesy of California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside.


By letter received from Captain Hughes, of the British barque Harlech Castle, we have the following account of the total loss of that vessel: British barque Harlech Castle, Hughes, sailed from San Francisco July 15th, with cargo of 14,993 ctls of barley, bound for Iquiqui, Peru; August 1st, lat. 16 N., Long. 119 W., experienced a violent hurricane which swept decks, carried away spars and sails, and badly crippled the vessel. Was on the way back for repairs, when on August 31st, during a very thick fog, struck on sunken rocks off Piedras Blancas. The vessel then drifted into the cove just northward of that point. The barque and cargo are a total loss. All hands saved. The cargo of the Harlech Castle was valued at $15,569.30, and was shipped by Gildemeister, Muecke & Co., of San Francisco.

Additional Information: Wreck Event
(click headline to access full article)

Newspaper headline from New York Herald 11Sep1869 of shipwreck Harlech Castle

Source: The New York Herald (New York, NY), 11 Sept 1869, p. 7, col. 3.
Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Washington, DC.


THE PACIFIC COAST. Wreck of a British Bark

Source (no image): Humboldt Times, 18 Sept 1869, Martin.


The English ship Harlech Castle sailed from San Francisco for Iquiqui, Peru, on 16th of July with a cargo of barley. Experienced heavy weather most of the time until August 29th, when she struck a sunken rock off San Simeon, San Luis Obispo County, and sunk the following morning. Vessel and cargo a total loss. Two seamen were lost by swamping of a boat. Captain and survivors arrived at San Francisco on the 8th.

Newspaper clipping from Daily Alta California 14Jun1870 of shipwreck Harlech Castle

Source: Daily Alta California (San Francisco, CA), 14 Jun 1870, p. 1, col. 1.
Courtesy of California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside.



Additional Information: Vessel
(click headline to access full article)

Source: Report of the Superintendent of the United States Coast Survey During the year 1869, Washington Government Printing Office 1872, p.48.
Courtesy of NOAA Central Library Data Imaging Project


At the close of the season’s work in the Santa Barbara Channel, Assistant Cordell was directed to search for the unknown sunken rock upon which the British bark Harleck (sic) Castle was lost….He was successful in his search and identified the rock by the mast of the vessel showing above water.

Important Note: Section 922.132 of the sanctuary regulations prohibits or restricts several activities in order to safeguard sanctuary resources, including: Moving, removing, injuring or possessing historical resources.

For a complete “official text" of MBNMS regulatory prohibitions, see Title 15, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 922.132 published by the U.S. Government Printing Office.