Begg Rock, San Nicolas Island
Begg Rock, San Nicolas Island is a small mass of stone — a volcanic protrusion — extending some fifteen feet above the waterline in an area of otherwise deep water. There is a reef extending northward and southward of about 100 years in each direction. Begg Rock lies eight miles northwestward of the western point of San Nicolas Island and is visible for about ten miles in clear weather and calm seas. A hazard to navigation, it is marked with a whistle buoy.
The 160-ton sailing ship, John Begg (1820-1849+). In March 1822, it made its first voyage to California, trading for hides and tallow with the missions along the coast. The John Begg was chartered for a trading voyage from John Begg & Company of Lima, Peru to California and back, arriving in San Diego in June of 1822 with a load of exotic and luxurious goods for sale. Two years later, on September 24, 1824, John Begg was bound for San Pedro, with several tons of hides, when it struck the small rocky island located approximately eight miles northwest of San Nicolas Island that now bears its name. The vessel was ultimately freed from the rock, repaired, and remained in service until 1849.
In the News~
October 1846: “On the 27th we fixed the position of John Begge's reef in 30 degrees 22' north, 119 degrees 44' west. This dangerous rock has deep water round it, and lies to the west-north-west of San Nicolas Island, one of the groups which line the Californian coast in this latitude. We also surveyed San Nicolas, San Clemente, and the Coronados Islands. The Pandora went into San Diego, the Herald remained off the low, arid, and uninteresting shores...” [Seemann, Berthold. Narrative of the Voyage of the H.M.S. Herald during the Years 1845-51 Under the Command of Captain Henry Kellett London: Reeve and Co. (1853) Vol. 1.]
September 28, 1857 [DAC]: “…Santa Catalina, San Clemente, San Nicolas, with John Begg’s rock, seven miles from its northern extremity, have their longer axes N.W. by W. and parallel to each other…”
November 13, 1889 [VV]: “…A reef puts out from the west end of the island, terminating in what is known as Begg’s Rock, seven miles from San Nicolas. This rock is about forty feet high and received its name from an accident that occurred to the schooner John Begg in 1824.”
1900: “…At last, to see the sun sink like a ship on fire, far beyond the west and beyond the reef which runs out to Begg’s Rock; yes far far beyond Begg’s Rock…” [Trask, Blanche Dying San Nicolas in Land of Sunshine 13(2):95-100, 1900]
March 1944 [USNIP]: “Eight miles northwest of San Nicolas is Begg Rock, a tiny mass of stone extending 15 feet out of surrounding deep water, and so hazardous to navigation that it has been marked with a whistle buoy. A sailing ship, the John Begg, crashed and sank here in 1824,” notes Lieutenant Commander Stanley A. Wheeler.
December 23, 1958 [Oxnard Press Courier]: “Channel Islands Claimed Many Ships Over the Years... Begg Rock. The schooner John Begg met disaster Sept. 30, 1824, seven miles north of San Nicolas Island. The schooner went down in 50 fathoms (300 feet) of water after crashing into a pinnacle rock of granite that rises abruptly from that depth. The desolate shoal today bears the name of Begg Rock. Historical archives carry little history of the John Begg, probably because her sinking predated by several years publications of the first California newspaper...”