West Central Alaska Shipwrecks ( B )

BALAENA (1901)     At 6:40 p.m. on Friday June 7, 1901 the 149 foot American whaling steamer Balaena hit an uncharted reef off of Saint Lawrence Island and was lost.  Her master, General B. Leavitt of Portland, Maine, reported that it was foggy with a moderate SSW wind and heavy swell when an error in soundings and a strong current caused the Balaena to strand on a reef that the watch did not detect.  The vessel, valued at $80,000 and her 300 ton cargo of stores and whaling supplies, valued at $45,000, were both totally lost.  Fortunately none of 50 souls on board, including a crew of 41 and nine passengers, were lost.  The Balaena had departed Dutch Harbor May 6th bound for the Arctic Ocean.  This information comes from a U S Customs wreck report filed at San Francisco by General B. Leavitt June 26th

 A San Francisco newspaper, The San Francisco Call, reported a somewhat conflicting story in July when news reached the south.  The following is the accounting from the paper:

“The whaler Balaena of San Francisco, belonging to San Francisco Whaling Company, lies on St. Lawrence Island 20 miles west of Southeast Cape, in the Bering Sea, a total wreck.  Captain P F Cotte and the sixty men in the crew had an almost miraculous escape from death.  Through the bravery of the officers all got to shore.” 

                “News of the wreck, which occurred on May 1, reached Nome on June 21 and the whaler Alexander was immediately sent to St. Lawrence Island to the relief of the wrecked crew.  Captain Cotte, with several of the crew, reached Nome in a rowboat with particulars of the loss of his vessel and the terrible straits to which starvation had reduced the crew.”

                “The Balaena was on a voyage to the Arctic.  She was provisioned for thirty months.  The whaler left San Francisco on April 4 and after battling with the ice for weeks had succeeded in working through the worst of the floes.  She was headed to pass St. Lawrence Island when the wreck occurred.  Shortly after midnight on the first of May the wind rose until it assumed the strength of a gale and the whaler was driven to a point twenty miles west of Southeast Cape, where she struck a rock.  The captain immediately ordered the boats out.  The whaler seemed to have been hung on the rock and although the waves were pounding her terribly she did not founder.”

                “In a very short time the boats were manned and the crew started for shore.  The sea was so high that it was impossible for the boats to keep together, but all made the island eventually.  The boat which contained captain Cotte was stove in as it struck the beach, but the captain and all the men succeeded in getting beyond the reach of the waves.  The drenched and half frozen crew remained huddled about in groups during the remainder of the night.  Several had their hands and feet frozen.”

                “The Balaena is a total wreck.  She is hanging to the rock where she struck, but is liable to slip off into the water and sink at any time.  She struck on the port side and crushed a hole fully twelve feet in length in her hull.  The waves during the night of the wreck pounded her stern to pieces.  The wrecked whaler is a vessel of 600 tons burden.”

                Mapping and Location : Westcentral Alaska  63 11 N 163 18 W

                Additional Information : Construction wood, Tonnage 390 net, Built 1883 San Francisco, Length 149.5, Breadth 32, Depth 17, NHP 245, Signal Letters KBHL, Registration San Francisco, ON 3244, Owner Pacific Steam Whaling Co. San Francisco, Vessel Insurance $60,000, Cargo Insurance none.

                Sources : 1. U S Customs Wreck Report of June 26, 1901, 2. The San Francisco Call July 3, 1901 Pg 8, 3. The H W McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest (1966) Pg 72


BARGE NO. 2 (1899)     The 300 ton iron Barge 2 owned by the Empire Line foundered September 29, 1899 in the middle of Saint Michael Bay.  She was laden with 200 tons of cargo listed as merchandise, including a deck load, all of which was reported a total loss along with the barge.  The estimated value of the vessel at the time was $30,000 and her cargo $15,000.  Prevailing weather included 40 mile an hour winds and high seas.  The steamer Alaska tried to get a towline out to her to no avail.  The loss was not reported until the following June by Port Captain R J Josie as the agent for the vessel left the day after the wreck.

                Mapping and Location : Westcentral Alaska  63 27 N 162 W

                Additional Information : Age two years, Registered New York, ON 31576, Master Peter Bloomberg, Last port Saint Michael Canal, Bound for Nome, Crew 6 (none lost)

                Source : U S Customs Wreck Report Alaska Collection District June 27, 1900


BARGE NO. 3 (1907)     On Thursday, September 19, 1907, the iron Barge No. 3 drug anchor in Saint Michael Bay during a 40 mile an hour northerly gale with very heavy seas.  There was no crew or cargo aboard as the vessel was at its usual anchorage with a 750 pound patent anchor and plenty of chain set out.  Because of the darkness of night and extremely heavy sea running, nothing could be done to avoid the casualty.  Barge No.3 was valued at $7,500 and became a total loss.

                Mapping and Location : Westcentral Alaska  63 27 N 162 W

                Additional Information : Tonnage 383 Gross 355 Net, Age 9 years, Built 1898 Elizabeth N.J., Registered at Saint Michael, ON 31577, Master A J Hilliard of Saint Michael, Owner Northern Navigation Company of San Francisco

                Source : U S Customs Wreck Report filed October 10, 1907 by agent A F Zipf


BEACHLEY (1908)     The small steamer Beachley was lost at Nome July 1, 1908.

