Among the scenic attractions at Crater
Lake, few excel in popular appeal or give rise to greater exercise of
creative imagination than the small island known as the Phantom Ship.
This rugged little island with its spires of andesite, is generally
considered to be no more than a picturesque old rock, furnishing
appealing subject for those who would use it as vehicle for their
contemplations in fantasy by way of mind, palette, or film. Actually,
time is fashioning a biological unit on the island; the usual sequences
and consequences of nature are molding discernible, competitive
boundaries and patterns of adaptation upon its rugged surface.
Physically, the Phantom Ship is a
remaining section of the filled conduit of a fissure from which probably
poured many of the lower layers of lava constituting Dutton Cliff. Its
rocks of pyroxene andesite have in many places been altered by
hydrothermal activity. Quartz filled seems give the rock a character
uncommon to most of the rocks generally found on the crater walls. The
island is about 500 feet long and reaches a maximum width of 200 feet
near the east end. Its east-west ridge of spires, towering 170 feet
above the water, sharply divides most of the island into two slopes, one
very steeply sloping to the south and the other less steeply to the
north. The island is separated from the mainland by a shallow channel
about 200 feet wide. Above this channel, Dutton Cliff rises abruptly,
constituting one of the highest sections of the south-west wall of the
Observations noted herein were made
during two visits to the island on August 8 and August 19, 1946. Some
hours were spent in perusal of the situation as it existed, but the
plant tally was made on the second visit only. The listings are not to
be considered as complete and certainly it will be worthwhile to make
additions and corrections as subsequent observations suggest.
The accompanying sketch illustrates
roughly the bio-geographic layout of the island. The west end of the
island is made up of tall spires which rise vertically; a limited talus
at the water's edge is all that lies between the spires and the water.
In this region, few plants have gained a foothold and the area must be
essentially classified as barren.
The remainder of the island is divided
into two slopes which show a definite segregation of species. White bark
pine grows on both slopes in nearly equal areal density, though it
appears to be much more in its element on the north side.
The South Slope - The south and
southeast slopes of the island, while undoubtedly subjected to great
extremes of temperature, are predominantly a warm section. Three
ponderosa pine live a stinted existence in this region. The largest one
is 35 or 40 feet high and 56 inches in circumference, three feet above
the root spread. On this slope are four western white pines, the largest
of which is 34 inches in diameter; it is broken off 20 feet above the
ground and a crown of new growth doubles that height. High on the east
end is a taller one 60 feet high and 25 inches in diameter; it bears an
old lightning scar, now nearly healed. These trees are bearing a good
crop of cones this year. The ponderosa pine cones are smaller than
A considerable coverage of green
manzanita (A. patula) grows just below the spiring ridge that
separates the island into two parts; it continues to the water's edge.
All of this presents a clear cut transition situation. However, in
addition to this there is considerable mat manzanita (A. nevadensis),
and an intermixture of small white-bark pines. In a few cases there may
be confusion between P. albicaulis and P. monticola, but
most of the trees were bearing cones and no mistake was possible.
The complete absence of lodgepole pine
or alpine fir seems surprising, but may probably be explained by the
dearth of water-stabilized soil or duff. It was also noted that not one
specimen of either red fir or hemlock was found on this slope.
The North Slope - The north
slope is less steep than the south; it presents some areas with a soil
of erosional debris and duff. On this slope are growing trees typical of
the lower Hudsonian Zone. Shasta red fir exist in considerable areal
density, but are small for the specie, while mountain hemlock grow in
about the same stand density, but the mature trees, though small, are
apparently in good condition. The white bark pine on this slope are
normal and of good size. The total number of trees (a foot or more high)
is 66 while the south slope supports only 28.
High, near the east end of the north
slope, is one specimen of white fir about 30 inches high. It appears to
be in good condition and should subsequently be checked for its
existence and growth. It apparently is the only one on the island.
At the foot of this slope there is a
flat talus which is supporting a number of herbaceous plants typical of
shady, moist localities; including shield fern, meadow rue, Jacob's
ladder, and bleeding heart. The distribution of herbaceous plants and
shrubs is apparently controlled by localized circumstances and zonal
distribution is far from obvious. The appended list of the plants
observed gives their general location.
Among the unlisted, but not unnoticed
flora are the brilliantly colored yellow, red, and orange lichens which
cover the vertical walls of the towering spires. Occasional single
plants of grass are to be seen near the water's edge. No attempt at
identification of these was made.
Animal life observed consisted of
birds, obviously transient. There were two Clark's crows and three
Sparrow Hawks but no other birds were observed. On the first visit, one
golden mantled ground squirrel was seen on the talus at the east end.
None was seen on the second visit. No traces of other animals were
noted, but the writer does not profess to be a skilled observer of such
Some evidence of human trespass were
evident. Recent foot marks on the upper level soils, a film carton,
three paper plates, a paper drinking cup, a rusty beer can, and several
pieces of orange peel gave evidence that human influence cannot be
From 1910 to 1940, the level of the
lake has been dropping; this year the lake level is three feet higher
than at comparable season in 1940. Evidence of this rise of level is to
be noted in the fact that several shrubs, probably willows, have been
destroyed by the rising water and their roots and stems are now a foot
or more beneath the surface. A half dozen such plant remains were
Thus the island gives rise to two
rather clearly defined life zones, namely a hybrid sort of transition on
the one side and a definite Hudsonian on the other. A total of about 94
forest trees, including six species, and 32 species of ground plants
were observed to be growing on the Phantom Ship.
The following forest trees large enough
to be considered as firmly established (a foot or more high) have been
magnifica shastensis Lemmon.
mertensiana (Bong.) Sargent.
||Few (2 or 3)
scopulim (D.C. Eaton) Maxon.
||Two on North side
near water level.
amplexicaulis glaber Macbride.
lasiandra abramsii Ball.
||One small plant
on south side (8 feet).
||One plant on
||Common on north
side near water level.
arguta (Nutt.) Torr.
||One plant on
formosa (Andr.) DC
||Common at lower
||East end near
||Common on north
glabrascens (Greenman) Heller.
cascadensis G. N. Jones
||One plant on NE
||Occasional on SE
||Common on north
||One plant, north
||One plant, with
||Common on south
||Several plants in
rock crevices on north side.
menziesii davidsoni (Greene) Piper.
||Pride of the
margaritacea (L.) Benth and Hook.
||Common on east
palustre vulgare (Lam.) Fernald.
water's edge on east end.
||Common on east
||Several on east
and near water level.
||A few on east
- o -
Perception of Nature leads to
Knowledge, to Understanding, Interest, Love.
- o -