"The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down." A. Whitney Brown.

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San Juan Archipelago, 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 750, 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.

26 November 2011

Stowaway put ashore on San Juan Island ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪

Alaska Steamship Co.,
 passing Turn Point Light, Stuart Island, WA.
Photo by Louis Borchers, Light House Keeper
His hobby was taking photos of every passing vessel,
prior to his death in 1923.
Notes from the late historian D. S. Egan, Edmonds, WA.
"On the bleakest shore of San Juan island, miles from the nearest habitation, without food or shelter, a 15-year-old boy, a stowaway aboard the steamer ALAMEDA, was put ashore by Captain Johnson on Friday.
      The boy was found in steerage soon after the vessel left Valdez and was put to work by members of the crew. All went well until Captain Johnson learned that he was aboard and determined to put him ashore before Seattle was reached.
      Several of the passengers who had learned of the boy's plight appealed to the vessel's master, offering to give double the amount of his passage if he were allowed to continue the voyage, but Capt. Johnson was deaf to their intrusion.
Aboard S. S. ALAMEDA.
Original photo postcard
Saltwater People Historical Society©

      In a life boat in charge of the third mate and two sailors, the boy was landed on the beach, and left to walk without food or money to the nearest ranch.
      Soon after the return of the lifeboat and when the passengers learned that the little lad was thinly clad and did not even have a coat, a meeting was called and resolutions protesting against the treatment of the little fellow were adopted. A wireless message was also sent to the Alaska Steamship Company advising them of the action of their employee.

Steamers docked Friday Harbor, WA.
GEORGIA and ROSALIE, undated.
Original photo, Saltwater People Historical Society©
The boy walked across the island to Friday Harbor and took the ROSALIE here at noon for Seattle. He claimed he bought a ticket through to Seattle, but lost it. He appeared to be well dressed and did not seem to have suffered from the experience.
      The stowaway, whose name is Albert Swan, reached Seattle Saturday morning, and is visiting an uncle there. It was learned from the crew that the boy refused to work and when reprimanded by the captain, used abusive language. According to the testimony of one of the passengers the captain was justified in putting him off the boat."
The San Juan Islander
Front page, 17 November 1911

20 November 2011

❖ The Steamer ROOSEVELT ❖ by Captain Ed Shields

Original Photo from archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"The ROOSEVELT was a steam powered towboat that operated on Puget Sound and in adjacent waters for many years. She was constructed in 1905 for Robert E. Peary to transport him and his supplies as far north as possible in Davis Strait and then land on the coast of Greenland. She was of exceedingly heavy construction, being 600 T-burden, 194-ft L x 35-ft B; she was built to withstand the ice flows of Davis Strait.
Robert E. Peary and the ROOSEVELT

Two antique postcards cancelled 1911.
Bottom: "Capt. Bartlett, experienced with Peary in the
privations of the Arctic region, indicated by the cross.
Men who were willing to brave unseen perils and dangers
in the cause of conquest and honor to their mother country
––such were these men; their efforts
were crowned with success."
Click to enlarge.
From the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©
      After Peary's return to New York, the vessel was sold to Puget Sound interests and brought to the northwest via the newly opened Panama Canal. One of the first noteworthy events the ROOSEVELT participated in was the opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, on 4 July 1917. She led the flotilla of vessels through the canal that day.
      In 1923 the ROOSEVELT was owned by the Washington Tug and Barge Company of Seattle. She was employed in towing three former WW I wood hulls, which were serving as barges, loaded with lumber from Puget Sound to San Diego. They were towed one at a time. One loading on Puget Sound, one unloading in San Diego, and the third at sea. The ROOSEVELT would bring an empty barge to the Puget Sound mill, take the loaded barge in tow to San Diego, and on arrival, the other barge was now unloaded and ready for the return trip. She was able to make two round trips per month and hauled 2,500,000-board feet of lumber each time south bound. She was the best tugboat on the coast for this form of ocean towing.
Mammoth log booms towed from the Columbia River
down the Pacific Coast to San Diego, CA.
Saltwater People Historical Society archives.
     In 1924 the ROOSEVELT, along with two other smaller tugs, took a flotilla of barges loaded with lumber to Miami, Florida.
     In 1931 the ROOSEVELT was dispatched to Cape Flattery to tow the schooner VIGILANT into Puget Sound, after her race from Hawaii with the COMMODORE. Extreme weather produced violent seas and several of the ROOSEVELT's pilot house windows were smashed; however, she accomplished her task.

