KODIAK — Late one night in August 1943, far out in the western Aleutians, a US Navy destroyer ran a sonar search for Japanese submarines. The ship curved figure eight patterns across the surface of a calm sea outside Kiska Harbor, while a three-quarter moon flickered through broken clouds.  …

When the 110-foot freight vessel Exito sank in the Bering Sea in 2016, two men lost their lives. A number of factors were at play that night including an ill-fitting survival suit and the unseaworthiness of the vessel itself. One of the unexpected revelations of the sinking however was the i…

KODIAK — Most everyone in Kodiak knows that Alaska was colonized by Imperial Russia in the late 18th century, largely to harvest sea otter furs. Not as well-known is that ice from Woody Island was the last source of income for Russian America, and was tallied as a valuable asset when Alaska …

KODIAK — In June 1778, on his third voyage of discovery, Captain James Cook explored the coast of Alaska with his two ships, Resolution and Discovery. In the same month that George Washington was marching his Continental Army out of winter quarters at Valley Forge, Cook passed within sight o…

KODIAK — While Kodiak is mostly known for commercial fishing, it was briefly famous for a few days in October 1971 for a different reason, when the first Greenpeace ship, Phyllis Cormack, sailed into town, and caught the world’s attention. 

In the early morning hours of Feb. 10, 1991, the 98-foot crabber Barbarossa disappeared near the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea, most likely after rolling over with a load of 80 crab pots on deck. Six men died — skipper George Brandenburg, Dennis Olberding, Tim Schmitt, Darryl Gross, Bri…

KODIAK — About hundred years ago, at 2 a.m. on October 24, 1918, the passenger steamer Princess Sophia grounded on Vanderbilt Reef, 30 miles north of Juneau. Forty hours later, she slid off the reef into deep water, killing all 350 passengers and crew on board. It remains the deadliest marin…

As recounted in last month’s column (Kodiak Daily Mirror, April 11), a young Kodiak fisherman named Tony Jones flew to Egegik in the summer of 1974 looking for a Bristol Bay double-ended sailing boat. The iconic boats had been used in the Bristol Bay drift salmon fishery from the 1880s to th…

From the 1880s until 1951, when the state of Alaska first allowed the use of engines in Bristol Bay, the salmon caught there every summer were hauled into small, beautiful wooden boats powered with sails. Hulled with yellow cedar and rigged with masts and booms of Douglas fir, the boats by s…

Strange as it may seem, Kodiak’s maritime history includes a long-ago adventure on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The island briefly flew the Russian Imperial flag, and was, for a moment, imagined as part of a Russian Empire stretching from the Aleutians to California to Hawaii. 

In the late 1800s, the Hansen family, including seven brothers, arrived from Norway and began new lives in Seattle. The young brothers were smart and not afraid of work, and soon they were successfully fishing for salmon in Puget Sound on boats they designed and built themselves.

For a long time after the St. Patrick was towed into Womens Bay in December 1981, you could drive by on the road to Bell’s Flats and see it tied to a mooring buoy, right in front of the rodeo grounds. The boat had a starboard list when they found it abandoned and drifting off Afognak Island …

If you were a fisherman in Alaska between1965 and 2000, you would have set the schedule of your days by the voice of Peggy Dyson, who broadcast the marine weather from her house in Kodiak, twice a day over single sideband radio, at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Like many other businesses in Kodiak, the legendary Beachcombers Bar was first destroyed, and then transformed by the tsunamis of March 1964. Established in 1957 in a log cabin on Mission Road by Henry “Legs” Lagrue and his wife Edie, the original nightclub was swept into Potato Patch Lake b…

In 1999, the Coast Guard commissioned a new cutter, the Healy, a 420 foot icebreaker, and named it in honor of Michael Healy, the famed U.S. Revenue Service captain who served in Alaskan waters in the late 19th century. The Coast Guard proudly claims the cutter is named for the first African…

June of 1988 was warm and dry, and prices for salmon were at atmospheric levels — $2.40 per pound for sockeye — which would never be seen again. For most setnet fishermen in Uganik Bay, on the west side of Kodiak Island, it was a good year to be there.  

Almost forgotten now, 30 years after it ended, a mighty shrimp fishery once thrived around Kodiak and down the Alaska Peninsula. From a modest harvest of 31,000 pounds in 1958, to a peak of 122 million pounds in 1973, to the last deliveries in 1986, the fishery followed the classic bell curv…

In April 1778, the two ships of Capt. James Cook’s third voyage of discovery, Resolution and Discovery, left Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island, and sailed north in search of the Northwest Passage, the fabled and perhaps imaginary sea route between Europe and the Orient. Over the next few week…

In the summer of 1792, Alexander Baranov, the 45-year-old manager of the Russia’s Kodiak colony, chanced upon the British ship Phoenix in Prince William Sound, commanded by Hugh Moore and his first mate Joseph O’Cain, an Irish Bostonian. The three men hit it off immediately, using German to …

Just after midnight on Saturday, Oct. 4, 1980, a fire broke out in the engine room of the 427-foot Prinsendam, a Holland America cruise ship with 320 mostly elderly passengers, and 200 Indonesian crewmen and Dutch officers on board. The ship was 150 miles south of Yakutat on a 20-day cruise …

Early on the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 16, 1974, John Blaalid, 45, the skipper of the 86-foot shrimp trawler John and Olaf, radioed the Coast Guard to inform them that he and his crew were experiencing heavy icing in Portage Bay, on the Alaska Peninsula, across Shelikof Strait from Kodiak I…

On October 1, 1978, two weeks into the Kodiak King Crab season, the Marion A., a 42 foot steel boat, headed for the south end of Kodiak Island with sixteen crab pots. Onboard were skipper Delno Oldham, 25, and deckhands Jerry Allain, 28, and Gerald Bourgeois, 29.

In last month’s column, I wrote about a 1914 expedition to the high Arctic whose people were rescued by the King and Winge, a historic fishing vessel known to many in Kodiak as a crab fishing boat, from the 1970s until it sank in the Bering Sea in 1994.

On Feb. 9, 2007, the Coast Guard cutter Mellon was tied to the dock in Dutch Harbor with its helicopter, an MH-65 Dolphin, parked in a PenAir hanger near the airport. During a school group tour of the helicopter that morning, a student asked about the strobe light on the rescue swimmer’s dry suit.

On Feb. 9, 2007, the Coast Guard cutter Mellon was tied to the dock in Dutch Harbor with its helicopter, an MH-65 Dolphin, parked in a PenAir hanger near the airport. During a school group tour of the helicopter that morning, a student asked about the strobe light on the rescue swimmer’s dry suit. 

In 1981 two young cannery worker union organizers, Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo, were gunned down in Seattle by hitmen hired by a corrupt union president in league with Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos. Viernes and Domingo were part of a uniquely American story involving racism, viol…

A little after four in the morning on a summer day in 2002, three setnetters pushed their 22-foot skiff off a beach in Uganik Bay on the west side of Kodiak and headed for their gillnet a quarter of a mile away. It was daylight, but barely; the difference between sea and sky and mountains st…

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In the late afternoon of August 7, 1944, in the middle of World War II, if you had been standing on Brooklyn Avenue, which ran about where the back of Sutliifs Hardware is now, you could have waved to President Franklin Roosevelt as he drove by in a station wagon. It was Roosevelt’s first vi…