PACIFIC EXPLORER – Ed Best – Photos

Schooner C. A. Thayer, Ed Best photo

Schooner C. A. Thayer, Ed Best photo

Charles R. (Bob) Hitz              Bob’s Posting 17                  June 4, 2014

I had the opportunity to talk with Ed about his experiences on the Kiska when he went to the Bering Sea in March 1948. He had taken a camera with him and I want to thank him for lending me the photos he had saved from the trip. Historically they are unique and helped in putting together the story of the Pacific Explorer’s second trip. There were a few that were not included in that story and we think that they should be noted with the following comments.

Kiska in the Gulf of Alaska from the Crow's Nest

Kiska in the Gulf of Alaska from the Crow’s Nest

The Kiska had a crow’s nest on top of her mast, like many other fishing vessels built during the period when the California sardine fisheries existed. Whenever they were used in that fisheries a crewman would climb up to the crow’s nest to look for a school of sardine in the dark of night. They looked for the phosphorescent trail the school made and would set the seine around them. During the trip to the Bering Sea,Ed went up to the crow’s nest while the vessel was running and took pictures. The view must have been spectacular – Ed’s pictures captured the sight of the vessels going through swells while crossing the Gulf of Alaska and the volume of fish and crab that covered the decks on the way to the Pacific Explorer to offload.

Deck load of fish, from the crow's nest, Ed Best photo

Deck load of fish, from the crow’s nest, Ed Best photo

There were a lot of king crab and fish taken by the Kiska during that trip. If the cod end was too full to lift aboard, the catch would be split using the splitting rings as Ed’s picture shows.The rings are set around the net and a line is passed through them and when lifted it splits the catch. After it was dumped into the checker and the cod end was retied, the rest of the catch would be brought in.

Deck load of king crab, from the crow's next, Ed Best photo

Deck load of king crab, from the crow’s next, Ed Best photo

Another historical item of interest in his photos taken in the Bering Sea that summer of 1948 was the schooner C. A. Thayer. She had a deck load of dories that were used to catch codfish by hand line and they would bring them back to her for, cleaning, splitting and preserving with salt. The same concept, but on a much large scale and more complicated, was used by the Pacific Explorer in chartering a fleet of catchers like the Kiska to catch the product, primarily king crab, cod, and flatfish, and bring it back tothe ship for processing and preserving by canning or freezing. The Thayer was on her annual trip from Poulsbo, Washington to harvest Bering Sea cod similar to the east coast Grand Banks cod fisheries. Another historical picture that Ed took was that of a dory powered by an outboard motor used for propulsion instead of oars or sail, a major change in the fisheries.

Split coming on board.

Split coming on board.

The C. A. Thayer has been restored and is on display at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and she has been added to the National Register of Historical Places. I hope that the John N. Cobb will be put on display in Lake Union for the public as well, since she is also on the Register of Historical Places.

Ed took another historical picture of one of her dories, powered by an outboard motor instead of oars or sail, a major change in the fisheries. The engine was apparently introduced before the war and made it easier for the fisherman to get to his fishing area and then return to the vessel to off-load his catch. This is the first picture I have seen of the Bering Sea dory fishing and it looks different from those used in the Atlantic. There was a shield on the bow to protect the fisherman and a covering over the stern, apparently to protect the engine.

A dory powered by an outboard motor, Ed Best photo

A dory powered by an outboard motor, Ed Best photo

Deck load from the  bridge deck, photo by Ed Best

Deck load from the bridge deck, photo by Ed Best

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About finleyc

I'm a writer and a historian of science. I'm interested in the intersection of science and policy in the oceans, and especially around fishing.
This entry was posted in boat building, Environmental History, Fishing, History of Science, History of Technology, Maritime History, Ocean fishing, Pacific Explorer, Pacific Fishing History Project and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to PACIFIC EXPLORER – Ed Best – Photos

  1. Ken Novak says:

    Thank you for posting this story and photos. Ed Best is my uncle and his step-father with the purse seiner, my grandfather. My brother and I were told several stories about fishing in Puget Sound and Alaska. Cannery workers strikes, fishing all summer, storing your good clothes under the mattress to keep them pressed, and being in Alaska for the summer fishing season, being able to read the news paper at 10:30 PM. It sounded like a great time to be a fisherman working the sea.

    Like

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