"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 650, 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.

19 July 2018


Day 83 of One Hundred Days in the San Juans.
One hundred articles were written by June Burn on contract with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1946.
      June's articles also appeared in what is now an out of print book One Hundred Days in the San Juans. Edited by San Juan Islanders, Theresa Morrow, and Nancy Prindle; Long House Printcrafters & Publishers, Friday Harbor, WA. 1983.
      The text below is verbatim for June and Farrar's Day 83 with vintage photographs from the Saltwater People collection.
The University of WA. Oceanographic Laboratories,
as it was called in August 1931,
the date of this photograph.

Click image to enlarge.
Original photo from the archives of the
Saltwater People Historical Society©
Photographer unknown.
"As you cruise into the bay of Friday Harbor from the north, just as you go around that last point, look to the right of you. Along that north shore, you will see many low buildings with tile roofs. They are the laboratories of one of the world’s few and famous oceanographic stations.
      These laboratories have had a long and honorable history. 

The laboratories at Friday Harbor had their
beginning in this "camp" photo c. 1905.
Students and teachers lived in tents.
Classes met in a rented cottage.
A 4-acre site was later donated by Andrew Newhall.
Photo from the archives of
the Saltwater People Log©
More than a generation ago, Professor Kincaid, at the University of Washington, thought it would be useful to study marine life; somehow wangled that old, ugly, yellowed-windows house on piers against the bluff south of Friday Harbor known as the Marine Station.
Early Oceanographic Laboratories, c. 1905, when
c. 15 students with Prof Kincaid and botanist T.C. Frye
camped among the fir and madronas near
Friday Harbor, San Juan County, WA.
Photo by James A. McCormick
Original photo from the archives of
the Saltwater People Log©
      To this, in delightful hardship and fun, students first came, began to study the living animals of sea and shore. It was called the ‘bug station’ and the islanders thought the students were playing at getting an education.
Long-standing Professor Trevor Kincaid
of the University of Washington.

Collecting specimens along the shore 
near Friday Harbor, San Juan Island.
Low res scan of an undated vintage photo from the archives
of the Saltwater People Historical Society©
Photographer unknown.

Professor Trevor Kincaid
Photo dated 1948.
Here he holds the old oyster shells or culch,
strung on wires to be hung in the water where
oyster larvae become attached to them. The
shells carrying the 'seed,' are scattered in oyster
beds to plant the new crop. In 1947
56,000 cases of seed were imported from Japan
and planted in Anacortes, Seattle, and Willapa Bay.
Photograph from the archives of
the Saltwater People Historical Society©
Gradually, though, the work of those students began to tell. (Witness the development of the Kincaid oyster industry itself, big and important, but promising far more for the future.) A knowledge that intangible but terribly potent good! —was increased. The bug station grew.
      Later, the UW bought 400 acres on the north shore of the bay, set up a larger plant known as the Biological Station, of which Dr. T.C. Frye became the director. There were tents in the woods and a big dining-living room to which, in its largest year, nearly 200 students, professors, and their families came from the world around.
      At the Biological Station undergraduates as well as graduate students could study the chemistry, physics, zoology, and botany and ecology of the sea. They could also study land botany and ornithology. Many thousands did. The old laboratories were in tents.
      Then, 15 years ago, I think it was, this marine station took still another form. The Rockefeller Foundation wanted to give our University some money. Had we needed for some specific new important project?
      The young chemistry professor of the old biological station thought we certainly had that need. It was time the scientists knew more about the sea, mother of all living things. Instead of a station where only plants an animals of the sea were studied, why not set up laboratories where the sea itself might also be explored? That was Dr. Tommy Thompson who was thereupon made the director of the project.
      What would it take to do this ambitious thing?
      Tommy had the answer ready. It would take new laboratories. The rest of the plant was all that was needed. Dr. Frye had already built that big main building to house library, kitchen, showers, reading-dining-living room. He had begun to set up new and more complete labs, too.
Friday Harbor Marine Laboratories
Photo date 17 Sept 1940.
Click image to enlarge.
From the archives of the
Saltwater People Historical Society©
Photographer unknown.
      We already had the old boat, the MEDEA, to take students out over the Archipelago for new material. This whole area had already been set aside for the University’s use as far as gathering specimens.
      The main new need was for a floating laboratory — a ship in which students could actually go out to sea studying currents, temperatures, saltiness, heaviness, light, radioactivity, and many other properties of the ocean itself from California to Alaska.
      Thus it was that we got our ship The CATALYST in which, until the war, students traveled near and far, learning things about the sea that you can't call commercially useful, learning other things –– such as fish diseases and their causes, why water here or there is warmer than elsewhere and what effect it has on the fishing and what to do about it –– which are so useful that we now wonder how we ever got along without knowing them.
      Now that we had our ocean labs; the botany lab where kelp, seaweeds of all kinds are studied; the zoology lab where animals and parasites are studied; the physics lab where light penetration, heavy water, radioactivity, etc, are studied; the chemistry lab where salinity and all the complex chemistry of our mother blood is studied –– and so on through seven laboratories.
      Now we had our ship in which students went over the sea learning the most important things there are to learn, About 100 graduate students a year came from all over the world to study here. Great scientists came. Our Archipelago became world-famed.
      But everything stopped during the war. The labs were taken over by the Coast Guard. The ship was sold. That fine ship so delicately and fully outfitted for scientific exploration was sold! It seemed incredible that one of the most significant units of the University should be thus casually disposed of.
      Down on the campus, too, the parent Ocean Lab, dedicated by Milliken in 1931, was turned over to the Navy –– or maybe it was just taken by the Navy––for its work. Nobody minded at the time.
      But now that the war is over, people are saying again that the ocean work should get underway. We must get a new and better ship. The labs must start to work again.
      Dr. Thompson, on McConnell this summer instead of at the laboratories, reassures us. Of course, he says, they will get underway again. It takes a little time. 
      Come next summer, it won't be archaeologists borrowing part of the plant to live in while they dig. It will be chemists again and physicists, zoologists, pathologists, bacteriologists, botanists, ecologists with their seven laboratories, their two ships––one to stay in inland waters and the other to roam further afield––and their hundred young students delving into ocean lore, digging for the most important knowledge in the world! See you tomorrow. June."
Another Saltwater People post with founding information can be seen HERE

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