Funter Bay History: Navy Ships

February 24, 2015

As I’ve previously mentioned, the USS Marblehead visited Funter Bay in 1919 on anti-piracy duties. Cannery owners including James Barron had complained to the government about the depredations of fish pirates, leading the navy to dispatch several patrol vessels.

Below is a photo of what appears to be the Marblehead anchored in Coot Cove near the Thlinket Packing Co at Funter. The photographer was near the scow slipways.


The next photo shows the USS Marblehead from a similar angle, helping to identify the ship seen at Funter.


USS Marblehead stern view, courtesy Library of Congress

This Marblehead was the 2nd ship to bear the name, a Montgomery-class cruiser 269ft long powered by two steam engines and armed with various 5-inch guns and torpedoes (Wikipedia page). Launched in 1892, the visit to Funter Bay seems to have been one of the ship’s last missions. It was retired in August of 1919. Additional information is available here.


USS Marblehead, courtesy Library of Congress

The masts and rigging indicate a ship capable of sail as well as steam propulsion. A photo of the USS Montgomery under steam and partial sail can be seen here.

Another vessel of similar appearance visited Funter Bay on April 28, 1923; the Coast Guard cutter Unalga (Navy History page). This vessel had only one stack, so does not match the one seen in the photo from Coot Cove. The ship’s logs (p1 and p2) from that day mention the motor boat Ceasar which had broken its crankshaft off Funter Bay on the way to Tenakee. The Unalga towed the Ceasar from Funter to Tenakee Inlet. (The source for these logs,, is a project to transcribe ship logs for historic weather data. These logs also contain other interesting information such as records of towns and vessels, wildlife, and general ship operations).

A slightly more modern ship can be seen in Coot Cove in the following photo, circa 1920. Clear Point is visible in the distance, the foreground rocks were near the cannery wharf where the photographer was probably standing.


This is the USS McCawley, DD-276, a 314ft Clemson-class destroyer (Wikipedia page). When photographed in Coot Cove it may have been taking part in the 1920 inspection tour of Alaska conducted by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, Interior Secretary John B. Payne, and Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Hugh Rodman. A note in the Kinky Bayers files reports the McCawley arriving in Juneau along with the destroyers Sinclair and Meyer on July 13, 1920, carrying Secretary Daniels and party. A photo of the McCawley in Juneau can be seen here. A photo of the VIP group visiting a glacier can be seen here. The Thlinket Packing Co was upheld as a model Alaskan industry by promoters, cruise lines, and publishers, so it easily could have been part of the inspection tour.

An article in the Seattle Times of July 10, 1918, reported that salmon packer “J. E. Barron” asked Navy Captain J. J. O’Donnell to take custody of L. Clarito, Joe Budous, and Martin F. Bolina, “Filipinos who are charged with sabotage”. The trio were brought from Funter Bay to the Juneau city jail aboard a “US Warship” and federal charges were expected to be filed. The actual “sabotage” seems to have been the un-patriotic act of inciting native workers to request higher pay.

I was not able to find a Captain J. J. O’Donnell in 1918, but as the article got J. T. Barron’s middle name wrong, it may not have been 100% accurate with the navy captain’s name either.

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 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:


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.


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:


Photo from NOAA Alaska 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