 and the Schooner VIGILANT
A 1932 Seattle Times page from the scrapbook of
 PNW Captain W. C. "Pappy" Beachum (1906-1980).
From the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©
1932 found the ROOSEVELT towing large ocean going log rafts south to San Diego.
On 3 May 1934 the motor ship CHILDAR was outbound across the Columbia River bar when she was battered onto Peacock Spit on the north side of the entrance. The USCG Cutter REDWING succeeded in towing the stricken vessel from the grip of the breakers. They could not cross the Columbia River bar to return Astoria or Portland due to the exceedingly high breakers, so both vessels proceeded north. The next morning the ROOSEVELT took over the tow and brought the stricken CHILDAR into Esquimalt, BC.
      The last voyage of this famous tug was in 1937. She was sold to the California Towing Co in San Francisco. She set out on her final trip towing the former USN collier JUPITER from Puget Sound to the East Coast for scrapping. The tow yawed excessively and the tow line damaged the ROOSEVELT. She also experienced engine problems with her old power plant. After departing the Panama Canal the ROOSEVELT became totally disabled, turned the tow over to the New York tug RELIEF, and returned to the Panama Canal. She was laid up, and the crew finally sold her equipment, as they had not been paid. Finally, this former Artic exploration ship rotted away."
Written by Captain Ed Shields
About the Boats,1994

13 November 2011

❖ BOOK REVIEW: A Whale Runs through It ❖

Review written by Allison Hart Lengyel©
Saltwater People Historical Society

The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea
Philip Hoare (HarperCollins, 2008)

Look around and you’ll find whales are everywhere, swimming through popular culture, in toys, in art, in books and movies. They support coastal communities that once depended on fishing and now put their boats to sea for whale watching charters; they symbolize the aspirations of environmentalists who fear for the integrity of the world’s ecosystems. We are still trying to agree whether it is acceptable to hunt whales, and, if so, by modern or only traditional methods. But even if most of us aren’t hunting whales, we continue to be obsessed by them. 

This summer, hundreds of people ditched their cars along Highway 101, near where it crosses the Klamath River, to walk to the middle of the bridge and stand ogling over the side. What held their attention was a 45-foot female grey whale, circling and spouting in the shallow waters of the river, about three miles from its outlet to the Pacific. 

Female grey whale, Klamath River, California.
Photo by Allison Hart Lengyel
August 2011
Despite various attempts to help the whale leave, she remained below the bridge for several months. As reported by bluelivingideas.com, “She immediately became a tourist attraction and fascination of locals. Yurok tribal leaders viewed the whale’s presence as both a great gift and a sign our world is “out of balance” www.bluelivingideas.com. Finally, due to exhaustion, stress, an incomplete diet, too much time in freshwater—no one really knows, despite a subsequent autopsy—she began to fail and died, after beaching herself on the shore of the river. Thousands who had seen her or heard of her story grieved.

How can the whale be both a gift and a harbinger of environmental catastrophe, as the Yurok believe? Why do we care so much about whales, despite knowing so little?

Whales have existed for millions of years—long before humans—but they have been known to us in their own habitat for only a few generations. We still understand relatively little about them; the first whale was not photographed underwater until 1975. What we do know: all whales fall into two subclasses of cetaceans, the toothed whales (such as orcas, sperm whales, and dolphins) and baleen whales (including grey whales, humpbacks, and blues). Much as land-dwelling predators, toothed whales hunt their prey (fish, eels, seals, penguins, even other whales) one at a time, working alone or in packs. Baleen whales, on the other hand, scoop up vast mouthfuls of seawater, distending their jaws in the process, to strain out tiny particles of plant and animal life (phytoplankton and zooplankton)—the largest animals on earth subsist on a diet of some of the smallest, in other words. Whales have the longest migration of any mammal—up to 8,000 miles. The largest whales are far larger than the largest dinosaurs. Blue whales and finback whales are also the loudest of any animal, able to communicate across thousands of miles. And some kinds of whales may live to be more than 200 years old—but this is partly conjecture, based on the size of whales observed and what is understood about their rate of growth. 

You can learn all this and more in The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea, by Philip Hoare. In his investigation of the whale, however, Hoare was motivated as much by the mystery as the history of cetaceans. Not only scientific facts about whales, and whales’ influence on commerce and settlement patterns, but also the mystical associations people have had with whales and their sympathy—or lack thereof—for the giant sea mammals inform Hoare’s commentary. Running through his book is evidence of a lifelong fascination with whales, from early visits to aquariums to repeated readings of Moby Dick that became the inspiration for a pilgrimage to many of the places mentioned in its pages.

“Nothing else represents life on such a scale. Seeing a whale is not like seeing a sparrow in a city tree, or a cat crossing the street. It is not even like seeing a giraffe, dawdling on the African veldt, batting its glamorous eyes in the dust. Whales exist beyond the normal, beyond what we expect to see in our daily lives. They are not so much animal as geographical; if they did not move, it would be difficult to believe they were alive at all. In their size—their very construction—they are antidotes to our lives lived in uncompromising cities.” (Philip Hoare, The Whale, p. 29-30).