                Mapping and Location : Westcentral Alaska  64 30 N 165 25 W

                Source : The H W McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest (1966) Pg 156


BEATRICE (1905)     The 48 ton schooner Beatrice was lost at Nome on July 13, 1905.

                Mapping and Location : Westcentral Alaska  64 30 N 165 25 W

                Source : Shipwrecks of the Alaska Shelf and Shore (1992)


BENDER BROTHERS (1907)     According to a wreck report filed by her master and owner, C C Lutjens of Alameda, California at the Nome Collection District, the American Schooner Bender Brothers stranded on the beach about 50 miles north of Good News Bay and became a total loss.  She had a cargo of about 10 tons of general merchandise and furs at the time of the incident valued at $2,000.  The report indicated all but $500 worth of the cargo was salvaged.  The following are excerpts from that report:

                “Heavy southerly gale, thick weather, with very heavy sea.  Very Dark.”  “Lying about 5 miles offshore with one heavy anchor out; chain parted; put out light anchor, which dragged ashore.”  “Stranded during high tide, caused by heavy southerly wind.  Employed natives and crew one month in endeavors to float vessel without success.  On account of approaching winter had to abandon vessel, considered getting her off impossible.”  “On beach about 50 miles north of Good News Bay in Lat 59 54 26 (Kuskokwim Bay, Alaska)”.

                Mapping and Location : Westcentral Alaska  59 54 26 N 162 25 W

                Comments : H W McCurdy Pg 137 has this vessel wrecked on October 25, 1907 at Unalaska and then on Pg 230 almost totally destroyed by fire on December 1, 1913 in Seattle. WG

                Additional Information : Tonnage 80 Net, Length 77.5, Breadth 24.8, Depth 6.8, Built 1889 San Francisco, ON 3429, Passengers 4, Crew 5, Vessel Value $4,500, Vessel Insurance $2,500

                Sources : 1. U S Customs Wreck Report of October 8, 1907, 2. The H W McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest (1966) Pgs 137 & 230


BERTHA (1910)     The gas powered schooner Bertha was crushed by ice at 4:00 in the morning on June 7, 1910.  She had recently departed Seward bound for Kotzebue Sound with $3,000 worth of general merchandise weighing 18 tons.  The casualty occurred 22 miles west of Carter.

                “Heavy SE wind, foggy, choppy seas, twilight.”  “Tried to back vessel and get clear of ice but it closed in on vessel and we could not get clear of it.”  “Ice closed in around vessel and crushed it.  Vessel drifted ashore on June 20.  Engine was dismantled and shipped to Nome by master.”

                The crew of three survived but the cargo and Bertha were a total loss, with the exception of the engine.

                Mapping and Location : Westcentral Alaska  59 17 N 161 56 W

                Additional Information : Tonnage 13 Gross 8 Net, Built 1910, Registered Seattle, Master Alexander Allan of Seattle, Owner Bertha Allan of Seattle, Vessel Value $2,000, Vessel Insurance $500, Cargo Insurance none

                Sources : 1. U S Customs Wreck Report filed July 14, 1910 at sub-port Nome, 2. The H W McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest (1966) Pg 180


BILL (1917)     The 624 ton scow Bill foundered and was lost August 6, 1917 at Saint Michael.

                Mapping and Location : Westcentral Alaska  63 29 N 162 02 W

                Source : The H W McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest (1966) Pg 294


BLUE SEA (1928)     The gas powered boat Blue Sea became a total loss at Saint Michael on July 11, 1928.

                Mapping and Location : Westcentral Alaska  63 29 N 162 02 W

                Source : The H W McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest (1966) Pg 392


BLUFF (1929)     The 25 ton wooden scow Bluff was destroyed on the beach at Egavik Village on September 4, 1929 by a heavy northwesterly gale.  “The scow was moored on the beach and the storm came up and was so severe that she was broken up before any assistance could be rendered.”  Alfred J Lomen of Nome was the only crew and he survived the wreck. The Bluff, valued at $2,500, was a total loss.

                Mapping and Location : Westcentral Alaska  64 02 N 160 55 W

                Additional Information : Built 1907, Registration Nome, ON 163588, Owner Nome Lighterage and Commercial Company, Last Port Golovin August 15th, Destination Egavik, Cargo none

                Source : U S Customs Wreck Report filed at Nome on September 10, 1929 by Charles H Milot Assistant Manager of Nome Lighterage and Commercial Company


BOWHEAD (1900)     The American schooner Bowhead stranded on the beach at the entrance to the Sinrock River, 20 miles west of Nome, on Friday October 5, 1900 at 4:00 in the morning and was lost.  The 50 ton cargo of lumber and coal was salvaged by her crew of seven who survived the incident.  In the wreck report filed at the Puget Sound Collection District by her master O S Everson, the watch failed to report the breakers brought on by the strong southeasterly wind which precipitated the casualty.  The 99 ton Bowhead was valued at $6,000.

                Mapping and Location : Westcentral Alaska  64 35 N 166 15 W

                Comment : Probably Sinuk River. WG

                Additional Information : Construction wood, Registration Seattle, ON 3536, Age 10 years, Owners Wheeler & Co and George Morrile of Seattle, Last Port Seattle August 29, 1900, Bound for Nome, Cargo value $800, Insurance none, Length 90.4, Breadth 22.3, Depth 10.8, Built North Bend Oregon 1891

                Source : U S Customs Wreck Report filed at Seattle January 23, 1902 by Everson



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