Port Hobron is a fjord that extends southwest for about 7 miles (11 km) off Sitkalidak Strait on the north coast of Sitkalidak Island, about 6 miles (10 km) southeast of Old Harbor and 48 miles (77 km) south-southwest of Kodiak, Alaska. The name was apparently given in 1887 or 1888 by Ivan Petrof, who at that time established a fishing station here for the Alaska Coast Fishery Company. An abandoned whaling station lies at the mouth of Fugitive Creek, a sheltered bight in Port Hobron that provides easy access to the deep waters off eastern Kodiak and the migration path of the Pacific Ocean’s great whales. Today all that remains of the whaling station is the derelict hull of the wooden vessel Northern, rusting tanks, and wharf piles.
Whales were not a source of profit for the Russian American Company, but they were a crucial resource in Kodiak. Boiled and pickled whale meat and oil were important food items for the Russians as well as the Alutiiq. Alutiiq whalers at Kodiak killed between 150-300 whales a year and a portion of each whale killed was provided for colonial use. Settlements that provided the most whales were Karluk, Afognak, Alitak, Old Harbor, Angiskoe (between Kodiak and Spruce Islands), St. Paul (modern-day Kodiak) and Igak (possibly Ugak or Ugat). In 1835, Yankee whalers from Nantucket discovered the rich whaling grounds that stretched across the Gulf of Alaska. New England whaling vessels soon crowded the waters around Kodiak and when the whaling boom peaked over 60% of the whale oil brought to east coast ports came from Kodiak waters. By the 1850s, it became harder to find whales and the over-harvested Kodiak hunting grounds were no longer profitable.
In the early 20th century there was a resurgence of whaling and the American Pacific Whaling Company constructed a base of operations at Port Hobron that operated from 1926 to 1937. From this shore whaling station, three catcher boats with bomb-loaded harpoons were dispatched to hunt the waters around Kodiak. Once a whale was killed, the catcher vessel would pump it full of air, mark it with a flag, and continue hunting for the rest of the day. The entire day’s catch would then be towed to Port Hobron where large steam winches would drag the carcasses onto flensing platforms and the whales were butchered. The Alaska Steamship Company made weekly stops at Port Hobron to drop off supplies and pick up oil, and tourists and other passengers got to witness shore whaling firsthand. During its eleven years of operation, the station processed more than 2,300 whales but closed due to financial losses. See a short video about shore whaling in the early 1900s here. Read more here and here. Explore more of Port Hobron here: