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Anniversary of Icebreaker Visit to Anchorage 1972

Date Posted: February 14, 2016       Categories: 49 History

Anniversary of Icebreaker Visit to Anchorage 1972

By J Pennelope Goforth


BURTON ISLAND Brochure. Photograph courtesy Port of Anchorage Historical Folios 1958-1989, Folio 2, Section 1, Page 67. Welcome Aboard Coast Guard Icebreaker BURTON ISLAND WAGB-283, page 3.

Twenty four years ago on February 15, 1972, Anchorage had a special visitor just in time for the 1972 Fur Rendezvous: the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker BURTON ISLAND. The ship was one of nine icebreakers operated by the Coast Guard. (Today there are is only one, the HEALY.) Anchorage residents looked forward to the visit of the famous ship which promised an open house and a private dinner party for local officials.

These details and a brochure describing the vessel were recently found in the Port of Anchorage historical scrapbooks. The two huge folios, consisting of over 500 pages and weighing over 20 lbs. each, are in the process of being digitized. Created by port staff−containing news clippings, articles, advertisements, photographs, reports and memorial brochures like the one from the BURTON ISLAND−the folios cover the maritime history of Anchorage from 1958 through 1989. When completed the folios will be posted on the port’s history page as key word searchable pdf files.

Hundreds of people enjoyed the tours offered by the ship’s crew aboard the vessel each afternoon she was in port. Both the Anchorage Daily News (ADN) and the Anchorage Daily Times (ADT) newspapers covered the event. “The BURTON ISLAND, whose home port is Long Beach, Calif., is in these parts for a two-month tour of Cook Inlet and the Bering Sea for a marine mammal survey,” reported the ADN.  “An 11-man party of scientists and technicians is on board for the survey. In addition to the mammal survey the crew will conduct a trafficability study to determine the type of icebreakers needed to operate successfully in ice conditions peculiar to this area,” the ADT elaborated in a longer piece. “This is the second such study done in Cook Inlet by the BURTON ISLAND.” The articles were accompanied by photographs of visitors, the ship, and her officers: Executive Officer J.M. Fournier and Commanding Officer Captain George Schmidt.

According to maritime manners of the day, each visitor was presented with a brochure about the history of the vessel. In the 2nd folio the full brochure, with an insert showing the menu for the wardroom dinner party, has been preserved. In it the ships Alaskan exploits are highlighted.

BURTON ISLAND in Antarctica

Burton Island (WAGB-283) refueling at Cape Hallett with every curious penguins parading in the foreground. Photograph Courtesy Burton Island Cutter File, Coast Guard Historian’s Office. Photo is dated 11 January 1971; no photo number; photo by “Walker, PH3.”

“BURTON ISLAND, a “WIND” class breaker, is named for a small island off the coast of Delaware. Following her commissioning in December 1946, she sailed to Antarctica. There she participated in Byrd’s Operation High Jump. This marked the opening of the vast ice continent to modern scientific study. She also pioneered operations in the Bering Sea, which lies between Russia and Alaska. In 1962, she made a record penetration for surface vessels in to the ice pack north of Alaska, by reaching a latitude of 79 degrees 11 minutes North, less than 650 miles from the North Pole. In December 1966, she was transferred from the U.S. Navy to the U.S. Coast Guard. After extensive refitting she made four deployments to Deep Freeze.

Operation Deep Freeze which began in 1955 provided logistics support for Antarctic research projects. The ship accompanied supply vessels breaking ice for the scientific program participants. She also served as a “floating platform for scientific research of many types, providing access for research scientists to isolated polar areas” according to the brochure. BURTON ISLAND will deploy to Arctic West in 1971 and ’72 and return to Deep Freeze in ’73.”

Deeper History


BURTON ISLAND ships crest. Photograph courtesy Port of Anchorage Historical Folios 1958-1989, Folio 2, Section 1, Page 68. Welcome Aboard Coast Guard Icebreaker BURTON ISLAND WAGB-283, page 3.

