Whalers Cove, Killisnoo Island

Whalers Cove, Killisnoo Island

by | Jan 18, 2019

Killisnoo is a small island in the Alexander Archipelago of Southeast Alaska located just off the central west coast of Admiralty Island, about 42 miles (68 km) northeast of Sitka and 2.5 miles (4 km) south of Angoon, Alaska. The local name was derived from a Tlingit name for Admiralty Island, a form of the word “Khutz-n’hu” meaning “bear fort”.

The North West Trading Company was organized in Portland, Oregon, in 1879 by Paul Schulze, Henry Villard, and other railroad tycoons in order to do business in Alaska. It established a trading post and whaling station at the eastern end of Killisnoo Island. The site was chosen for its proximity to the whaling grounds and the calm inside passage of Chatham Strait. In 1881 members of the Hutsnuwu tribe of Tlingit were brought from the villages of Angoon and Nahltushkan to work. In 1882, the decline of whales and market demands forced a shift in the industry. The first commercial herring fishery began at Killisnoo and a fish processing plant or saltery was built. The fish plant, a school, and a Russian Orthodox church attracted more Tlingits from neighboring villages. Due to numerous factors, including a recession, rapid expansion of the company, and the uncertain nature of railway markets, the company went into receivership in 1888 and the trading station was sold to Alaska Fish Oil and Guano.

Alaska Fish Oil and Guano began rendering oil from herring and salmon for use in foods, medicine, and lubricants. The by-product was ground-up fishmeal that was sold as fertilizer. The town of Killisnoo was destroyed by fire in 1928, and although the fish plant was saved, many homes were lost and most of the Tlingit moved to Angoon. In 1940-1942, the reduction fishery was closed due to the low abundance of herring. In June 1942, the U.S. Army Transport Delarof arrived at Killisnoo with 85 villagers evacuated from Atka in the Aleutian Islands who would spend the remainder of World War II interned at the abandoned herring saltery. The Killisnoo townsite is now a sportfishing lodge. See a short video about shore whaling in the early 1900s here. Read more here and here. Explore more of Killisnoo here:

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