Juneau’s Hidden History

August 29, 2016

I’ve been invited to contribute some of my Alaska history research to Juneau’s Hidden History, a Facebook group run by local historian and explorer Brian Weed. Brian and his co-contributors have been posting some great photos and stories of their adventures and discoveries around town. These include old mines, historic vehicles and machines, Native petroglyphs, hidden waterfalls, glacial ice caves, and much more! If you live in or are interested in the Juneau area, I highly recommend visiting the page and checking out their great photos! They take you well off (and sometimes under) the beaten path to see the things that don’t make it into tourist brochures!

The group page can be viewed (and joined/followed) here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/JuneauHiddenHistory/

And their photo galleries can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/JuneauHiddenHistory/photos/

Brian Weed has also written a number of articles for the Capital City Weekly, some of which can be found here.


Funter Bay History: Museums, Collections & Science

July 29, 2016

Some of the feedback I get on my Funter Bay History posts involves people wanting to buy or collect old “stuff” (engines, artifacts, etc). In general I believe historic artifacts should be left where they are unless seriously threatened by decay, development, or vandalism. So for example, I’d like to see things like Funter’s big gas engines remain cool lawn ornaments, but the various steam locomotives upside down in creeks and ditches around Southeast Alaska would be better off in museums somewhere.

Artifacts from Funter Bay have made their way into a variety of museums, historic collections, and scientific archives over the years. Here are a few that I’ve come across during my research.

A rock sample from the Willoughby Mine, “Shore Group”, from a private collection:

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A rock core sample from Borehole U-18 at Funter Bay, stored at the Alaska Geologic Materials Center.

Three pieces of Funter Bay Clay were exhibited in the Alaska Building at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition as part of James Lathrop’s private mineral collection.

The Alaska State Museum holds a number of mineral and rock core samples from Funter Bay, as well as a fossil ammonite and a stone pestle (native grinding tool) found there.

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The Juneau-Douglas City Museum has a number of items from Funter Bay, including a gGrape soft drink bottle, a soda water bottle, a Pelton wheel part, and a small motor. They also have a number of Funter Bay documents, including  cannery and saltery applications, a canned salmon label I’ve previously mentioned, and various invoices and receipts for things like dynamite, transportation, and jury duty.

In addition, a number of research papers and scientific studies have involved Funter Bay:

In 1903, the Bureau of Fisheries steamer Albatross collected seabottom samples around Alaska, including near Funter Bay. Some data from these samples appears in several articles over the following decade. Many of these appear to have been found in a single dredge sample of mud hauled up from about 300 fathoms in Lynn Canal, just off Funter Bay.

In 1905 and 1908 articles on Polychetous annelids (marine worms), author J. Percy Moore noted many such worms in the seabottom mud near Funter Bay. These included plentiful specimens of Lagisca rarispina (Sars) Malmgren (now known as Harmothoe rarispinia), as well as specimens of Nephthys ciliata, Goniada annulata Moore, Ampharete arctica Malmgren, and Melinna denticulata Moore. The latter species was observed for the first time at the Funter Bay sample location. The distribution of this species is listed as “Funter Bay, Alaska”, and a specimen is held by the Smithsonian Institution.

Another creature first discovered near Funter Bay (collected by the same Albatross expedition) is Koroga megalops Holmes, a type of arthropod commonly known as a “sand flea”. This particular species has later been found all over the world.

Koroga megalops Holmes

A smaller arthropod known as Holophryxus alaskensis Richardson was also found in the Funter Bay samples, named after discoverer Harriet Richardson in 1905.

Also collected by the Albatross were a variety of fish and plankton including Stenobrachius nannochir (Commonly known as a Garnet lanternfish), Lycodapus grossidens Gilbert (Bigtooth eel), Holomesiella Anomala (a type of tiny shrimp),

A 1910 Bureau of Fisheries inventory collected 12 specimens of Pallasina barbata (tubenose poacher) from Funter Bay. These are frequently found in eelgrass and around dock pilings.

In 1921, the USDA’s Microbiological Laboratory collected samples of seawater at Funter Bay, and found Bact. aerogenes present (link, pg 85-109). It was assumed to be widely distributed through the region based on other samples. (While I am not an expert on microbiology, it appears this organism is now known as Enterobacter aerogenes and is a common gastrointestinal bacteria in animals and humans).

Researchers from the University of British Columbia visited Funter Bay in 1957 while conducting  a fisheries study. Several specimens were collected around Funter Bay, including Oligocottus maculosus (Tidepool sculpin), Pholis laeta (Crescent Gunnel), and Anoplarchus purpurescens (High cockscomb). When I was younger we would commonly catch these small fish in tidepools and under rocks.

