There’s a mystery to the maritime history that the Portland area has created for more than 150 years, a mystery with many parts, players and answers.

Some of those answers have come from the pen of Carus writer Rebecca Harrison in a recently released work, “Portland’s Maritime History.”

It is deep, involved and certainly interesting for those interested in Portland’s maritime pedigree.

Harrison didn’t know she would have any interest in it until circumstances propelled her into the topic.

“The book came about because I wrote an earlier book on salvage divers (“Deep Dark and Dangerous: On the Bottom with the Northwest Salvage Divers”),” Harrison explained. “After writing that, the people at the Oregon Maritime Museum contacted me about doing this project. Well, I still had a box full of photos, so I said I’d do it.”

What she found was a rich history of shipping, ship building and maritime history she never had an inkling existed. The project took on an exciting tone with each new discovery.

“I think one of the things that really fascinated me was how old some of these (maritime) companies are and that they stayed in the same family for many, many years,” she said. “I also learned that Portland’s shipyards produced more than 600 war ships during World War II. I had no idea we were so involved in World War II. That’s when the VanPort area was being built as housing for all the workers. Just a lot of interesting things came up as I did research for the book.”

Harrison has been writing for several decades, having published a book on child abuse in 1986 and the salvage diver tome in 2006. While not being a diving enthusiast or even a boat person, Harrison said she enjoys “diving” into subjects that are not in her wheelhouse.

“I like the fact that people trust me with a pencil to tell their stories,” she said. “I like the joy when they actually see it in print, too. It makes all the research worth it.”

Harrison has lived in Carus for 11 years and has been in the Oregon City area for more than 30. She said that within the photos and paragraphs of “Portland’s Maritime History” is a glimpse into the beginnings and foundation of Portland’s shipyard ancestry.

Portland is not only the site of numerous marine terminals along the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. It is also home to much American maritime history. Portland shipbuilding started in 1840 with construction of the schooner the Star of Oregon.

More than 100 years later, three Portland shipyards would build 621 ships for the war effort. Both before and after World War II, several steel and iron companies used the harbors in Portland for their manufacturing.

Aside from production, Portland ships over 13 million tons of cargo every year and is the biggest shipper of wheat in the United States.

“I want people to understand that underneath all that we see over there now is this incredible history and create an awareness of that power of the maritime history in Portland,” Harrison said.

For more information, check out Harrison’s website for Portland’s Maritime History at:

Harrison said the entire project took less than a year to complete. The Oregon Maritime Museum approached her with the project in late spring 2012 and a contract was agreed to in late June 2012. The entire book was due by July 12, 2013.

“It then went through several edits and was officially just released (Jan. 14),” she said.

By this April, Harrison will have another work, “Aboard the Portland: A History of the Northwest Steamers,” out to the public.To see what it will entail, check this website at:

Where to buy

  • This book can be purchased via Arcadia Publications, or through Ingram and at Amazon at
  • Harrison will have a book signing Sunday at Cutsforth’s Marketplace from noon to 4 p.m.
  • Contract Publishing

    Go to top
    Template by JoomlaShine