"Of all national assets, archives are the most precious:
they are the gift of one generation to another,
and the extent of our care of them marks the
extent of our civilization." Arthur Doughty.

About Us

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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

09 June 2018


Fishing grounds of Bristol Bay, Alaska.
From a report compiled by the
Bristol Bay Regional Planning Team
For State of Alaska Fish and Game, 1988.
click image to enlarge.

"Fishing being an ancient industry, it is only natural that certain fishing grounds should have become famous. One of them is Bristol Bay, AK.
      These waters form the southeastern corner of the Bering Sea and include the area from Cape Newenham to Cape Menshikoff. Of the six salmon rivers in this territory, five are open for commercial fishing: The Nushagak, the Naknek, the Egegik, and the Ugashik rivers. The sixth river, the Togiak, is fished for 'personal use' only, by the inhabitants of that watershed.

Schooner WAWONA
Captain Charlie Foss.
"In 1914, she cleared Anacortes, WA. 31 March and
arrived at Unimak Pass on 8 April with 23 fishermen.
The largest vessel of the fleet caught 240,000 fish 
(550 tons) almost all were caught from 32-45
fathoms deep." McCurdy's Marine History/Newell
Cod schooner WILLIAM H. SMITH
full of dories sailing north from
 San Francisco, 31 March 1933
for the Alaska fishing grounds. 

      Bristol Bay’s claim to fame rests upon the very solid foundation that from the beginning of commercial fishing in America, it has been the largest producer of red—or sockeye—salmon in the world. Yearly catch has reached into the millions of salmon and the yield to the canners of millions of dollars in one year. Some wonder then that the name “Bristol Bay” has a magic sound in a fisherman’s ear and is spoken with wonder and respect when fishermen get together.
Dories sailing to the fishing grounds
Bristol Bay, Alaska.
On Bristol Bay fishing grounds showing a gillnet
being set and a fresh caught salmon breaking water.
June 1938

From the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society ©

Cod fisherman in the 1940s got their food
from scows anchored in the Bay.
Bristol Bay, Alaska.
"Fishermen going ashore Bristol Bay, AK."
As inscribed verso.

Click image to enlarge.

      The gillnet is the only legal fishing gear in Bristol Bay. It may be used as a drift net, or as a set net—also called “stake net” or “beach net.” Set nets may be used by the local people only, and one must be a resident for a certain time period to operate this in any of the rivers. From the beginning of commercial fishing in Bristol Bay and for some 60-odd years thereafter the fishing was done with open boats, using sails and oars as propulsion, the use of motorboats having been prohibited by law.
      The reasons for this prohibition were not quite clear, it seemed. Some said that it was for the sake of conservation, as powerboats would be so much more efficient than the sailboats. Others again insisted that motor boats were prohibited at the request of the canning companies, as motors cost big money, and had to be repaired and replaced when worn, whereas Squarehead, Finn, and Italian fishermen could be thrown away when worn out, and replaced at no extra cost. Whatever the reason the law was there and had to be obeyed.
      The law prohibiting powerboats was changed finally, and the fishing season of 1951 brought the first power fishing boats to the Bay. They began to take over the field completely and the old sailboat is seen no more on the rivers of Bristol Bay.

      The history of early Bristol Bay fishing is a proud and terrible record of grueling work, privations, sufferings; of heroism and skullduggery, of foresight and initiative. Bristol Bay boasts what is perhaps the most “un-navigable navigable” waters in North America, with dangerous sandbars and banks extending miles out to open sea. The tidal difference is the third largest in the world, creating dry land where, only five hours earlier, there was a navigable channel with twenty feet of water. The currents are unusually strong and erratic—storms are frequent and violent. Such are the waters fished by small, open sailboats—a testing ground that served to divide the 'men from the boys.'
      The rivers of Bristol Bay took their toll, year after year; boats were capsized, sunk, stuck on a sandbar and broken to pieces by the tide when a sudden storm came up. No statistics have been compiled but is common knowledge that hundreds of fishermen found their grave in the sands of wide river mouths.
Bark BERLIN (3223) and others
stuck in the ice of Bristol Bay
One hundred years ago.
Dated May 1918.

Click image to enlarge.
BERLIN escaped back to Oregon...

But in May 1922, BERLIN, age 46 years,
went aground at Ugagak, Capt. E. Wendt of
Portland, OR., and was a total wreck.
She was bringing salmon to Naknek Cannery.
Vessel value $25,000 and Cargo $111,000.
All crew members were saved.
Naknek River, Bristol Bay, Alaska.