The ships crest bears testimony to her polar career featuring both penguins and a polar bear. The U.S.S. BURTON ISLAND was launched on 30 April, 1946 and commissioned 28 December 1946 as AG-88 for the United States Navy. On 17 January, 1947, BURTON ISLAND, loaded with supplies, steamed from San Diego to Ross Sea, Antarctica where she met with units of TF 68 on the first Antarctic Development project. After returning from Antarctica, BURTON ISLAND departed 25 July, 1947 for the Point Barrow expedition to Alaska. From April of 1948 to December of 1956, Burton Island participated in 19 Arctic and Alaskan cruises. Duties on the cruises varied including, supply activities, helicopter reconnaissance of ice flows, scientific surveys, underwater demolition surveys, and convoy exercises.

On 15 December 1966, the Navy transferred the vessel, along with all of its icebreakers, to the U.S. Coast Guard and she was renumbered WAGB-283. After the transfer, BURTON ISLAND was stationed at Long Beach California and used for icebreaking operations. Starting in 1967 through 1978, the ship went on eight different Deep Freeze operations to the Antarctic. The ship was responsible for creating and maintaining aids to navigation, clearing channels through the ice for supply vessels, and various other activities including numerous SAR missions.


BURTON ISLAND under way at sea. Photograph Courtesy Burton Island Cutter File, Coast Guard Historian’s Office. No date listed; no photo number; photographer unknown. 11th Coast Guard District (dpi) photo.

From August to September 1971, she conducted an oceanographic survey along North Slope, Alaska.  From February to March 1972, she conducted a scientific survey in Cook Inlet, Alaska. In June to July 1973, she conducted oceanographic research in Alaskan waters.

Presumably, Anchorage Port Director E. Erwin Davis was one of the guests at the BURTON ISLAND dinner since the menu was inserted into the brochure in the folio. From mid-1977 to 9 May 1978 she was stationed at Alameda, California and used for icebreaking. Decommissioned on 9 May 1978, the BURTON ISLAND was scrapped as of April 28, 1982.


Port of Anchorage Historical Folios 1958-1989, Folio 2, Section 1, Page 68. Welcome Aboard Coast Guard Icebreaker BURTON ISLAND WAGB-283. Anchorage, Alaska.

Burton Island Cutter File, U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office.http://www.uscg.mil/history/webcutters/Burton_Island_1966.asp last accessed 021016.

Exploring Alaska’s Past in the Pacific World Call for Papers

Date Posted: February 12, 2016       Categories: 49 History       Tags: conference, history, Juneau, maritime, Pacific, sailing ships


History & Heritage of Russian America Conference in Moscow

Date Posted: February 12, 2016       Categories: 49 History       Tags: conference, Russian America

The Institute of World History, Russian Academy of Sciences and the Kennan Institute (USA) presents an international conference “The History and Heritage of Russian America.” To be held April 13-14, 2016 in Moscow. This international conference aims to consider a variety of issues related to the history of the exploration of the North Pacific. The conference will present the activity of the Russian Orthodox Church, the history and heritage of Fort Ross, the history of the indigenous peoples of America, and the history of the Russian-American and other joint-stock companies. The conference will discuss issues of the history of Russian-American relations related to current issues involving Alaska and subarctic space as well as various aspects of Russian heritage in this region. The conference aims to highlight the character of U.S.-Russian cooperation through the study of their common history and heritage. The conference will utilize an interdisciplinary approach incorporating the most up-to-date research results in history, archeology, linguistics, and other disciplines that help in the understanding of the phenomenon of Russian-America.

The working language of the conference is English.

St Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral at Sitka, Alaska. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

St Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral at Sitka, Alaska. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Key topics will include:

1. The history and heritage of Russian America, including the Russian Orthodox Church, Fort Ross,

indigenous peoples, and Russian-American joint-stock Russian-American and Hudson’s Bay Companies.


2. Russian-American relations, especially as they influenced the development of the North Pacific.


3. Contemporary international cooperation surrounding Alaska and subarctic space, including cultural

exchanges, the economy, and interactions between the indigenous peoples of California, Alaska, and


Time for papers will be roughly 20 minutes.

Please send us the title of your report at your earliest convenience ! Reports may be delivered using Power Point, but please let us know one week in advance of the conference. Reports of the conference will be published. The length of articles should be around 12,000 words. Illustrations should be in high resolution JPEG format. Submission of articles for publication will be accepted until May 1, 2016.

The conference will be held on April 13, 2016 from 10:00 – 17:00 at Leninsky Prospekt 32a, Moscow.

