Port William, Shuyak Island

Port William, Shuyak Island

by | Mar 4, 2023

Port William is a historical salmon cannery in an embayment on the southern coast of Shuyak Island that extends 0.5 miles (0.8 km) north from Shuyak Strait, between Port Lawrence to the west and Daylight Harbor to the east, about 88 miles (142 km) southwest of Homer and 50 miles (81 km) north of Kodiak, Alaska. The local name was published by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in the 1920s. The Border Ranges Fault runs through the island and is roughly aligned with the axis of the bay. The surrounding rocks represent the Shuyak Formation and the surrounding terrain is comprised mostly of greenstone with beds of pillow-breccia agglomerate, tuff, and argillite. A small creek drains an unnamed lake and flows about 0.6 miles (1 km) to the head of the bay. Most of the island is part of Shuyak Island State Park with approximately 47,000 acres (19,020 ha).

Kodiak Archipelago and the adjacent coast of the Alaska Peninsula were the home of a Pacific Eskimo group or aggregate of subtribes commonly called the Koniag Alutiiq or Qikertarmiut. At the time of European contact in the 18th century, they numbered nearly 10,000. At that time, there was widespread armed conflict among Alaska Native groups and early Russian explorers tried to exploit the animosity. In 1784, Grigory Shelikov established a post at Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island despite hostility and fighting from the Koniags, partly by holding one or more Shuyak Koniag hostage. In December 1785, the Russians sent one hostage with two Russian workmen, or promyshlenniki, and an inter­preter to Cook Inlet with a load of trade goods. They were to pass themselves off as traders while using the opportunity to survey the region for an eventual Russian settlement. In March of the following year, Shelikov learned that the Shuyak Koniag hostage and his Afognak and Chiniak allies had killed the promyshlenniki and interpreter and fled with the trade goods. These goods were used to form an alliance with the Dena’ina on the Kenai Peninsula. A party of about 1,000 warriors was organized to destroy Shelikov’s settlement at Three Saints Bay; however, Shelikov learned of the planned attacks and sent a force north to quell the uprising.

In the late 1920s, Port William was the site a saltery, for salting and processing herring, operated by S. Sklaroff and Sons of Philadelphia, a company that specialized in smoked fish. The company also operated a plant at Sawmill Bay on Evans Island. In 1930, the facility at Port William began salmon canning operations as the Port William Packing Company. Fish traps and purse seines were prohibited in the Shuyak Island area, and the fish were caught from beach seines and gillnets operated by local fishermen. After a poor season, the facility sat idle until 1934 when the Washington Fish and Oyster Company leased the cannery. In 1935, Washington Fish and Oyster purchased the cannery at a U.S. Marshal’s sale, and in 1940, a cold storage facility was installed. In 1941, coho salmon, herring, and halibut were frozen at the plant. Washington Fish and Oyster stopped canning after the 1966 season but continued operating the cold storage facility as Ocean Beauty Seafoods. After the 1976 season, some of the equipment was salvaged and the cannery was sold to Kodiak area commercial fishermen. Port William then was operated as the Port William Wilderness Lodge until 2018 when the dock was damaged during a storm resulting in an oil spill. Read more here and here. Explore more of Port William and Shuyak Island 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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