Parks Cannery, Uyak Bay

Parks Cannery, Uyak Bay

by | Apr 28, 2022

Parks Cannery is located in Uyak Bay, 24 miles (39 km) south of Shelikof Strait on the west coast of Kodiak Island, about 8 miles (13 km) south-southeast of Larsen Bay and 61 miles (100 km) southwest of Kodiak, Alaska. The bay was named after the Aleut village of ‘Ooiatsk’ by Captain Yuri Lysianskyi in 1805 and recorded as ‘Bay of Oohiack’. In 1852, Captain Mikhail Tebenkov of the Imperial Russian Navy charted the bay as ‘Zaliv Uyak’ which was transcribed as ‘Uyak Bay’ by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Uyak Bay is a deglaciated fjord that extends south-southeast for 40 miles (64 km) from Shelikof Strait into the mountainous center of Kodiak Island which is dominantly composed of a large accretionary complex that assembled over the past 200 million years. Major episodes of accretion occurred in the Early Jurassic, Late Cretaceous, Paleocene, and the Oligocene on the geological time scale. The two largest accretionary events occurred in the Late Cretaceous and Paleocene, which resulted in the deposition and subsequent accretion of the Kodiak and Ghost Rocks Formations. Uyak Bay is situated in the Kodiak Formation, a belt of argillite and greywacke turbidite deposits that are 37-44 miles (60 to 70 km) wide and almost 1243 miles (2,000 km) long, with a depositional thickness of at least 16,400 feet (5,000 m). The granitic rocks of the Kodiak batholith and its satellite plutons intruded into the Kodiak Formation during the Paleocene. During the Last Glacial Maximum, a combination of alpine glaciers, island ice caps, and piedmont lobes covered much of the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Archipelago. These glaciers began retreating 23,000 and 14,700 years ago, although an ice-free marine corridor was probably not habitable until about 13,000 to 12,000 years ago.

The first archaeological evidence of humans along the north coast of the Pacific dates to about 10,000 years ago. By about 3,800 years ago, the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands witnessed a substantial population increase with dozens of fully sedentary village sites showing evidence of off-shore fishing for cod, hunting of large sea mammals such as sea lions, fur seals, and perhaps small whales, and mass harvesting of salmon. Regional cultures started to develop at about the same time from the original Ocean Bay people. The Kachemak Tradition arose slowly in the Kodiak Archipelago and Kenai Peninsula, with a rapid develop­ment of diverse adaptations from riverine fishermen to coastal harvesters. There was extensive use of labrets and other forms of body ornamentation. The Russian, British, and American explorers, traders, and priests who entered this region after 1740 AD found nearly 50,000 inhabi­tants expressing an immense cultural diversity, with two languages and 10 dialects of Aleut, and at least two Alutiiq dialects. But these same explorers also found a high level of internecine warfare, trade, and marriage alliances seldom seen among hunter-gather peoples and all facilitated by the ocean-going kayak. The kayak and related baidarka were a key adaptation strategy that allowed these early people to live in one of the harshest weather regimes in the modern world, a landscape where their descendants still hunt, fish, and participate in the modern global economy. As early as 1875, just 8 years after the United States acquired the territory from Russia, the Alaska Commercial Company carried on fishing operations at Karluk Spit and salted its catch. In 1882, the first cannery was built at Karluk by Smith & Hirsch and was operated until 1884 when it was reorganized as the Karluk Packing Company. From that time until 1893 numerous other canneries were built on both sides of the mouth of the Karluk River. In 1893, all of the canneries were dismantled by the Alaska Packers Association, and operations were consolidated at one cannery at Larsen Bay to pack all the salmon procured at Karluk where salmon were caught almost exclusively using beach seines, and purse seines deployed from up to 70 boats.

In 1921, Ottar Hofstad, who was originally from Herøy in Norway, moved to Kodiak Island as manager of the Katmai Packing Company at Ouzinkie. The fish canned were all purchased from purse seiners and beach seiners operating on Afoganak Island and in the Karluk River district. In 1924, Hofstad purchased the auxiliary schooner Esther and salted herring for the next 3 years. In 1927, he started North Pacific Fisheries and built a one-line floating cannery on the Esther, buying salmon from local gill netters, purse seiners, and beach seiners. In 1932, the Esther started leaking and had to be beached in Uyak Bay. His competitors were acquiring fish trap sites which prompted Hofstad to file for trap locations at the mouth of Uyak Bay. In 1934, he constructed two traps, one at Cape Uyak and the other at Cape Ugat. Also in 1934, Herbert T. Dominici brought material from Seattle and built a small cannery on Uyak Bay. By mid-May, he had installed one line of Continental Can Company equipment including a can-forming machine and a mechanized fish-butchering machine. He salvaged the 50 horsepower gasoline engine from the Esther and used it to generate power. Salmon for the cannery came mostly from the Hofstad fish traps. These traps intercepted salmon migrating back to the Karluk River, making them simultaneously very productive and the source of animosity from local purse seiners and beach seiners operating off the Karluk Spit. The traps were so efficient that on one day Hofstad’s traps would catch more fish than the 65 fishermen caught at Karluk. Dominici developed an automated system for sorting the fish that eliminated peughing, a common practice that often damaged the fish resulting in a lower quality product. In 1938, the company was reorganized as the Great Northern Packing Company run by Nick Bez. In 1940, James W. Parks of Aberdeen, Washington bought the cannery and started the Parks Canning Company. The cannery continued to pack salmon intermittently until 1968. In 1970, the facility was bought by Whitney-Fidalgo Seafoods and packed salmon until 1983 when the machinery was dismantled and removed. Today the buildings are used by a hunting and fishing lodge. Read more here and here. Explore more of the Parks Cannery here:

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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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