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Reminiscences of Alaska by Capt. Thomas J. Maher, C&GS

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The Indian burial places were generally on points projecting into the channel, or on islets, and they were marked by miniature houses. At Bob's Place (the name of a point), a small house contained the perfectly preserved body of an Indian Chief lying on a sort of couch. He was partly covered by a robe. Months later, in Ketchikan, I heard that the body had been stolen and sold, but this we did not verify, as we never returned to the locality. At Cape Muzon I saw evidence of an earlier form of burial. Tree trunks were cut off at a height of about ten feet. The body was placed on a horizontal slab resting on top of two of these stumps. These seemed to be quite ancient. The slabs were down and the stumps were partly rotted. No remains were seen but none were looked for. In the early days graves were desecrated mainly for the purpose of getting curios, robes, and a type of blanket (Chilkat), if I remember correctly, which was quite valuable.

As junior officer in the ship, little attention was paid to me by members of the crew. Two sailors, Kelly and Lenkeit, were talking on the forecastle head. I was standing nearby. Kelly said, "I had a rough time today and I am slated for mountain climbing tomorrow. I don't feel like it." Lenkeit said, "When you turn in tonight, hold something hot in your mouth and after a while groan and tell the Quartermaster you want the doctor. Groan and say you have an awful pain. The doctor will put a thermometer in your mouth and feel your stomach. He will give you a pill and tell the Quartermaster to call him at midnight, if you are not feeling better. Well, at midnight have your mouth all hot and groan. Doctor will place you on the sick list and you will report in the sick bay instead of going out." But that Doctor Hawkes, he would come to your bunk, take your temperature, feel your pulse and feel so sorry. He would ask about your folks and say they must be notified. Then he would give you a pill which he watched you swallow, and then tell the Quartermaster he is to be called at midnight, if you are not feeling better. You are felling better all right and you report to the working party in the morning. There is a story that fellow Hawkes saw that mummy, gave him one of his pills. The mummy jumped up and headed for the hills.

An assignment to Southeast Alaska was considered ideal by the surveyor. Deer were plentiful and one was always hanging in the rigging. The Commanding Office forbade indiscriminate hunting and, in fact, after the first week or ten days, there was little inclination on the part of anyone to hunt. Salmon were plentiful and cannery superintendents turned over to the party all the salmon trout that could be used and such white king salmon as were caught. People would not buy white salmon. Cannery superintendents canned a few cases of the white kings for Christmas gifts to friends. Years later I received canned white kings from Mr. Brubacker, cannery operator at Steamboat Bay. Half tubs of salmon bellies were appreciated gifts from the canneries, but these, of course, were mostly of interest to the married men.

Herring were plentiful and officers from the engine room would run out a small net, get a couple of barrels of herring and salt them down for the families at home. Halibut, red snapper, cod, and kelp fish were there at all times. Trout were plentiful.

The British Survey Ship "Egeria," Captain Learmouth, was working a little to the southward in the vicinity of the International Boundary. She occasionally visited Ketchikan. When both ships were in port the townspeople would get up a smoker in Indian Hall. Local business men furnished the talent, putting on skits, telling yarns and producing a performance which would be creditable anywhere. The British had rough going in connection with the land work. One young officer informed me that he had enough; that he preferred line duty. It seems that he and some men were landed on Graham island and the ship went off on hydrographic work. Bad weather set in and the party lost most of its outfit in quicksands. Short rations and continuous heavy rain added to their discomfort. There were no walky-talkies then. When the ship dropped a party, that party was on its own.

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