Rose Inlet Cannery, Dall Island

Rose Inlet Cannery, Dall Island

by | May 24, 2022

Rose Inlet is a sheltered embayment, and the site of a historical salmon cannery, that extends southwest for 2.5 miles (4 km) from Kaigani Strait on the east coast of Dall Island, about 116 miles (187 km) northwest of Prince Rupert and 60 miles (97 km) southwest of Ketchikan, Alaska. The inlet was named in 1882 by William H. Dall and first published in the 1883 Pacific Coast Pilot. Kaigani Strait is a water passage between Dall and Long Islands that extends southwest for 22 miles (35 km) from Tlevak Strait in the north to Dixon Entrance in the south. Dall Island was first called Quadra, after Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, until 1879, when it was renamed in honor of naturalist William H. Dall who was appointed Acting Assistant to the United States Coast Survey in 1870 and charged with surveying the Alaska coast. The coast of Southeast Alaska is dominated by the Pacific Cordillera and is divided into two major categories, the inner terranes that were accreted to the North American margin by Late Jurassic time, and outer terranes that were accreted to the inner terranes by Late Cretaceous time, including the Alexander, Wrangellia, and Peninsular terranes. Much of southeastern Alaska is underlain by the Paleozoic and Early Mesozoic rocks of the Alexander terrane which is considered by geologists to be a distinct fragment that is exotic to the North American margin. The southern part of Dall Island, including the rocks surrounding Rose Inlet, is comprised of the Wales Group, a complex assemblage of basalt, greywacke, mudstone, and shale that contains locally interlayered marble. The marble is found in layers associated with greenschist metavolcanic rocks and is generally thin but can occur to 1,000 feet (300 m) in thickness.

Gold Harbor is about 2 miles (3.2 km) southwest of Rose Inlet and on the outer coast of Dall Island. This is a deeply indented bay sheltered from heavy storms and surf that routinely batter the exposed coastline. In 1992, an archaeological site was discovered by the U.S. Forest Service within a complex cave system formed in marble or metamorphosed limestone. The cave has multiple entrances, levels, and passages. Archaeological remains occur in various areas in the cave but also in an adjacent rock shelter. Test excavations and radiocarbon dating have shown that the rock shelter was occupied 5700-2400 years ago, the north cave was used 5540-5280 years ago, and the main chamber of the cave was occupied 2600-1500 years ago. The reason different areas of the cave complex were occupied during different times is likely a consequence of the geomorphological evolution of the cave, cave habitability, and how this was affected by relative sea-level which was higher 5,000 years ago during the mid-Holocene. The Kaigani Haida people migrated north from Haida Gwaii into what is now Southeast Alaska sometime during the protohistoric period, and certainly by the end of the 18th century. They settled in the southern half of the Prince of Wales Archipelago, particularly on Dall, Sukkwan, and Long Islands. The outer coast off the north end of Dall Island to Noyes Island may have been a buffer zone between the Haida and Tlingit. Territorial relationships in southern southeast Alaska are not well understood because specific knowledge of prehistorical tribal movements is limited, however, it is evident that the Tlingit and Haida were in contact through population movements, intermarriage, trade, and conflict for a long time. The only known Haida settlement on Dall Island is the historical village of Kaigani situated at the southern tip of the island at Cape Muzon. By the late 1790s, the maritime fur trade was shifting to Southeast Alaska. In 1794, Lieutenant Joseph Whidbey described the area as likely to be one of the most profitable places for procuring sea otter pelts because of the immense number of animals and the abundance of skins in the possession of the Natives. Kaigani became the favorite American and British place to rendezvous because of the protected harbor and abundance of furs traded with the Haida.

The Weise Packing Company built the Rose Inlet Cannery at an unknown date and operated the facility until 1918 when it was sold to Southern Alaska Canning Company. In 1919, the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries reported that the salmon fishery in Southeast Alaska was in serious condition. The salmon fishery had become more intensified each season because purse seines and fish traps were being used in greater numbers than ever before. A reduced catch together with an inadequate escapement of salmon to the spawning grounds presented the government and the packers with a dilemma but little was done. There were 134 salmon canneries operated in all of Alaska with 76 in Southeast Alaska. Southern Alaska Canning Company operated three canneries at Big Port Walter, Boca de Quadra Bay, and Rose Inlet. In 1922, the company name was changed to Alaska Consolidated Canneries. Alaska Consolidated was purchased by Alaska Pacific Salmon Company in 1929 to become the second-largest processor operating in Alaska. The Rose Inlet Cannery reported packing 60,841 cases of salmon in 1929, 35,084 cases in 1930, 47,876 cases in 1931, 41,344 cases in 1933, 70,585 cases in 1935, and 65,812 cases in 1937. Each case consisted of 48 one-pound cans. In 1940, the company sold its holdings to P.E. Harris & Company which did not operate the Rose Inlet facility but maintained the cannery until about 1949. Read more here and here. Explore more of Rose Inlet and Dall Island 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. 

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