Funter Bay History: Cannery in 1929

I recently received an oblique aerial photo from August of 1929, showing the Funter Bay cannery. This is part of a set of Navy survey photos of Alaska. A few other photos from this survey are online, and I hope to find more in archival collections.

(Very large original, click to view full size)1929 Aerial FS T12a

At the time this was taken, the cannery was owned by Sunny Point Packing, and would operate for several more years before ending the main canning operation.

A few things are notable in the photo. The China Bunkhouse is only a foundation to the right of the Filipino Bunkhouse. Both “Oriental Bunkhouses” reportedly burned in 1929, so the Filipino Bunkhouse seen above is probably newly-rebuilt, with the China Bunkhouse in the process of rebuilding. Another notable feature is the long wharf and dolphins extending from the left side of the point. I had not been aware of this wharf’s existence before seeing the  photo. My best guess is it was a fuel delivery wharf serving the bulk oil tank on the point. It would make sense to keep the oil handling facility separate from the fish handling dock. Yet another interesting feature are the two radio masts to the left and behind the Superintendent’s house. These would have supported a dipole wire antenna similar to the type shown here. I am not sure what kind of radio was in use at the time, the 1920s saw the beginning of “High Frequency) (3-30mhz) and voice technology, supplementing low frequency and morse code stations. Some photos and information on a cannery radio operator from Yakutat from around the same time period can be found here. The antenna masts were likely multi-step poles made by lashing logs together, in the same manner as a wooden ship’s mast. This allowed them to reach higher than the surrounding trees.

I’ve zoomed in on the main cannery property and labeled some of the structures below. (The 1960s survey map was helpful with this).

1929 Aerial labeled

And for comparison, I’ve also included an aerial photo from a similar angle, taken in 2008. This is from a modern Alaska-wide aerial surveying project called Alaska Shorezone, a GIS mapping and aerial imagery project covering most of the coast (most photos in that set were taken at low tide, the 1929 image shows a higher tide).

2008 Aerial
The red house is a modern private residence, located approximately where the power plant stood. The green-roofed house is approximately where the mess hall stood. The only visible remains of the cannery in this photo are the floating dock and approach ramp (which have been updated and had sections replaced since 1929). The regrowth of spruce trees has obscured most of the formerly cleared land at the site.

I am very grateful to Mark Riley, Remote Sensing Coordinator for the Forest Service’s Alaska region, for tracking this down for me! I also received assistance from Shawn Younger, president of the WWII Archives Foundation, with another such photo. I may write about that one later.

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5 Responses to Funter Bay History: Cannery in 1929

  1. […] out as the major element of cultural geography. Unfortunately the 1924 photo is not so clear (this post has a nice 1929 aerial). Notable in 1924 is the complete lack of trees on Ledge Island (the small […]

  2. […] began appearing at Alaskan canneries around 1915, in the form of large base stations. In an earlier post I noted the large twin masts supporting a dipole antenna at the cannery in […]

  3. […] a follow up to previous aerial photos and maps of Funter Bay, here is some imagery from 1926 taken during a US Navy coastal survey. The […]

  4. […] the same year as the US Navy’s aerial photo survey of Southeast Alaska (previously shown here and here), but offers a different angle on the bay. Click the image below to view it full […]

  5. […] in 1942. The general layout is much the same as it was in the 1920s, with only minor changes. The 1929 Aerial photo that I previously posted is also […]

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