Potential Agenda for the Conference Beginning April 13, 2016

Official greetings from US and Russian officials. Moderator: Alexander Y. Petrov

American scholars: a complete list of speakers from the USA and countries other than Russia will be developed in February 2016.

Russian Scholars: a complete list of speakers from Russia will be developed in February 2016.

Examples of possible Russian presentations by Russian scholars:

1. Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk (Kapalin), Chairman of the Publishing Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, Doctorate in History: “The significance of the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska.”

2. Alexander Y. Petrov,  PhD, (Kennan Scholar, 2001, 2008): “The importance of the history and heritage of Russian America in Russian-American relations.”

3. Michael G. Malakhov, MD: “The Russian heritage in Alaska (based on Russian expeditions).”


Conference summations


Possible Exhibitions:

April 14, 2016

Sightseeing tour

(Direction and recommendations will be announced in February)

With questions on participation please do not hesitate to contact Alexander Y. Petrov at alaska13@yandex.ru or cell +7 916 531 6305. Please address questions regarding logistics of the conference (visa, hotels, and transportation) to Evgenii Osipov at comhist-rus@yandex.ru

As well as to the Kennan Institute: rozhanovskaya.kennan@gmail.com


Valuable Port of Anchorage Historical Documents to be Digitized

Date Posted: December 25, 2015       Categories: 49 History

by J. Pennelope Goforth


History is sometimes found in the most mundane of places, from old business ledgers stuffed in a Nordstrom shopping bag to a pictorial scrapbook tucked into a nautical chart cabinet.


A few years ago, while researching in the Port of Anchorage Marine Library, I discovered two oversized folios with clippings and photographs of the early history of the port. When I looked at them I experienced the historian’s frisson of thrill! A treasure trove of documents.


Deteriorating pages of the folio showing the history of the Port of Anchorage. (Photo by J P Goforth)

Deteriorating pages of the folio showing the history of the Port of Anchorage. (Photo by J P Goforth)

This November I was awarded a contract with the Port of Anchorage to digitize the books and make them available to the public. This contract is the result of several years of effort on the part of Port of Anchorage and the Port Commission’s History Committee and myself to organize, catalogue, and preserve the port’s historical documents.


The project covers two folios, oversized hardbound ‘scrapbooks’ of 256 pages each, that represent a treasure trove of factual information about the creation, construction, and business of the port dating back to the late 1950s. This is the only such compilation of the port’s history. Photographs, newspaper articles, advertisements, and other materials were pasted into the folios over many years. The articles range from photographs and descriptions of visiting vessels like the WICKERSHAM to articles about the 1964 earthquake damage and the crowning of Miss Port of Anchorage. Fifty-five years later the newsprint is yellowing, browned from glue, and flaking apart. The deterioration puts the content at risk of being lost.


Former Port Commissioner John Stallone initiated the discussion on digitizing the material in 2011. “We should be able to have the public see this stuff. There is so much in there about the people who worked at the port. We need to make this widely available,” he said. Over the next few years, I worked with Port Director Richard Wilson and current Port Director Stephen Ribuffo on crafting a plan to preserve the material. With approval from the Municipality of Anchorage, this important project is now underway. The work is expected to take approximately four months.


The 20 inch by 26 inch folio pages were disassembled and individually hand fed into a ColorTrac II scanner. Dave Dubois gently handles the pages going in and coming out. (Photograph by J P Goforth)

The 20 inch by 26 inch folio pages were disassembled and individually hand fed into a ColorTrac II scanner. Dave Dubois gently handles the pages going in and coming out. (Photograph by J P Goforth)

Digital Blueprint, an Alaska reprographics firm, will scan each of the 512 pages through a single feed optical scanner. I will process them through the Adobe Acrobat Optical Character Recognition (OCR) program. This text recognition will apply to captions, the text body of articles and even headlines and advertisements. The resulting key word searchable files will be in PDF format. Meta data, identifying each page will be appended. The finished project will reside on the Municipality of Anchorage server. The public will be able to access the files on the on the Port of Alaska history web pages in the spring of 2016.


The thrill of discovering these records and making them publicly available is reminiscent of my earlier experience with nineteenth-century business ledgers of the Alaska Commercial Company (ACC).