Leviathan or, the Whale, the British title to Hoare’s book (maybe the publishers didn’t believe Americans would know what “leviathan” means, even with the helpful second part of the title), was published in 2008. In 2009 it won England’s most prestigious award for nonfiction writing, the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize; the book became available in the United States in early 2010. Calling it “a classic of its kind,” Rachel Cooke wrote in 2008 in The Observer, that the book “cast a spell…begin[ning] as memoir, then mov[ing] deftly through biography, literary criticism, social history, and, finally, nature writing….” www.guardian.co.uk/books. Dozens of other positive reviews have followed, from the NYTimes and the Washington Post to independent booksellers and online readers’ forums. 

Why read a book devoted to whales? Why write one? Whales are both ancient and modern, their lives largely unwitnessed though they reside in all oceans of the world. Whether we regard them as graceful or fearsome, without any natural enemy or vulnerable to a host of dangers—whaling, water pollution, sonar and other noise pollution, global warming—they are everywhere and nowhere. When we look for them, what will we find? Once hunted without mercy and harvested in the tens of thousands for their valuable oil, baleen (“whalebone”), and blubber, whales have now come to represent—at least for those of us who constitute the nonindigenous west—a sort of cosy nostalgia for simpler times. Whales occupy the part of memory where we also keep wooden sailing ships and oilskin overcoats. Whales are evoked to lend charm and credibility to products ranging from kitchenware to commercial watercraft to children’s toys. Take, for example, the Playmobil whale boat, a bathtub toy piloted by an androgynous  sou’wester-wearing captain, its cargo a cute killer whale. It’s unclear whether the whale in this case is a product or a pet, but the whale, after all, sits right on deck without a holding tank. Though it looks like the two are out for a pleasure cruise, the brutal reality of what whaling really means has long been shielded from popular understanding.

Even a small whale presented a large logistical challenge for a whaler. Some towed their prizes home for processing, while, in the name of efficiency and to maximize the profitability of a single excursion, others stayed at sea and did their dirty business there. And it was a dirty business—a long, dangerous chase followed by carnage, blood, and slippery muck, and then a tedious and smelly process of reducing the mammals to strips of blubber, rendering the flesh for oil. Baleen was salvaged to be heated and molded into consumer goods such as umbrella and corset stays, Venetian blinds, and brushes. Whales could also be harried into shallow bays and inlets and forced to beach themselves, making their bodies more easily available for processing. Some people ate whale meat, but the greatest value was in the oil, which burned cleanly with minimal smoke. Whale bones were frequently turned into abstract monuments to the whalers’ gristly business—fences, arches, even whole buildings made of bone. Some still survive.
Anacortes, Washington
Whale Bone photo by Allison Hart Lengyel
Ironically, the biggest beneficiaries of the murderous business of whaling in North America were the Quakers—otherwise known for their pacifism. The moral opposition to violence apparently did not extend to fellow mammals. Quaker businessmen owned most of the boats, hired the crews, and profited from the processing and sale of whale products, as well as from commercial development that arose to support the whaling industry. At one time, New Bedford, MA was the richest city in North America, due to whaling.

Pressure on whales in the Atlantic, primarily from Basque, American, British, and Scandinavian whalers, pushed them ever north and south, extending the reach of Western whaling boats into the Arctic as well as into the Pacific; the Japanese had also long been whaling in these waters. Western whalers arrived in the Hawaiian Islands at about the same time as Protestant missionaries, in the mid-19th century. 

Whales for processing at Grays Harbor, WA.
Original Wolfe Photo, inscribed 1912, 
from the archives of S.P.H.S.©

The hardest part of the book to read is the long middle section devoted to whaling. We shake our heads at our benighted ancestors who seemed to have no compassion for whales, who were heedless of the rapidly diminishing numbers, other than noticing how scarcity led to longer excursions and lower catch rates. But there is hope after all this. Hoare wraps up his book with an examination of scientific efforts to learn more about whales as well as to save various whale species from extinction.

Commercial whaling continued throughout the west until the International Whaling Commission issued a moratorium on whaling in 1986. By the mid-1970s, saving the whales from extinction had become one of the central missions of Greenpeace (founded in 1971, arising from the peace and anti-nuclear movements). International treaties followed, along with an ongoing debate about what constitutes a fair and manageable approach to our relationship with whales. Despite the moratorium, whaling continues throughout the world, by countries including Japan, Norway, Iceland, and Indonesia. Pro-whaling countries cite the importance of whaling from a cultural as well as commercial point of view, and maintain that opposition to whaling is a hypocritical attempt to limit their economic development, among other things. Anti-whaling countries cite environmental concerns, apparent cetacean intelligence, and the value of whale watching (as opposed to killing) to local economies as reasons to extend the moratorium. Are whales a sustainable commodity or an endangered natural resource? Should we be hunting them, watching them, studying them, or just leaving them alone? We are still trying to agree what whales mean.

