Gertrude Southworth
Wreck of the Polaris
10" wide

8” x 10”


Large format limited edition print available for $275.

c. 1900, C-print
22-13/16” x 13-1/4”
Edition of 20

A shipwreck on Duxbury Reef in 1914. In storms and fog, many ships have been lost to the shale reef that extends out from Bolinas headland. The four-masted Polaris was built in 1902 on the Oregon Coast and had made many runs to San Francisco. In 1914 she was headed to Eureka when she was hit by gale-force winds and wrecked on the reef. The crew only salvaged equipment, the ship was a loss. Polaris’ Captain Hansen stayed in Bolinas with Captain Petar who ran the schooner, Owl, between San Francisco and Bolinas. Hansen gave Petar his ship’s handsome desk. Petar’s granddaughter Margie de Greeve gave that desk to the Museum’s history room. There you can see the faint dark line down the face of the drawers where the Captain’s inkbottle spilled at the moment the Polaris hit the reef.

In the background, on the other side of the reef, lies the wreckage of another ship, the R.D. Inman, a steam schooner that wrecked in 1909 only two years after she was launched. She was headed for Portland, Oregon as darkness set in. Captain Lancaster later reported that there was a light that they took to be a vessel in distress so they went toward it to investigate. It was too late when they realized the light was a big bonfire on the beach and that the reef was under them.

From the late 1880s through the 1930s, Gertrude Southworth used her Kodak camera to capture images of the events and details of life that today present us with an invaluable window onto Bolinas history. She had a gifted eye for composition, light and shadow, and what brought out the magic in a photograph.

Little is known about the early life of Gertrude Rice-Coles Southworth except that she immigrated to the United states in the 1800s and was trained as a home nurse. She came to Bolinas with Dr. and Mrs. Southworth, serving as an assistant and nurse. Dr. Southworth was a dentist who was well liked in the community. Two years after Dr. Southworth’s wife died, he and Gertrude entered into a marriage that lasted 32 years. Gertrude died in 1946 at the age of 84. People remembered her fondly as a neighbor who reached out to everyone.

In the late 1990s Amy Edwards Jordan, a lively sharp minded woman in her nineties, came across a box of more then 500 Southworth negatives that had been preserved by her brother Parker Edwards. Amy and Parker had spent a lifetime coming to Bolinas for summers and weekends, and knew the Southworth family. Amy Edwards gifted the negatives to the Museum to be preserved for the community. Her images capture the changing times: the dress and styles, horse drawn carriages changing to car travel.

Small format, $20

Large format, $275