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arrow Stories and Tales of the Coast & Geodetic Survey
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banner - diary of william mccaslan scaife covering the years 1919 thru 1920

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Thursday, April 15

I didn't write Sunday because I forgot to. I didn't write Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday because when a person is seasick diaries or nothing else matter. Well, anyhow, we remained anchored Sunday. We sent mail ashore. We loafed most of the day. I spent some time computing tanks for chief. We got underway the next morning. In the afternoon we reached the Gulf of Alaska. We went out at Cape Ommaney. I got seasick. Tuesday afternoon I found that water had leaked all over my bunk through my port. Tuesday and Wednesday I was in complete misery on account of being seasick. I had company, tho. Wednesday morning when I came on watch we were bucking a gale. The wind would almost take me off my feet when I was on deck. It was cold. A little ice on deck made it very slippery in places. As we were heading right into the gale we pitched more than we rolled. Otherwise the ship would have cut some capers. She took sea after sea over her bow. This morning it was smooth and foggy. A blanket of snow covered the decks. The thermometer went down to 23o. At 5:18 land was sighted on our starboard bow. As we got closer the scenery took on a grandeur that was greater than I had seen before. The mountains were snow-covered all the way down to the water except where they were too steep to hold the snow. It looked as if the desolate and bleak coast we were approaching had never been disturbed by the trespassing of white men. It reminded me of some newly discovered land which arctic explorers hadn't even named. But there was something grand about it. We arrived at Kodiak in the morning. Like Ketchikan, Kodiak doesn't show all of herself at first. There must be several hundred people here, mostly Siwashes. I walked around a little today. In the afternoon Mr. Sobieralski told me that I would probably be tide gauge man, and got me to help him put the Kodiak tide gauge back into working order. It was still out of order after we got it to running. I discovered the trouble at about dark. I was trying to fix it up and the whole outfit got loose from me, and she got in about the same kind of mess that she was in before we touched her. As we expect to get away at 7 tomorrow morning, I had to get her going again, altho at first my task seemed hopeless. I got a quartermaster and a flashlight and finally got her going again. I will leave my impressions of the dance that I watched tonight until tomorrow as it is late and I have to get up early.

Saturday, April 17

Got up at 6:00 yesterday to look at tide gauge before leaving. Made minor adjustment. Just as we were about to shove off a lady came down, wanting to go to Sand Point. The captain agreed to take her and her son. While they were gone after their baggage I went to look at the tide gauge again. I broke a lead point just as the passengers came aboard, with my usual luck. Delayed the ship a few minutes. We finally got away at 7:30. But I forgot the dance. Most of us went up. We must have made some appearance with our bald heads. The dance was in what looked like a church. It was lighted by dim electric lights. On one side of the room were the girls and on the other side the boys. There were probably 30 girls and women present .... There were sailors in overalls and well dressed sailors and others. I soon learned that high heels have invaded the North. The stringed orchestra started a waltz. The boys went over and got the girls, and the dance was on. One of the few dim lights started flickering. An old stoop-shouldered, long-mustached Indian in the orchestra laid his guitar down, got a step-ladder, and fixed the light. About the second or third dance some of the Filipino mess boys came in. After awhile they brought their music boxes and started up a waltz while the other orchestra was playing a one-step. I went aboard pretty early.

Well, after leaving Kodiak we headed for Uyak. We got there at about 4:00, but finding that we couldn't get water we didn't stop. The scenery all day was grand. Wherever snow could get a foothold it had stayed. Late in the afternoon we passed some signals which had been put up last year. The day was ideal . Shelikof Straits was as smooth as a mill pond. Sunset was wonderful. It was beautiful to watch the mountains fade out as darkness came on. With my usual luck I wrote up part of my log on the wrong page.

