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As It Was: Supply Ship Welcomes Aboard Two Bear Cubs in 1903

In 1903, the Little Nanny ship was in service transporting goods between Eureka and Klamath, Calif., when a couple of unusual passengers were brought aboard.

The Nanny, a 36-foot double-ender with a 10-foot beam and single mast, brought supplies and merchandise from Eureka, returning with loads of butter and salmon for market.

That fall, the Nanny sailed north and into the mouth of the extremely shallow Chetco river for a load of salt salmon.  While inside, the bar closed completely, delaying the ship’s departure for three weeks.

During this time, a rancher killed a bear and discovered she had left two young cubs.  He captured the cubs, which were taken aboard the Nanny, where they had the run of the deck, but spent most of their time sleeping in a box up forward.

When the engine started for the return trip, the agitated cubs climbed to the top of the mast and remained there for the entire 40-mile ocean voyage to the Klamath River.

The bears were reloaded in crates and taken to an enclosure at Eureka’s Sequoia Park, where California’s first zoo was established, in 1907.

Source: Hughes, Ralph. Tales of Del Norte County. Del Norte Historical Society, 1997, pp. 33-34.

Sequoia Park Zoo, www.sequoiaparkzoo.net/about/sequoia-park-zoo-history/. Accessed 28 Oct. 2018.

Laurel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Humboldt State. Her research efforts as a volunteer for the Curry Historical Society produced numerous newsletter articles and exhibits and earned her a reputation as a seasoned local history buff. Laurel is the author of "Renderings from the Gold Beach Pioneer Cemetery", a 50-page booklet containing a walking tour and snippets about the lives and times of folks buried there. She is also a contributing writer to Oregon Coast Magazine.