Funter Bay History: More 1929 Photos

August 20, 2014

I recently came across some additional photos from the 1929 Alaskan Aerial Survey, conducted by the US Navy. Thanks to Richard Carstensen for sharing these! Richard had an excellent website at juneaunature.org. Also thanks to Kim Homan with the Southeast Alaska GIS Library for providing some reference information. They have put together An ArcGIS interface for locating and viewing additional aerial photos from this set.

These are very large photos, click to open them full size (may take a while to load on a slow connection).

Funter Bay viewed from the North, looking almost directly South down Chatham Strait towards Chichagof Island:

ob07016_funter75

1929 US Navy Alaska Aerial Survey Expedition (Sargent, R. and Moffit, F. 1929. Aerial photographic surveys in Southeast Alaska. USGS Bull 797-E.)

Green Mountain is in the foreground on the left. Mt Robert Barron is further ahead on the left. The large island at the head of the bay is Highwater Island, with a medium tide filling the estuary behind it, but not covering the sandbar connecting it to shore.

The next photo is not at Funter, but across Lynn Canal at Swanson Harbor (behind Point Couverden). This location was used by the Thlinket Packing Co to store fish traps in the winter, and as a convenient harbor for packers during rough weather. I found it interesting because several complete and partial fish traps are seen stored in the shallows at the head of the harbor.

ob05023_swanson

1929 US Navy Alaska Aerial Survey Expedition (Sargent, R. and Moffit, F. 1929. Aerial photographic surveys in Southeast Alaska. USGS Bull 797-E.)

This area goes dry at low tide, as seen in the modern photo below:

se05_ml_6682

Photo from NOAA Alaska Shorezone (https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/shorezone/) used as public domain.

The traps have long since disintegrated from weather and tides, ending up as mossy logs on the beaches. The pilings driven into the mudflats in the 1929 photo have also disappeared.

In addition to use as a fish trap staging area, Swanson Harbor was tied to Funter by mail service. A few homesteads and fox farms at Point Couverden received their mail at the Funter Bay post office. A cannery was reportedly begun at Swanson Harbor around 1902 by Buschmann, Thorpe & Co, but the company failed before construction was completed. There may have been a cannery or saltery prior to this, 1897 nautical charts indicate a cannery in the same location.  An 1880 map of Swanson Harbor shows an “Abandoned Indian Village” in the location of the structure seen in 1929. This is drifting further off topic, but I found it interesting enough to include here:

Swanson 1880


Funter Bay History: Cannery in 1929

January 14, 2014

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.


Funter Bay in Maps

May 6, 2013

Here is a compilation of maps and aerial photos showing Funter Bay over more than 100 years. I wish I’d had this collection when I was a kid! They are great for seeing the rise and fall of development around the bay. The difference between high and low tide is also striking. If you’re a boater thinking of visiting Funter, take a look at some of the low-tide images before you take a short-cut, or you may be the next boat that someone has to pull off the sandbar! (Also think of the wind direction and bottom type, the anchors shown as moorage locations on the nautical charts are kind of another local joke… people end up dragging anchor if they use those spots in the wrong winds).

Some of the aerials are very large files, click them if you’d like to view the originals, but give them a few seconds to fully load (they may look grainy or pixelated at first).

I have collected these from several sources. The aerial photos are public domain data, produced by the Department of the Interior / United States Geological Survey. Many of these can be found at http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/

Most of the topographic maps are products of the USGS, and can be found at http://nationalmap.gov/historical/

Nautical Charts were produced by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey (later NOAA), and some can be found at http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/csdl/ctp/abstract.htm

Funter Bay in 1905 (Nautical Chart):
1905 chart

1905 vicinity chart:
1905 vicinity chart

1914 nautical chart (essentially the same as the 1905 edition):
1914 chart

1921 USGS map showing some of the mining claims on the South Shore:Funter claims 1921

1948 aerial photo (click to open detailed original scale):
1948 Funter Bay

The 1948 aerial above is cool because it shows many of the old docks and waterfront structures that are now gone. I’ll try to highlight a few of these in a later post.

1951 vicinity map (USGS terrain-shaded topo):
1951 topo

1962 map by the Overseas Mineral Cooperation Association (a Japanese mineral investment group):1962 OMCA Map

I have highlighted structures shown on the OMCA map in red. I find it interesting that they show the cabins near Clear Point as well as the cabin between the creeks at Crab Cove.

1979 CIR aerial, taken from a NASA U-2 Spyplane as part of the Alaska High Altitude Aerial Photo project:
1979 Funter Bay

We did have a framed copy of the image above when I was a kid. This is in Color Infrared or CIR, meaning vegetation is shown in false-color red, and you can discern different types of vegetation from the different shades of red (so clearcuts and patches of different trees stand out from the predominant spruce):

1982 aerial photo (Color Infrared, click to open very large original):
1982 Funter Bay

1985 topo map of Mansfield Peninsula:
1985 topo

1987 nautical chart:
1987 chart

1990s topo map:
Topo

1996 or 1998 aerial photo (current residents may be able to pick out their houses and cabins in this one!):
1998 Funter Bay

2004 satellite image (sorry, not as high-res):
2004 Funter Bay

And just for fun, here are a few of my own photos from various aircraft passing over Funter.

2010 oblique aerial looking South-ish over Crab Cove, coming through the pass from Juneau:
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2011 oblique of Funter Bay as seen looking NW-ish, from an Alaska Airlines jet:
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With commercial satellite maps, most companies have yet to include much coverage of Funter Bay. However, if you zoom all the way in on Bing Maps, you’ll get some decently high-resolution imagery (although the light balance is bad).

This site is also really cool: http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/shorezone/

Similar to the old California Coastline project (but hopefully with less Barbra Streisand), the Alaska Shorezone Viewer allows you to pull up images (and video) of almost the entire Alaska coast! The interface is a little clunky and takes some getting used to, but the images are amazing!

That’s all I’ve got for now. If I come across any more interesting maps of Funter Bay, I will try to post them here!