My favorite Lost at Sea memorials are the ones found off the beaten track. Centerville Beach is located north of Cape Mendocino, approximately five miles west of the village of Ferndale. The beach is nine miles long, with sweeping vistas of the Pacific to the west and the redwoods to the east. On most days you’re likely to have the entire beach to yourself. On a tall bluff overlooking the beach is a tall white cross, a monument to the steamship SS Northerner, lost on January 6, 1860.

The Northerner was built in 1847 in New York City. She spent her first few years serving the east coast of the United States, but eventually moved to San Francisco, where she established a regular passenger and mail route from San Francisco to the Columbia River and north to Washington. Her last voyage from San Francisco ended when she hit a submerged rock just a few miles offshore from Centerville Beach. The ship was carrying 108 persons at the time of the wreck. 70 people were saved, mostly due to the heroic efforts of the local citizens living around Ferndale. 38 others perished. Some bodies were eventually recovered and buried on a bluff overlooking the site of the wreck. Other victims were lost to the Pacific…

In 1921 a white cross monument was built directly above the burial site of the recovered dead. The original monument was destroyed in an earthquake centered in Cape Mendocino in 1991. Local residents rebuilt the monument and it was rededicated on February 11, 1995. It serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of ocean travel – and as a memorial to lives lost at sea in this remote and most beautiful area.