This morning we saw the Semidi Islands dimly soon after I came on watch. It was pitch dark, and the islands showed a little "pitcher" than the blackness around them. We passed Castle Cape on my watch. Today has been a duplicate of yesterday as far as weather is concerned. It is cold, but we don't feel it so as there is not much air. Yesterday the thermometer went down to 19o. We passed more signals established last year. Saw a school of whales yesterday and one whale today. Arrived at Sand Point about 6:00. Went ashore in launch that carried passengers ashore. Saw a bunch of furs. Cleaned shot gun tonight. Tonight we were having a feed in the galley at about 10:30 when Dr. Buckley, of Kodiak, came aboard. He is going back to Kodiak with us when we go. He was once a Coast Surveyor. The Aurora Borealis showed a little tonight. This is the second time I ever saw it. I saw it in Seattle around Mar. 20th.

Sunday, Apr. 18

The Captain, Dailey, I went ashore in the motor sailer this a.m. to see about the tide gauge and water. The propeller shaft got loose, and we rowed alongside the Redwood. This was after we anchored in Barolof Bay. We came over here about 9:15 this a.m. After looking over the tide gauge it was decided to put another one in and overhaul the old one. We went back to the ship, and the ship came alongside the dock after dinner. Dailey and I replaced the tide gauge. I have been tinkering with it off and on all day. It started snowing this P.M. It has snowed almost ever day since we left Seattle.

Monday, Apr. 19

Left Barolof Bay at 7:00. The farther we got the wilder the country looked. Got to King's Cove and dropped anchor a few minutes after four. Most of the officers went in. The Yukon was found in fairly good shape. The Redwood was anchored in the bay, and the Catherine D. was at the dock. Got a couple of cards off on the Katherine D. but didn't have time to get a letter off. Am very anxious to try my luck at bear. Dailey and I have been planning a campaign tonight.

Tuesday, Apr. 20

Dailey, Lewis, ; I went over to the Yukon this morning with a bunch of them. Got most of the shed cleared away and a good deal of cleaning and scraping done.

Wednesday, Apr. 21

Same as yesterday.

Thursday, Apr. 22

Went ashore same as yesterday. Motor sailer broke down coming back for dinner. We had to row it in. Snowed right hard for awhile. Sewed tonight.

Friday, Apr. 23

Worked on Yukon. Cold, rainy, and disagreeable. Ship was changing anchorage when we came back tonight. We had to play around a few minutes before we could come aboard.

Saturday, Apr. 24

Worked on Yukon this A.M. Half holiday this afternoon. Dailey and I went about 3 miles above the head of the lagoon here to do a little reconnaissance, preliminary to going bear hunting. We shot our rifles some. I shot mine 16 times and got somewhat of a line on my gun and sights. We just missed the 5:00 P.M. boat when we got back. Started to put the Yukon's dory in the water and row back, but the motor sailer came after us. Tonight I tried to argue Dailey and Lewis into leaving early this morning, but nothing doing. Wish that L.J. Williams were along. We would have camped in bear country tonight if he were. We finally compromised on 8:00.

Sunday, Apr. 25

Left ship at 8:30 with Lewis and Moore for a hunt. Got near Cold Bay, and turned back. Hard climbing, not being in training. Saw ptarmigan for the first time. Saw caribou tracks in a great uncharted valley which empties into Cold Bay. Lewis saw bear tracks. Pedometer registered 19 1/2 miles. Misty, drizzly, and foggy. Got back to the dock at 2:50 but had to wait for the 4:00 boat. Mr. Morgan, Supt. of the Cannery, his wife and son and another cannery man took supper with us.

Monday, Apr. 26

Went ashore as usual. Did carpenter work on Yukon's pilot house, or tried to. First I sawed a line down a finger and then I mashed the same one. The pilot house wasn't the only thing I did carpenter work on.

Forgot to say that I was rudely awakened at three this morning to stand a woolewar watch. Didn't go to bed until after eleven last night, either. I said aplenty and thought whatever I didn't say.

Wednesday, Apr. 28

Forgot to write yesterday. However, only followed regular routine.

Went to the Yukon this morning. I have become the boss carpenter on the Pilot House and some carpenter I am. As a carpenter I am a pretty good mess boy. However, I am learning. Today was cold and rainy.-About the most disagreeable we've had yet. When we knocked off this morning the motor sailer broke down halfway to us. Some of the crowd rowed out to her in a dory and towed her in. We rowed her back. This afternoon they couldn't get her started, so we didn't go ashore. Just loafed around.