UBC Fisheries Record

Speciments of Agarum cribrosum Dumortier (a type of seaweed) were collected by the University of British Columbia at Station Island, in the mouth of Funter Bay, in 1980.

There is a type of soil classified as the “Funter Series” or “Funter Peat” under a 1991 soil classification survey. It is described as “very deep, very poorly drained soils that formed in fibrous peat underlain by loamy mineral materials. Funter soils occur in muskegs on floodplains and stream terraces. Slopes range from 0 to 5 percent”. This is found mostly in the meadows around Funter Bay.

Blackeye Goby and Kelp Perch were sampled at Funter Bay in 1998 by biologists at the Auke Bay Laboratory.

A specimen of Enypia venata (variable Girdle Moth) was reported at Funter Bay in a 2012 paper.

 


Monorails to New York

April 22, 2016

After I purchased a monorail train from the Minnesota Zoo, I was contacted by some folks from New York who plan to start a monorail museum. As I had apparently become an “expert” at getting 1970s monorail cars onto trailers, they asked me to help with the loading process once they purchased the remaining cars.

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With larger commercial vehicles and powered winches available, the move went a lot faster! We were able to get 4 cars per load on two trailers.

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We moved out all 11 remaining cars in three loads this way. On the final trip they also picked up some wheel bogies to add to the museum display.

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The service barn looks very empty now with no trains parked inside!

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Kim Pedersen with the Monorail Society was instrumental in connecting me with the museum people. You can check out Kim’s new book here (it’s great, especially for reading while in a monorail!)

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Funter Bay History: The Old Man’s Draft

December 8, 2015

During WWII, the government required all males age 18-64 to register for the draft. Registrations were conducted in several rounds, the fourth of which was for those age 45-64, often referred to  as  “The Old Man’s Draft”. Registrants of this age group were not expected to serve in the military, but to be on hand in case their labor or skills were needed for the war effort.

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Even small communities had a draft registrar, and in fact Funter Bay had two. Postmaster Harold Hargrave handled registrations for local fishermen and miners, while Pribilof Island internees were registered by Lee McMillan, a Fish & Wildlife Service employee. Registration for the 4th round was begun in April of 1942, Funter Bay registrations seem to have occurred between May and September. I have found records for 29 individuals registered at Funter (again, these were only men age 45-64).

I’ve typed up the records from these draft cards below. The name in parentheses is the person listed as “Person who will always know your address”, if there is no last name in parentheses it is the same as the man listed in that record. If the card is noted “Deceased” or similar, I have also noted that after the names. Spelling of some of the place names is taken from the cards and is not always correct or consistent. The date of birth listed on the cards may not be 100% accurate, as people did not always recall their exact age. The last line of each record is the employer or business listed on the card.

Draft registrants at Funter Bay for the 1942 Old Man’s Draft were:

Peter Bourdukofsky (Alexandra) -Deceased
Born 11/22/1879, Pribilof Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

John Fratis (Anfesa Galaktinonoff)
Born 6/18/1886, Pribilof Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Alexander Galanin (Mary) -Deceased
Born 9/11/1885, Pribilof Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

John Hanson (Frances Emanoff)
Born 4/7/1896, Pribilof Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Nekita Hapoff (Prascodia) -Deceased 9/6/43
Born 9/27/1888, Pribilof Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

John A Harold (Douglas Ainsworth)
Born Nov 29, 1877, “Calumete Michigan”
Fisherman – Funter Alaska

Ernest Samuel James (H.J. Hargrave)
Born May 3, 1896, Eureka California
Fisherman – Funter Alaska

John Irwin Lee (H.J. Hargrave)
Born March 7, 1880, Brown County So. Dakota
Fisherman – Funter Alaska

Walter Kashevarof (Helena)
Born 7/3/1887, Belkofsky Alaska
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Theodore Kochutin (Maria)
Born 11/1/1888, Pribilof Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Condrat Krukoff (Vassa)
Born 3/27/1890, Pribiliof Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Theodore Kulchitzky (Nicolai Merculieff)
Born 1/22/1885, Sevoroye, Russia
Priest of Russian Church, Funter (St. George Native Community)

Anatoly Lekanof (Agnes)
Born 4/15/1890, Pribiloff Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Serge Lekanof (Sophia)
Born 10/6/1891, Pribiloff Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Nekifer Mandregan (Alexandra)
Born 2/18/1896, Pribilof Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Nicolai Merculief (Angelina)
Born 5/18/1880, Pribiloff Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Stefan Merculief (Agrippina)
Born 9/27/1890, Pribiloff Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

John Merculief (Mouza)
Born 1/19/1890, Pribiloff Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Paul Merculieff (Alexandra)
Born 3/11/1890, Pribilof Island
F&WS Evacuation Camp