In the early transportation to and from the Bristol, fishing grounds was by sailing ships, each canning company operating its own fleet of vessels. The trip from “stateside” —Astoria, Seattle, San Francisco, and other ports—often had unpleasant surprises in store for the fishermen—who, during the voyage, also served as sailors. The Gulf of Alaska is known as rather a rough piece of water, especially in the time of winter and early spring, and the sailing vessels had to take a lashing from wind and waves before reaching the Pass—Unimak Pass, the gateway from the Pacific Ocean to the Bering Sea. And then the sailor might find—drifting ice in the Bering.
      Days and weeks might go by fighting the way to the anchorage at the mouth of the river. A 40-day voyage from stateside to Bristol Bay was far from uncommon and it often happened that as many as 63 days were spent underway.
      The working requirements? Here are excerpts from ‘Articles of Agreements and Wage Scale for the season of 1907 between the various AK Salmon Packers and Fishermen’s Union.’
      ‘...They agree to give their whole time and energy to the business and interests to said Company, and to work day and night (Sundays and holidays, not excepted), according to the lawful orders of the Captain, Superintendent, or whoever may be in charge for the Company, and for the compensation provided, but shall not be required to work for outside parties.’
      ‘...While preparing for fishing or after fishing has closed, the men shall not be required to work on Sundays as a rule, and if they are required to work any time on Sundays, such time shall be given to them during the week. In case of an emergency such as safety of ship or company’s property is in danger, such work to be done at any and all times without giving time back.
Heading home and leaving the ice behind.
Vessel unidentified.
Click image to enlarge.

A cosmopolitan bunch they were, the Bristol fishermen. Italians, Finns, Norwegians, Swedes, constituted the main force, with a sprinkling of Danes, Irishmen, Scots, Germans, Hollanders—men of many races, creeds, and color of hair.
Bark BERLIN crew
homebound September 1918
Bering Sea to Portland, OR.
Click image to enlarge.

Fourteen photos from the archives of
the Saltwater People Historical Society©

Peaceful and easy going, as a rule, disagreements were slow to arise, tempers to flare. Such things did happen —there were black eyes or bloody noses now and again. By and large, peace and good fellowship were the rules of the fishing camps.
       The actual canning work was done by the ‘China gang’, under the command of the ‘China Boss.’ In due time the Iron Chink replaced the Chinese cannery worker. Later still the Filipinos were replaced by natives from the area adjacent to Bristol Bay, Aleuts, and Aleut-Eskimos.”

Above text from Fish and Ships, This was Fishing from the Columbia to Bristol Bay. Ralph Andrews and A.K.Larssen. Bonanza Books.

01 June 2018


If these sea lions don't look big enough,
click the image to enlarge.

Maybe we'll do a little fishing in the kelp beds.
Photos by L.A. Douglas.
It's breeding season and the California sea lions are beginning to appear in the northern Sound. 
      The males who grow up to 8' and c. 800 pounds and the females typically reaching 5' and 250 pounds––are quite a load for the docks in Pt. Townsend where they have been observed hauling themselves out. One was flashing a  brand 'X101' indicating it is from a colony on the Columbia River. 
      The sea lions in these beautiful photos were cavorting in Cattle Pass, San Juan Archipelago, WA and shared by boater Lance Douglas of Blakely Island. Thanks for these shots, Lance.
      For more news on these mammals, Jeannie McMacken reported today in the Peninsula Daily News.

