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

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The usual transfer of officers took place in Seattle and I found myself aboard the "Gedney," under Captain Derickson, for work in Southeast Alaska. There was a mining boom at the head of Portland Canal down the center of which passed the International Boundary. However, at the head of the canal flats made out and the position of the boundary line there had to be located with a high degree of accuracy, to determine whether a Customs Office should be established and if clearance through Canadian Customs would be necessary. If I remember correctly, engineers were studying the possibility of using Stewart at the head of Portland Canal as a terminus for the Canadian Northern Railway. I was detailed for the job, using the "Cosmos," which carried five tons of coal, enough for two weeks' operation. We used our coal and found that twenty-five dollars per ton was wanted for the only available supply. This coal cost three dollars per ton at the Nanaimo mines and I refused to be held up, figuring on using wood.

The "Citriana" from Scotland came in, towing a barge loaded with lumber which she apparently picked up farther down the coast. She anchored the barge off the edge of the Stewart flats. The tidal range was fifteen feet or more and with a falling tide, the barge swung, balanced on the edge of the flat. With my small steamer I went alongside, got lines aboard, and pulled the barge off before it stuck or broke its back. I was able to give the Skipper information about several places he was to visit, places which had been surveyed, but of which charts had not been printed. He was quite pleased and we visited back and forth, sampling some of the flavor of Old Scotland. During the course of conversation I mentioned to him what I considered a holdup. He didn't say anything but next morning, about 4 a.m., I was awakened by noise from cargo winches. Going on deck, I saw cargo being hoisted from the forehold of the "Citriana," and buckets of coal being dumped on the wharf at Hyder. He hailed me and said, "There, my lad, is your coal. We just had it in ballast from the other side." There were seven tons of the finest Cardiff coal. Payment was refused and we had the greatest difficulty in arranging a settlement with the owners, if I remember correctly, the Ocean Steamship Company, and all they would accept was three dollar per ton, the cost of Nanaimo coal at the mine, - an inferior product.

The survey was made in cooperation with a Canadian party which did not have the necessary boat equipment, so our work was accepted by them. At the end of the season I was ordered to Washington where the records were completed and duplicates sent to Ottawa and London.

After completing this field work I was sent to Wrangell Narrows, the crookedest channel, as well as the most beautiful, in Alaska. It has since been dredged, straightened and well marked and now presents but little hazard to the skillful navigator. On the flats of Wrangell Narrows there lay the wrecked hull "DRINK - - Whiskey." Beneath this in equally large red letters some wag printed, WE DID." As this is not a commercial, the name of the whiskey will not be mentioned, though I have a picture somewhere among my papers.

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