John Misikin (Natalia)
Born 9/28/1889, Pribilof Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Isidor Nederazof (Alexandra)
Born 2/5/1891, Pribiloff Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Paul Nozekof (Mary)
Born 7/11/1896
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Neil Oustigoff (Mary)
Born 9/30/1890, Pribilof Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Vlass Pankoff (Moisey Shabolin) -Deceased
Born 2/22/1888, Pribilof Island
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Radoica Lazov Pekovich (W.S.)
Born ?/?/1881, Montenegro
W.S. Pekovich, Funter Alaska

Leonty Philemonof (Eoff)
Born 5/6/1894, Pribiloff Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Vasilii Stepetin (Marva)
Born 2/8/1893, Pribilof Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Paul Swetzof (Julia)
Born 6/8/1892, Pribiloff Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

Zachar Tetoff (Daria)
Born 5/21/1879, Pribilof Islands
F&WS Evacuation Camp

 


Alaska’s Railroad Shipwrecks

November 25, 2015

During my research on Alaska’s forgotten railroads, I came across a few incidents of shipwrecked railroad cars. While such events don’t really fit my railroad page, they are interesting enough to document here.

Because the Alaska Railroad is not connected to the rest of North America’s rail network, there is a regular traffic of rolling stock on rail-equipped barges to and from Pacific Northwest ports (more info and photos here). Various other communities and industries have experimented with such service, with stub rail yards appearing in Sitka, Ketchikan, Saxman and Valdez, connected to the outside world by rail barge docks.

As with other ocean-going vessels, these rail barges sometimes suffer casualties. The following are a few such incidents:

February 26, 1947: The barge PT&B Co 1651 ran aground on Louis (or Lewis) Reef, just North of Ketchikan. Rail cars bound for the Alaska RR were salvaged, but the barge was a total loss.

September 27, 1965: The train ship Alaska ran aground in a storm and sustained bow damage, but was able to refloat under its own power and reach Vancouver for repairs. This was a roll-on, roll-off train ferry rather than a barge. A photo of the ship is here, and more information is here.

December 13, 1967: The “Hydro-Train” barge Valdez towed by the Sea Witch was driven ashore West of Yakutat during a storm. The tug (another source says it was the Sea Giant) sought shelter in Yakutat Bay but the towline snagged on the bottom and the barge was driven ashore. Heavy waves smashed the barge and 42 loaded rail cars bound for Whittier were lost.

February 19, 1970: The tug Intrepid capsized and sank during a storm, with loss of 3 crew (5 survived in a life raft for several days before rescue). The tug’s tow was the 400ft barge Cordova carrying 40 railroad cars. The barge went aground near Yakutat and was later salvaged (photo of salvage operations here)

September 1975: Crowley Barge 414 went aground near Yakutat and was refloated by the Salvage Chief (Source and photo here)

October 20, 1987: The tank barge Seattle hit a reef while carrying chemicals to the Sitka pulp mill. In addition to on-board tanks of chlorine and caustic soda, the barge had rail cars filled with sulfer, ammonia, and sulfuric acid. Despite the potential for a hazardous spill, the barge was pulled off the reef with only minor damage.

January 1, 1997: The tug Blackhawk departed Whittier with a barge of empty rail cars, and arrived in Ketchikan a few days later with only half the barge. A passing boat informed the tug of the damage, as the crew could only see the front of the barge they were unaware it had broken in half. The Coast Guard located the back half drifting intact southwest of Valdez and it was towed back to port with no rail cars lost. (Some details from the Daily Sitka Sentinel of January 6, 1997).

Unknown Date: The rail car barge Griffco went aground near Yakutat and was re-floated.

Groundings near Yakutat are somewhat common in this list. The stretch of coast from Cross Sound to Prince William Sound is less protected than the rest of the route to the Gulf of Alaska. There are no sheltering islands to break up ocean wind and waves, and few harbors where vessels can seek shelter. It is sometimes called “Alaska’s Lost Coast”, due to the scarcity of settlements. Boats are frequently driven ashore by strong winds, but the relatively soft sand beaches help reduce damage in many cases. Some examples of wrecks in the area can be seen here and here.

The information here is from various sources as noted, as well as alaskashipwreck.com and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Alaska Shipwreck Table.


Funter Bay History: Weather

May 8, 2014

Many people from outside Alaska inquire about the cold and snow, which usually leads into a discussion of Southeast Alaska’s climate (the rainy season, and the lots-of-rain season). The temperature rarely falls below 0°F in the winter, due to warm ocean currents which reach Southeast Alaska from the Pacific Ocean. In general the climate is similar to Seattle (although wetter and about 10° cooler on average). Between 1980 and 1996 there were on average 214 days a year with precipitation. Rainfall averages about 60″ per year (compared to 37″ for Seattle and 45″ for Vancouver BC). However, it’s not as wet as other parts of Alaska like Whittier (156″), Yakutat (155″) or Ketchikan (141″).