The above review introduces the writer Allison Hart Lengyel to our log. She's lived in the islands for ten years and sails with her family on the classic John Alden cutter JOHANNA.

09 November 2011


Menu from the ADMIRAL ROGERS, Captain Landstrom 1925.
From the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©
click to enlarge.
Steamer SPOKANE, c. 1910
From the Clinton Betz Ship Postcard Collection
Archived in the Saltwater People Historical Society©
S. S. SPOKANE aground.
aground at Seymour Narrows, one of the many vessels
caught on Ripple Rock before the huge blast 
in 1958.
Photo from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©

The SPOKANE was originally an elegant passenger steamship launched in 1901 in San Francisco, the first designed especially for the Inside Passage trade between Seattle and Alaska. Her dimensions were 281' x 40.1' x 17.3'. She had a triple-expansion steam engine fueled by two coal-burning boilers made by Babcock & Wilcox. The HP was 2,000; listed speed was 15-knots. The SPOKANE came to Seattle in 1902 where she was acclaimed as the "finest ship on the Pacific" in the press reports of her welcome. SPOKANE was lavishly decorated and steamed to Tacoma in May 1903, where President Theodore Roosevelt and his party embarked on a cruise to Seattle, via Bremerton. Four revenue cutters and sixty other vessels escorted them.
      More excitement of a different kind was in store for her that fall on her passage south for the winter. SPOKANE picked up an improvised raft with four survivors aboard who nineteen hours before, had been wrecked on Blanco Reef when the steamer SOUTH PORTLAND went down. 
      In 1907 she continued running north up the Inside Passage with one good season and then striking a rock in Seymour Narrows. 
      In 1912 she underwent major repairs and now looking more graceful, was back sailing with comfortable staterooms and wide berths.
      WW I had not meant much to the navigators of the Inside Passage. But SPOKANE got a good taste of it in November 1917; whilst southbound from SE Alaska she again struck rocks on the BC coast. It was reported that three enemy aliens had stowed away and fraternized with the crew. When the trio saw their chance they deliberately ran the steamer ashore. The two Germans and one Austrian were arrested when the crew arrived back in Seattle. It was reported she was repaired yet again and was used for transporting supplies for salmon canneries.
      In 1922 the veteran liner was renamed ADMIRAL ROGERS; two years later she came to the rescue of the city of Ketchikan when she came in close to shore to aid in controlling the flaming buildings along the waterfront. The heroic action lasted two hours with the crew credited with saving the city from destruction. Captain Frank Landstrom and crew were honored with a bronze plaque in appreciation of their assistance.
      ADMIRAL ROGERS enjoyed more cruising before she was taken over by the University of Oregon for a floating college. 

Blind Bay, San Juan County, WA. 1947.
Click to enlarge.
Photo by Joe Williamson, Seattle.
Original photo from the S.P.H.S.
      She spent time laying rather idle and forgotten on Seattle's Lake Union--fourteen years later in July 1946 part-time Shaw Islanders--Hal Salvesen and M. Haines purchased her with plans to convert her into a floating resort hotel. A brief passage in H.W. McCurdy's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, Gordon Newell (Superior 1966) states that this grand dream of the Haines/Salvesen team came true but there are residents to this day who drove daily to the dock for mail during that time period but don't remember a chance to stop for a tot of rum with the ADMIRAL.
      On the high tide at 2230, 27 April 1948, locals could hear the tug straining to pull the ADMIRAL from the muddy bottom of Blind Bay. She sailed in the dark, under tow to the scrap yard down sound. Circa twenty-two years later when the Shaw Island Historical Museum was launched, a Williamson print of the old liner and her wooden wheel were two of the first pieces donated to begin the small, island, artifact collection. Rather fitting for the wheel to jump-ship at the vessel's last port of call. No chance for a dance, but she left her heart on Shaw.
Further reading: Lloyd M. Stadum wrote a piece on the steamship ADMIRAL ROGERS (ex-SPOKANE) for the quarterly journal of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, The Sea Chest, December 1981.
Mr. Ed Bold (1891-1983)
Was a long-time summer resident of 
Shaw Island with his DUCHESS, 
designed by Ed Monk, Sr;
built by Edison Technical School in 1939.
Here he is aft, as a passenger

on S.S. SPOKANE, c. 1911-1913.
Photo thanks to his son 'Skip' Bold.

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