Three years ago I discovered a set of lost ACC business ledgers written in the 1870s. There were in a basement in Snohomish, Washington, quietly waiting in a shiny silver Nordstrom bag. As soon as I saw them I knew they were some of the rarest business documents from the ACC Unalaska District. The Cash Sales and logbooks of daily events at the company trading posts are invaluable time capsules of the culture of the Unanagan during the transition from Russian domination to American territory. The historical record is thin during the years right after the Treaty of Cession in 1867.


The tattered correspondence copy book of the Alaska Commercial Company. (Photo by J P Goforth)

The tattered correspondence copy book of the Alaska Commercial Company. (Photo by J P Goforth)

I presented a proposal to the Alaska Humanities Forum to transcribe and digitize all six ledgers. The AHF, ACC, and Aleutian Pribilof Islands Community Development Association matched funds, and the fascinating details of Aleutian life emerged. The most satisfying part has been helping modern day Aleuts find their ancestors through the listings of hunters in the Winter Hunting Party of 1886. You can easily see from the accounts for each sea otter hunter who were the ‘highliners’ of the day. The transcripts of the ledgers are available in a series of DVDs containing the original scans from the ledger pages. I am now writing a book about the project, The Voyages of the Lost Aleutian Ledgers.


Having had the previous experience of working on the ACC ledgers, I can use the same technical expertise to make the Port of Anchorage records just as accessible. The history of the Port of Anchorage is a vital component of the city’s history. Some say without the railroad there would be no Anchorage. I say without the port, with its tenuous toehold in the silt of Ship Creek, there would be no Anchorage.


J. Pennelope Goforth is an active member of many maritime history organizations. Her work appears in the AHS blog, the Puget Sound Maritime journal Sea Chest, Alaska Business Monthly, Alaska Dispatch and other Alaska publications. Her efforts on the Alaska Commercial Company project earned her an award from the Alaska State Historical Records Advisory Board (ASHRAB) and the Pathfinder Award from the Alaska State Historical Society in 2012.

Updates on the Canneries Initiative

Date Posted: December 12, 2015       Categories: 49 History Alaska's Historic Canneries

Greetings,canneries initiative logo

 What a busy month for fisheries history.

 The Pacific Marine Expo was very successful. AHS shared a booth with the Kodiak Maritime Museum, and not only did this save money on booth fees, it was necessary to have at least two people at the booth at all times due to the traffic. Hundreds of people stopped by each day to share stories, ask questions, and over a dozen individuals became members. Special thanks to Katie Ringsmuth for designing the fabulous booth materials, Toby Sullivan for collaborating on the booth, and Alaska Sea Grant for sponsoring much of our Expo presence.

 At Expo, Bob King, Toby Sullivan and I presented “Fishing for Alaska’s History” to a good-sized crowd, generating lots of interest. Moreover, my presentation to the Northwest Salmon Canners went very well. Due to contacts made at that presentation, Ross Coen will be meeting with the Seafood Products Association in Seattle to review the company records and hopefully come up a plan for their disposition to the UW Special Collections. The SPA is a descendant of the National Canners Association.

 The Alaska Fisheries Report has started broadcasting the monthly cannery history segments to public radio stations around the state. November’s story was about a visit to the False Pass cannery- you can see photos of the cannery and see the link to the program at the blog. There you will also find Bob’s fantastic Expo presentation “Iron Men of Bristol Bay.”

 Ross took up residence at the museum in Ketchikan and researched the fisheries collection there, giving a lecture, inspiring a nice radio piece, and soon (or already?) is writing something for We Alaskans about salmon can labels. Perfect!  Moreover, Bob and Katie will be presenting at the Bristol Bay Leadership Forum in Anchorage December 10 and 11th and the cannery framework will be distributed there. Oh yes, and did you see Bob’s story about the two billionth salmon to be caught in Bristol Bay?

 Please help to spread the word about the grant program. The deadline to apply is January 1– note that you can apply for a grant, unless you are on the grant committee or your organization is funded by the state or federal government. So far we’ve received two applications.

 And last but not least, Alec Brindle contacted me to discuss Wards Cove Packing Co history. The question has been- what happened to the Wards Cove archive once the company shut down in 2002? Well, it’s in his basement. I expressed the importance of the archive to Alaska history, and he said he will discuss donating it to a library/ archive with his family. He said he doubts there will be any objections. Hopefully he is right, since securing the collection for public access would be a huge coup for fisheries history.

 And with that, I wish you all a happy holiday season!


Anjuli Grantham