26 May 2018


Captain Louis Knaflich
Schooner RUBY 
Low res scan of an original dated Mar. 1941
from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©
Determined to aid the United Nations in their war against the Axis powers, four members of the Knaflich family of Seattle are serving America on widely separated fronts.
      Capt. Louis Knaflich, veteran Alaska mariner, and the trader is sailing in Army Transports carrying troops, supplies munitions to the northern battlefront. 
      Louis Knaflich, Jr. 23 years old, a graduate of the YMCA navigation school in Seattle, is the second mate of a War Shipping Administration ocean-going tug.
      Hanley Knaflich, 21 years old, a graduate of the Maritime Service Officers' Training Schoo at Alameda, CA, is the third mate of a Maritime Commission freighter sailing to the South Pacific war zone.
      Miss Donna Knaflich, 18 years old, the pretty daughter of the colorful Alaska mariner, is employed in the offices of a Los Angeles architect and recently made all of the blueprints for a Navy tug, built in southern CA.
      "Hanley graduated from the Alameda officers' school with high honors before he was 21 years old and now has second mate's papers for any ocean." Captain Knaflich said.
      "Donna attended the drafting school of the Seattle YMCA, where she laid the foundation for a career as an architect. She went to Los Angeles a year ago.
      The Sea Takes Hold
From the time they were quite small, the Knaflich children hard their father tell of his adventures while making cruises to Siberia, Banks Land and to Herschel Island, far to the eastward in the Arctic, and it was not surprising that they were determined to follow a maritime career when they grew up.
      Donna loved her father's ships, the sturdy schooners that carried him to remote districts, including the storied Kuskokwim River of AK, where she was born. In Seattle, she received instruction in mechanical drawing, preliminary to a course in ship drafting. In L.A., she has been working on plans for Maritime Commission tugs and hops to be able someday to design a deep-sea ship.
      Capt. Knaflich opened the Kuskokwim River trade with Seattle in 1911 while operating the schooner DUXBURY. At that time there were no charts and he threaded his vessel up the river by making constant soundings. He also operated the schooners BENDER BROTHERS and ANVIL to the Kuskokwim, but his most famous vessel was the schooner RUBY, a trim, white three-mast vessel in which he made a voyage from Seattle to Maracaibo, Venezuela, with a cargo of lumber in 1926.
Auxiliary Schooner RUBY, 1941
Seattle, loading up for Mexico.
Original photo from the archives of the Saltwater People©
Offered $100,000.
Capt. Knaflich was offered $100,000 for the RUBY in Callao, Peru, while on his way to Maracaibo, but refused it as the vessel was one of the most successful schooners of her rig and type operated in off-shore trade.
      The RUBY made voyages to Banks Land, Herschel Island and Beatty Island, far to the eastward in the ARCTIC, to Siberia, Valparaiso, Chile, and Callao, Peru, and in 1941 she was sold to Productos Maginos and went from Seattle to Guaymas, Mex., flying the Mexican flag and manned by a Mexican crew.
      In the service of the Productos Marinos of Guaymas, the RUBY became the mother ship of shrimp fishing fleet operating off the coast of Mexico.
Above text, The Seattle Times. Nov. 1943.


22 May 2018


AMELIE, 1933.
Built at Pt. Blakely, WA in 1925 as a tender for
Sunny Point Packing Co.
81.1' x 18.7' x 8.8', 99 G.t. 67 N.t.
165 HP.
Then she went exploring with the
Father Bernard Hubbard expeditions in Alaska.
Click image to enlarge.
She is in documentation in 2018 at Ketchikan.

AP photo from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society.©

Text with this photo states, "Father Bernard R. Hubbard, S.J., famous 'Glacier Priest,' led an exploration party through the wild and remote regions of the Alaska Peninsula last summer, checking geological changes in the volcanic region and discovering a new harbor in the crater of Bogoslov, a marine volcano known as "the Disappearing Island of the Bering Sea." When his ship AMELIE visited the harbor it was the first time a ship had ever entered the crater of a volcano, Father Hubbard said. The exploration party returned to Seattle on 9 October 1933, after taking 100,000 feet of motion picture film, much of which was 'shot' in spots never before seen by human eyes. The party spent six months in the region known as the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes."

Father Bernard R. Hubbard, S.J.
courtesy of Santa Cruz University.
Hubbards's King Island Expedition:
In 1937 and 1938 Father Hubbard lived on King Island with his boats, dogs, expedition members, and more than 100 tons of supplies and equipment. During this expedition, he continued his glacier research and captured the King Island people on film. The King Islanders took him on a 2,000-mile open-water by umiak in his attempt to prove that the Eskimos, from Nome to Barter Island, shared a common language.
      Hubbard's arrival on the Island had an impact on the community. Among his supplies were powerful electric generators and engines to power his moving picture equipment and light the hall he constructed to show his films, as well as to give power to other parts of the village. He constructed buildings for the villagers and introduced oil burning stoves to replace the dirtier and less efficient coal-burning units they had been using.
      Hubbard made several long documentary films and took thousands of still pictures of almost every aspect of King Island life, including native funerals and the celebration dance of success at bear hunting. Bogojaviensky and Robert W. Fuller, who published a number of Hubbard's still photographs in 1973 in Polar Bears, Walrus Hides, and Social Solidarity, praised their high quality. "The ethnographic and historical significance of these photographs is enormous––To our knowledge, there exists no comparable photographic record of an aboriginal sovereign state in all of Arctic ethnology."
      Hubbard's stay on the island generated controversy. After his party left, Joseph McElmeel, the General Superior of the Alaska mission, wrote "Just at present Father Lafortune has the task of overcoming the bad influence of the Hubbard party on the island last winter. The seculars with Father Hubbard should never have been taken there. Father Hubbard has admitted to me that he can no longer control them as he used to. Even non-Catholics in Nome spoke to me about the danger that the King Islanders would be affected by the stay of the Hubbard party. The too frequent moving pictures developed a craze for pictures in the Islanders. On their visit to Nome this summer it was observed by seculars that they were no longer as simple as they used to be. Father Hubbard is a hard-working man, but he should not be permitted to come to the missions with the type of men he brought this year." The accusations, however, apparently were not very serious because Hubbard and four others, including Edgar Levin, were welcomed back in the summer of 1940 for more photographic work, and to make further improvements to the village." Santa Clara University archives.