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N002Graphic from http://pubs.usgs.gov/ha/ha730/ch_n/N-AKtext1.html

Average air temperatures are in the 60s in summer and 30s in the winter, with extreme highs in the 80s and extreme lows in the negative single digits.

The water temperature at Funter varies between about 37°F in the winter and 50°F in the summer. Warm enough for summer swimming, especially near the shore. Dark rocks and gravel warm up in the sun at low tide, then help to warm the shallows as the tide comes in.

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When it does snow, the accumulation can initially be deep (15″ in a 24hr period and 34″ total depth are some of the records). The snow does not tend to last long, instead melting into slush or getting rained on, so total buildup does not get as impressive as other parts of Alaska such as Prince William Sound and Southcentral Alaska.

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Wind is the major hazard of winter weather. While many sites on the shore are protected from the worst wind by their location and nearby trees, the center of the bay can experience powerful gusts coming in from Lynn Canal and Icy Strait, as well as North wind out of the pass behind the bay. Weather Data from Point Retreat lighthouse shows several storms with 50-60mph winds in Lynn Canal in recent years.

Winds coming in from the channel can sometimes whip up large williwaws or small waterspouts in the bay:
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Unsuspecting boats have been driven ashore on occasion after anchoring in the middle of the bay (a location shown as a good anchorage on some charts). The public docks are usually better options for secure moorage if a storm is forecast.

Weather data from 1961-1996 for Funter Bay, with various summary tables and calculations, can be found here.

Another collection of weather data for Funter Bay (from 1980 to 1996) is available here.

Weather reporting from Funter Bay was part of the National Weather Service’s Cooperative Observers program. This provided vital information for pilots, fishermen, and other travelers, as well as supporting weather forecasting on a wider regional scale. Funter residents Jim and Blanche Doyle operated the Funter station and called in regular weather observations or “obs” to the local NWS office. An index from 1980 showing some of these stations (including Funter Bay) is below:

weather 1980

In 1985 the Doyles moved across the bay, the weather station was placed on the inactive list in June, then relocated and reactivated in August (per NOAA / National Cooperative Observer Newsletter).

A newspaper column on Alaska weather noted that Funter Bay had the statewide high of 60°F on November 25, 1987 (vs 45° at Juneau and a statewide low of -39° at Umiat that same day).

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Also of importance to residents and travelers are the tides, which can change the water level 20 vertical feet in a 6-hour period. Tides are a predictable phenomenon based on the gravitation pull of the sun and moon, so tide tables are calculated and published well in advance. However, currents and geography can cause some local variations. For this reason, the government has established tide gauges at various places around Alaska in different years, including at Funter Bay. These would show the offset in minimum and maximum tidal fluctuations. Government documents refer to self-registering tide gauges installed at Funter Bay in 1894, in 1903, 1923, and 1960. NOAA’s tide data and upcoming tide tables for Funter Bay can be found here.

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Blast(s) from the past!

February 7, 2014

No, it’s not more Funter Bay History this time, just some local website archeology! I dug up a few horrifying old versions of this very website, from back when I actually pretended to know what HTML was for and didn’t just coast on WordPress! (I totally recommend WordPress to everyone now, it is way easier!)

First off, a proto-website, from the murky days of High School.

v0

 

Those were the days when teachers encouraged you to share far too much personal data! “Hey teenagers, why not put everything about yourselves online! Throw your home address and phone number on there! Why not some high school transcripts? How about your birth certificate, mother’s maiden name, SSN, and blood type? It’s The Wonderful Internet, the more you share the better you’ll network and get jobs and no one would ever misuse such information!”. Even today people are shocked about how much I share about myself online (or at least, they’re shocked that I do it on an old fashioned website and not more quickly and efficiently with Facebook!)

The proto-website “portfolio” never made it onto saveitforparts.com, although I did have it linked until my high school eventually dumped that server in an old WWII hangar like they usually did with old tech (100% true).

Saveitforparts.com in early 2000 (Oh noes the frames and the animated GIFs they BURN MY EYES!)

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It got better pretty quickly, although by late 2000 it kind of looked like a website designed inside a comic book…

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By 2003 I seem to have gone with a more toned-down theme:

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This look remained into at least 2009, by which time I was only a decade or so behind in moving towards this newfangled blogging style thingy.

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And um… here’s some recursion into the current look so that I can come back to this post in another 14 years and say “Oh noes look at these awful templates and headers! This shouldn’t be on the NeoInterTubes! How could I have been so foolish to share photos of myself and enable identity theft cloning!”

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