Funter Bay History: Fire on the Morzhovoi

Fire is something wooden boat owners respect and fear. Between the fuel and the varnish-soaked hull, an overturned lamp or loose electrical wire can get out of hand rapidly. In June of 1955, things got very out of hand on the cannery tender Morzhovoi.

Photo from Alaska State Archives, MS 10, Postcard Album 7.

Built in Seattle in 1917, the Morzhovoi was first owned by the Sockeye Salmon Co of Morzhovoi Bay, AK. It was later sold to the P.E. Harris Company, which operated the Funter Bay cannery after 1941. The vessel originally had a 110hp gas engine, changed to 165hp diesel by the 1950s. It is described in various documents as between 80 and 86ft in length. The vessel was of a fairly standard design used for freight service in the Pacific Northwest.

From Pacific Motorboat, Vol 12, No 9, June 1920 (date in caption likely a typo)

 

From Pacific Motorboat, Vol 8, No 3, December 1915.

I have yet to find details of what transpired in June of 1955, but there are a number of photos in Captain “Kinky” Bayers’ files in the Alaska State Archives. Official wreck reports state that the ship burned on June 10th, but the photos are dated June 15th.

Photo from Alaska State Archives, MS 10, Postcard Album 7.

 

Photo from Alaska State Archives, MS 10, Postcard Album 7.

 

Photo from Alaska State Archives, PCA 127

In some of these photos you can see small rowboats around the burning hull. These may have been curious sightseers like the person who took the photos, or they could have been cannery personnel guiding the boat away from other vessels and docks.

The Morzhovoi is a good candidate for the identity of a burned-out wreck found on the beach of Funter Bay today. The wreck is about the right size and features about the right type of engine, but is in such poor condition that verifying its identity would be difficult.

More photos are in my previous post about local shipwrecks.

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