Port Bailey, Dry Spruce Bay

Port Bailey, Dry Spruce Bay

by | May 10, 2022

Port Bailey is a historical cannery in Dry Spruce Bay on the Kupreanof Peninsula of Kodiak Island, about 130 miles (209 km) south-southwest of Homer and 26 miles (42 km) west-northwest of Kodiak, Alaska. The cannery was named after F. Howard Bailey who was the company general manager at the time of construction. The name for Dry Spruce Bay is a translation from the Russian name on a hydrological chart made in about 1839 by naval officer Mikhail Murashev of the Imperial Russian Navy. The bay is on the southern shore of Kupreanof Strait that separates Kodiak Island to the south from Raspberry Island and Afognak Island to the north. The Kodiak Archipelago is composed of a large accretionary wedge that formed over the past 200 million years. Major episodes of accretion occurred in the Early Jurassic about 180 million years ago, the Late Cretaceous about 100 million years ago, the Paleocene about 66 million years ago, and the Oligocene about 34 million years ago. The bedrock underlying Port Bailey developed during the Late Cretaceous accretionary episode resulting in a belt of argillite and greywacke turbidite deposits called the Kodiak Formation that is 37-44 miles (60-70 km) wide and 1,245 miles (2,000 km) long. Greywacke is a sedimentary rock mostly comprised of sand-size grains that were rapidly deposited very near the source rock from which they were weathered. Greywacke is deposited in deep ocean water near volcanic mountain ranges, where underwater landslides and density currents quickly transport sediment short distances into a subduction zone or ocean trench where it accumulates and eventually lithifies. Greywacke contains less quartz than most sandstones and more feldspars, volcanic rock fragments, silt, and clay. The central axis of Kodiak Island is occupied by a mid-Tertiary quartz diorite batholith that is about 70 miles (122 km) long, averages about 8 miles (13 km) wide, and has an area of about 351,999 acres (142,449 ha). One granitic intrusion injected into the Kodiak Formation is exposed about 1 mile (1.6 km) southwest of Port Bailey.

The Kodiak Archipelago lies about 18 miles (30 km) off the Pacific coast of the Alaska Peninsula. This area was the historical home of a populous group or aggregate of subtribes commonly called the Ko­niag or Qikertarmiut. The first term is an Aleut reference adopted by the Russians in advance of their actually reaching Kodiak during the course of eastward explorations, the second term is what the people called themselves. They are now referred to as Alutiiq or Sugpiat depending on the locality. This maritime culture was the result of at least 7,000 years of cultural development. The archaeological record indicates that the Koniag were preceded by a series of cultural traditions. The earliest people were represented by the Ocean Bay tradition and they were succeeded by the Kachemak tradition. The two are distinctly different but the Kachemak appears to have developed from Ocean Bay about 3500 years ago. In turn, the Kachemak tradition underwent major changes dur­ing the centuries 1000 to 1300 AD, probably under influence of people external to Kodiak, and developed into the Koniag tradition or ancestral Alutiiq. In many cases, these changes were compatible with the earlier lifeways and technology to which they were additions or simply stylistic shifts. For example, ceramics appeared on the southern half of the island but were never adopted in all parts of Kodiak. This distri­bution demonstrates that variability existed among the Koniag who probably were not a sin­gle discrete tribe. Stone rubble or fire-cracked rock accumulations appear in the Kachemak-Koniag transitional phase and continue into historic times. Acc0rding to ethnographic accounts, the heated rocks were transferred from the hearth to a chamber in the house where water was sprinkled on the rocks to produce steam. The use of sewing needles decreased in archaeological excavations from very common in the Kachemak tradition to very rare in prehistoric Koniag. Armor has not been identified from excavations of Kachemak tradition sites but preserved wood slat armor is well documented for the Koniags and from the Chugach in Prince William Sound. The Koniag population was estimated to number nearly 10,000 at the time of European contact in the 18th century, and today there are about 4,000 Alutiiq Sugpiat mostly living in Prince William Sound, the Kenai Peninsula, the Kodiak Archipelago, and the Alaska Peninsula.

In 1937, Kadiak Fisheries began construction of a new cannery in Dry Spruce Bay at a site named Port Bailey after F. Howard Bailey, the company vice­ president and general manager. The cannery, warehouse, dock, and smaller out­buildings were nearly completed that fall. To develop hydroelectric power, a 1 mile (1.6 km) long pipe was laid to bring water from an alpine lake to a water wheel operating a 125-horsepower generator. In the spring of 1938, Bailey and a crew of machinists and carpenters sailed north on the company tender Minnie B with instructions to complete the cannery before the opening of the fishing season. Two lines of American Can Company canning machinery were set in place in addition to overhauled and modernized machinery transferred from a company facility in Kodiak. The operation of the new Port Bailey cannery was the company’s new focus and they permanently closed their Kodiak plant, placed the cannery at Shearwater Bay on watchman status, relinquished a lease with Shelikof Packing Company at Zachar Bay, and closed its plant at Carmel in Halibut Bay. The pack for that first season totaled 106,956 cases of mostly pink salmon in one pound cans with 48 cans per case. This began a long history of successful seasonal packs, most of them about 100,000 cases. Kadiak Fisheries used the three legal gear types for harvesting salmon at that time with 55 percent of the total catch from fish traps, 37 percent from purse seines, and 8 percent from gillnets. Kadiak Fisheries made every effort to have the most modern and efficient canning operation possible to stay competitive. The company maintained its own fleet of fish tenders, pile drivers, and fishing boats. In 1948, a fire destroyed most of the facility, and the company rebuilt on the same site with a new cannery that started operating in 1949. The rebuilt Port Bailey cannery was the first major salmon cannery to be constructed following World War II. In 1968, Columbia Wards Fisheries purchased the facility, and millions of pounds of canned salmon were produced each year until the plant was closed in the late 1990s. The Port Bailey cannery was sold in 2003, its grounds suspected of being contaminated by fuel and other hazardous wastes. As of 2013, a multi-year liquidation of all the cannery equipment was still in progress, and subsequent owners have met with mixed success in transforming the property into a profitable enterprise. See Salmon from Kodiak by Patricia Roppel, 1986 for more information. Read more here and here. Explore more of Port Bailey here:

About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2021 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

Credit: Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading). Click here for more information about the #warmingstripes.

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