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The Frolic (excerpted from S.F. Maritime Park pamphlet)

At 9:30p.m. on July 25, 1850, a sleek Baltimore clipper with her topgallants and topsails set, approached the treacherous Mendocino coast.  Her captain was intent on reaching Gold Rush San Francisco after sailing 6,000 miles from China. As the first officer studied the clear moonlit mountains still 20 miles away, the ship drew closer to a phalanx of offshore rocks and a low coastal terrace hidden by the summer fog ahead of them. Suddenly spying the danger, the first officer rushed below to alert the captain but it was too late. As the ship turned vainly to starboard, her stern struck a rock, snapping off the rudder and splintering open the hull.


The Frolic Wreck Site.

The Frolic, a former opium-runner, was sailing from Hong Kong to San Francisco with a 26-man crew composed of Portuguese-speaking Lascars (from India), Malays (modern-day Indonesians), and Chinese.  Her master, Captain Edward Horatio Faucon, was the same man Richard Henry Dana admired and had made famous as the captain of the Pilgrim in his 1840 classic, Two Years Before the Mast.

Faucon was enroute to a San Francisco that had changed greatly since the days of the hide-and-tallow trade.  Aboard the Frolic was an emporium of Chinese goods intended for sale in the inflated economy of a booming San Francisco.  Her hold was packed tightly with ornately decorated camphor trunks, fine-colored silks, shiny lacquered ware, tables with inset marble tops, gold filigree jewelry, 21,000 porcelain bowls, candied fruits, silver tinderboxes, a prefabricated two-room house with oyster shell windows, toothbrushes, mother-of-pearl gaming pieces, ivory napkin rings, horn checkers, tortoise shell combs, silk fans, and scores of nested brass weights used by San Francisco merchants to measure their goods.  Everything was made in China except 6,109 bottles of Edinburgh ale, brought along to inspire thirsty California gold diggers.  Of all the cargo, the ale had come the farthest, nearly two-thirds of the way around the globe


Loading opium, Bombay, May 1845

But now Frolic's voyage seemed at an end.  She had run aground just north of Point Cabrillo, between the present-day communities of Fort Bragg and Mendocino (about 100 miles north of San Francisco).  Six men refused to come down from the rigging -- the rest managed to board two boats and row six miles south to the mouth of Big River.  Faucon hiked two miles inland but found no one.  Since one of the boats leaked badly and most of the crew wanted to travel by land, Faucon, two officers, and four oarsmen with a sick Malay rowed the other boat all the way to Bodega, just north of San Francisco.  They slept on beaches and ate mussels for sustenance.  Whatever became of the rest of the crew remains a mystery.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Faucon or his crew, the Frolic was discovered by Mitom Pomo Indians who salvaged ginger jars full of candied kumquats, ginger and among other things, and carried them inland to their camps and villages.

Within hours of Faucon's arrival in San Francisco he was interviewed by the Daily Alta California.  The story which appeared the next day ended:  

Captain F. reached this place yesterday...The Frolic was bound to this place with a valuable cargo of Chinese goods. The loss is estimated to be about $150,000.

The following spring Henry Meiggs, a successful San Francisco lumber merchant, sent an expedition inland up the coast hoping to salvage something from the Frolic.  They reported finding Indian women wearing elegant silk shawls, but could find no trace of any other cargo.  They did, however, discover huge redwood trees growing along the Big River.  Meiggs ordered a steam-powered sawmill from back East and located it at Meiggsville (later renamed Mendocino).  It was the first of many settlements on the Mendocino coast and established the logging industry there, which continues to this day.

For more information about the Frolic we recommend reading  The voyage of the 'Frolic': New England merchants and the opium trade by Thomas N. Layton.  It is a great piece of research, and an interesting story.

For another interesting aside, see Ida Louise Jackson