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Mossback’s Northwest

326-year-old beeswax is Washing up on Oregon Beaches

January 29, 2019

In the late 1600s, a Spanish galleon from Manila went down in a storm off the Oregon coast. Its cargo? A bounty of beeswax, used for candles to light the churches and major institutions of the Spanish colonies. Beeswax and other artifacts from the epic shipwreck are still being found on beaches today. In this edition of Mossback's Northwest, Knute Berger recalls the complicated journey that some observers say resulted in the first-ever contact between Europeans and Northwest indigenous peoples.


Knute Berger

Knute Berger is Crosscut’s Mossback. Born and raised in Seattle, he writes with his own Pacific Northwest perspective. He also writes the monthly “Gray Matters” column for Seattle magazine where he is editor-at-large, and is an occasional commentator on KUOW-FM’s “Week in Review.” He is the author of two books: Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes On Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice and Space Needle, The Spirit of Seattle (2012), the official 50th anniversary history of the tower. He was writer-in-residence at the Space Needle and has had a cocktail named after him at Ivar’s. You can email him at or follow him on twitter @KnuteBerger.

More stories by Knute Berger

Stephen Hegg

Stephen is a 25-year veteran of KCTS, producing a wide range of cultural and public affairs series, documentaries and arts programming.  His credits include PIE, Something in the Water  (PBS feature on Seattle’s indie music scene), the gala opening of Benaroya Hall, and documentaries on Asahel and Edward Curtis, Dan Sullivan and Doris Chase.  Seattle-born, Hegg is a graduate of Whitworth University and is also an accomplished violinist and avid cyclist.

More stories by Stephen Hegg