GENE AUTRY COMICS, THE SHIP IN THE DESERT, JUNE 1951 ISSUE #52



the Wanderling

My Uncle and I were on one of our extended expeditions in the desert headed toward his home in New Mexico from the High Sierras. As we got close to the Colorado River he began telling me how the construction of Hoover Dam had stopped torrential floods downstream that had transpired since time immemorial. As we traveled along, in a general chit-chat sort of way about the floods, drawing from my super heavily injected academic background brimming with in-depth encyclopedic and intellectual knowledge of information and data --- all garnered from comic books of course --- I told him about a great story I read in a Gene Autry comic called "Ship in the Desert" (issue #52, June 1951) as well as an another one in an Uncle Scrooge comic called "The Seven Cities of Cibola" (issue #7, September 1954) wherein wrecked Spanish galleons had been found in the desert in both stories. As near as I could remember, as far as the ships were concerned, the punchline for both stories were associated with an old Colorado River channel covered and uncovered over the centuries by flash floods or some such thing leading to the Salton Sea.


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My uncle told me he had heard stories of Spanish galleons being lost in the desert many times. He said that in 1933, however, it had been reported that an ancient Viking ship had been found in the desert on the other side of the Salton Sea, and, although he had not seen the ship himself, he had talked personally to the woman who did. He then went on to explain how just such a thing could happen. So off we we went in search of some of the ancient river channels that flooded the Salton Sea over the centuries to see how a ship, Viking or otherwise, could end up stranded in the desert so many miles inland.

Some years after those discussions with my uncle as well as taking some time out from my comic books, I read an article titled "Early Man at San Diego: A Geomorphic-Archaeological View" by George F. Carter, now deceased (2004), who at the time was a retired professor of geography from Texas A&M, still living in Texas albeit born and raised in San Diego. Figuring he might have an answer to a Vikings in the Desert Southwest question, I sought him out. Although his answer was not conclusive, it did elicit a response that was well within my liking.

What I wanted to know was, in all of his archaeology work and in-depth research in and around San Diego and the reaches from the Pacific toward the Colorado River, did he ever run into anything, no matter how small in nature, that might lead him to believe that Vikings may have visited or been in the San Diego or surrounding area in pre-Columbian days? He said possibly, but he had not seen anything definitive himself personally. What he knew, he said, came from the Spanish and the days of the missions. To wit:


"(W)hen the Spanish began building a fort and mission on present day Presidio Hill they found what appeared to be earlier habitation or occupation they attributed to members of the indigenous population, and most records reflect that. However, in his research he came across mention that the habitation was actually more than what the local population was capable of. In at least one source, possibly two if his memory served him correctly, he said there was evidence of metal or iron working and even the remains of a small forge or foundry. There were also remains of worked or hewn logs with all signs of the hewing having been done with or by metal edged tools."

AS FOUND IN FOOTNOTE [6] OF THE MAIN TEXT
George F. Carter, PhD, Professor of Geography, Texas A&M (retired)


Even if the waters of the ancient Lake Cahuilla didn't actually finger their way very far up into the canyons, the Vikings, after sailing or floating or rowing their way as far as they could, may have thought they could portage their ship the rest of the way over the mountains to the Pacific after having seen the ocean from Laguna Peak. After getting some distance into the canyons before reaching the top of the mountains they may have seen how futile their endeavors were and simply abandoned the craft where it was, and using the then unmarked Sweetwater River Trail, followed it on foot the 45 miles as it flowed right out into San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Their ship became entombed where she was left, only to be covered over, not exposed again to the elements until centuries later.


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THE VIKING'S SWEETWATER TRAIL FROM LAGUNA PEAK TO THE PACIFIC OCEAN

(for larger size click image then click again)

Although the Vikings would have no way of knowing it, if their path to the Pacific took them down Sweetwater Creek to the Pacific Ocean they would have gone right by what has turned out to be one of the most major geological sites ever discovered in North America. The site not only preserves the 131,000 year-old bones, tusks and molars of a mastodon, but also right along with them, and equally as old, hammerstones and stone anvils that show evidence of having been used in modification of the bones as if in a slaughter or kill by early humans.


CERUTTI MASTODON SITE
HUMANS IN NORTH AMERICA 130,000 YEARS AGO


In 1936 a Gene Autry movie titled Red River Valley was released. Briefly the storyline revolves around water rights in the old west, more specifically a place called Red River Valley. A banker and his henchmen, in order to gain any profits for themselves and control the region, are sabotaging efforts by local citizens and ranchers to secure water rights. After five men overseeing the completion of the irrigation system were murdered Gene Autry is hired to prevent any more killings, further damage or possible sabotage, and ensure the completion of the dam.

The irrigation system and dam used in the film is actually the Laguna Dam along the Lower Colorado River. Below is a link that will take you to an archived video of he film, albeit renamed Man of the Frontier, given it for a later release. The movie has a number of really good scenes of the dam and what it looked like when it was fully functional, especially at the very beginning. Remember, the film was made and released in 1936, not many years after the major upstream dams were built and about 20 years after Laguna dam was put into operation.


LAGUNA DAM COLORADO RIVER


COWBOY CODE OF THE WEST


RED RIVER VALLEY


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(click either image for movie)


RETURN TO:

KINGMAN UFO 1953


LOST SHIP OF THE DESERT


VIKINGS OF THE DESERT SOUTHWEST



THE DESERT SHIP: A LEGEND OR TWO. THE WESTERNER, DECEMBER 1950 ISSUE #31
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LOST SHIP OF THE DESERT, UNCLE SCROOGE COMICS, SEPTEMBER 1954 ISSUE #7
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THE CONQUISTADORS LOST TREASURE OF THE GRAND CANYON, SEA HUNT, OCTOBER-DECEMBER 1961 #11
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DESERT SHIPS, SPANISH TREASURE

AND COLORADO RIVER FLOODS

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E-MAIL
THE WANDERLING

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As to the subject of donations, for those who may be so interested as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.