Thursday, Apr. 29

Rigged up steering wheel of Yukon today. All of the gas boats are on the bum. Some of us rowed the Yukon's skiff out to the ship at dinner instead of waiting for the launch. The skiff towed the launch back most of the way this afternoon. Rowed ashore with Chief after supper and helped him on plumbing fixtures until about dark. Saw mosquitos tonight.

Friday, Apr. 30

Took theodolite ashore this morning and practiced a little. Worked on Yukon rest of day.

Sat., May 1

Worked on Yukon this morning and part of afternoon. Dailey and Lewis and I came aboard in skiff at dinner time, and Dailey and I came aboard in skiff at supper time. We are all set for a hunt tomorrow. Tonight is as clear as a whistle. The mountains cut the sky in sharp lines. Tonight is one of those clear, moonlight nights that come only occasionally.

Sunday, May 2

Dailey, Mower, Lewis, and I went out at 7:00 this morning. All except Mower had rifles. We got to Cold Bay at about 10:30. Caribou and bear tracks were found along the beach. During the day I saw hundreds of caribou tracks and some fox tracks, besides the bear tracks. A number of bear trails made walking thru the grass easier at times. Got back at about 6. Forgot to take pedometer, but we must have walked somewhere between twenty and twenty-five miles. Tired and stiff tonight, but ready to go again at the first opportunity.

Monday, May 3

Yukon as per usual. Cold and windy. Below freezing. Very disagreeable for working.

Tuesday, May 4

Yukon again. Weather same as yesterday if not colder. The woolewars are out tonight. I am sure to be routed out sometime before daylight to stand a watch. I am going to get some of my things ready for going into camp. Just finished a 26-page letter to the home folks.

Saturday, May 8

Wednesday A.M. Lewis and I went in with the first boatload of supplies ; men for the Yukon. The launch had most of the men and a bunch of mess stores. A whaleboat, which was in tow, had the bedding and clothing. The dingy was in tow of the whaleboat. It was blowing a gale or very near it. When we set out the three boats made a very good imitation of a very active snake. The dingy swamped. When we got close to the beach the whaleboat was cast loose so that they could make a landing. The wind caught them, and they started out to sea. We had to chase them. We towed them to the dock. The dingy was towed in bottom side up. We finally got underway at about 11 A.M. When we got out we could see clear down to Unimak Island. The volcano showed up over a bunch of clouds. On the end of the peninsula, ? also showed up. Got a fine view of the Needles, just west of Pavlof Vol. Some sight. Pass close to Pavlof. A gale got us. Seasick of course. Stopped at Pirate Cove at about 8:30. Doctor was put into a whaleboat with the best seamen, and taken ashore to see the woman who was sick. It was almost blowing a gale then. Came back and reported that the woman had died the day before. Got underway about 9:30, and got to Unalashagvik, where Mower was to land, at about 8:30 P.M. Thursday. A pretty good sea was running altho it had been calm part of the day. We remained anchored in Dry Bay until 8:30 P.M. Friday, waiting for a gale to blow out so that Mower could be landed and what gets me, I got up at 3:45 a.m. to see Mower off. All of us (Mower, Bond, Lewis and I) had our camping outfits ready. Late Friday afternoon the Capt. got a message that the Watson which had oil for us, had arrived at Kodiak and left. That upset the camping parties, as we had to run for oil, having only 4 or 5 days supply of oil for regular cruising. Stopped at Kodiak at about 9:00 A.M. today to get mail and laundry, and put Dr. Buckley ashore. I went ashore to look at the tide gauge. Found it all out of whack. Fixed it. Hope it will run. Got four letters from home. Four from Lowrie, and some others. Lowrie wrote me that his father had died. Poor Lowrie had had a hard time. Got underway at about 9:30 A.M. for Latouche. We have been running along the Kenai Peninsula most of the afternoon. Have had almost a dead calm this afternoon. Hardly enough motion to disturb a glass level full of water. Saw three whales and a seal.


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