      "One of the more colorful personalities of former years was Fr. Bernard Hubbard, S.J., the 'Glacier Priest.' He came to Santa Clara in 1926 and was assigned to teach mineralogy and geology but his heart was not in the classroom. It was in Alaska. There he explored volcanoes in the Aleutians and, for some months, lived among and studied the culture of the King Islanders. Each summer he enlisted a few friends to join him in these expeditions. Finally, in 1995 a stroke limited his activity but did not discourage him from his annual trip to AK. When at Santa Clara he spent his time editing films and preparing for his popular lecture tours.
      Financial help came from his lectures, friends, and advertisements which he inserted in his motion pictures. Some advertisers also gave him fishing gear, rowboats, camping equipment, cameras, and film.
      In some respects, he was like a little boy. He had a charm and an uncanny way of wresting permissions from his religious superiors. Because he didn't drive a car he appointed me to drive his Chrysler station wagon. Once we stopped at a fruit stand and he drank so much cider that he had to stay at home near a bathroom the next day. But once he decided to drive to the campus of Montezuma school in the Santa Cruz mountains. A 'No trespassing' sign was posted but he told me to ignore it. We were promptly stopped. To persuade the guard to allow us to enter, he informed him that he was Father Hubbard. The guard replied that he had never heard of him. We later enjoyed a good laugh and never allowed Father to forget this. Toward the end of his life, he received a Christmas card from a local mortician. He laughed and said: 'Those buzzards are really waiting for me!' Fr. Hubbard remains in my memory as a good friend, a unique personality and a man with an undying love for Alaska." Carl H. Hayn, S.J., Professor of Physics. 1962.

For further study, please see The Legacy of the "Glacier Priest," Bernard R. Hubbard, S.J. Scarborough, C.M. and D. Kingston. Santa Clara Univ. Dept of Anthropology and Sociology. 2001. LINK

20 May 2018


The able seaman from the
American Mail Line's  President Madison,
who swam a line ashore to the rocky
 shore of Amatignak, AK to rescue
 3 survivors of the wreck of
the freighter SS NEVADA.
He is shown after arriving Seattle,
8 October 1932.

Photo by Acme News
from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©
Heroes of a North Pacific disaster from
This photo shows members of the lifeboat crew who rescued
James Thorsen, Lucena Decaney & Fritz Dewall,
survivors of the freighter NEVADA.
arrived in Seattle, 5 Oct. 1932.
The third officer, E.J. Stull who commanded the lifeboat,
is seen standing in uniform.
Eddie Blomberg is seen in the center of the back row
without a life preserver.

Click image to enlarge.
Photo by Acme News

from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©

The American Mail Liner PRESIDENT MADISON arrived in Seattle on 5 October 1932 with three survivors and the lifeboat crew who rescued James Thorsen, Lucena Decaney, and Fritz Dewall. They were the only survivors of the ill-fated freighter NEVADA, wrecked on the rocky shores of Amatignak Island in the Aleutians. Thirty-four were lost.
      The steel steam screw NEVADA, Master T. W. Johanson had stranded at Amatignak, AK. She departed Longview, WA, 15 Sept. 1932 bound Yokohama, Japan. Carrying a 6,648-ton cargo of lumber, flour, and general merchandise. 
      SS OREGON MARU responded to radio distress signal; proceeded to wreck but the seas prevented the rescue of men who had washed ashore. SS PRESIDENT MADISON arrived 29 Sept and rescued 3 crew members from Amatignak Island. The USCG HAIDA arrived on scene 4 Oct. and continued the search of vicinity without results. The NEVADA and cargo were total losses. Value of cargo unknown. Vessel value was $255,000.

S.S. NEVADA (219522)
Lost, 27 September 1932
Location, 51 16 N 179 06 W
Chart, 16460
Tonnage, 5,645 G. 3517 N. 
Age, 12 yrs.
Owner, States Steamship Co of Portland

Source, USCG Report 18 October 1932 at Portland, OR;
AlaskaShipwreck.com; and Saltwater People Historical Society.

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