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AFSC Historical Corner:  Auklet  and  Murre,  1917 Sister Patrol Vessels

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Auklet
The Auklet at Little Port Walter, Alaska.  Auke Bay Laboratories photo.

A Congressional bill in 1916 appropriated $10,000 for the building of two vessels for fisheries enforcement in southeastern Alaska. Construction bids were then opened in Seattle, Washington, on 5 December 1916. After receiving seven bids, a contract was signed with Elliott Bay Yacht and Engine Company, a local firm who immediately began building the two boats. Both were patterned after the seaworthy salmon purse-seine design and built using Douglas fir. The work was completed, inspections made, and on 10 May 1917, the Bureau of Fisheries (BOF) accepted the boats, which were named Auklet and Murre. The total cost including plans and inspections was $9,702.70. Following their 1917 summer commissioning, the two boats left Seattle on 7 July for Wrangell, Alaska, to begin the many years of patrol duties and other work in the southeast region.

Vessel Details (both boats)
Year built: 1917
Location built: Seattle, WA
Builder: Elliott Bay Yacht & Engine Co.
Designer: Martin C. Erismann
Length: 48'
Breadth: 12.5'
Draft: 5.25'
Tonnage (tons): 25 gross, 17 net
Original power:
(with BOF) 
25 hp, 3-cylinder Frisco Standard
gas engine.  Small sails were
carried aboard for emergency use.
Lights were powered by electricity.
Average speed: 8.5 knots
Cruising range: 3,000 miles  (600 gal. fuel tanks)
Primary area: Southeast Alaska
Disposition: Auklet sold in 1950, Murre unknown

The identical design of both vessels featured a raised deck forward of the pilot house that dropped moving aft. The deck was covered by the overhanging roof of the raised deck house amidships. The sides of each boat extended upwards to create the walls of the after cabin. A small afterdeck was situated at the stern. The interior of each vessel provided comfortable accommodations for two fishery agents and a crew of three.

As was common with the BOF Alaska boats, the Auklet and Murre had their share of repairs and renovations. In February 1928, both were outfitted with a hot water heating plant in Juneau, Alaska. Later that year, each vessel had its galley enlarged, which increased the comfort of those aboard. Within their first five years of service, both vessels had their engines replaced with heavier 40-horsepower Frisco-Standard models that enabled them to better withstand Alaska's heavy wind and sea conditions.

On 25 October 1918, tragedy occurred when the steamship Princess Sophia hit Vanderbilt Reef, near Juneau, resulting in the loss of all 343 persons aboard *. Through November, the Auklet and Murre both joined with the Bureau's vessel Osprey in the unsuccessful search for survivors from the incident.

During their service, the Auklet and Murre were used primarily for fishing patrols in Southeast Alaska, however, they often performed other important work: stream-marking in September 1920; annual springtime patrolling of sealing grounds near Sitka, Alaska, during fur seal migrations beginning in 1921; assisting the War Department to inspect active and abandoned fish traps for being possible navigational obstructions; and routine stream improvements, which involved removal of impediments, such as log jams and beaver dams, that could obstruct the ascent of salmon to their spawning grounds.
 

The Auklet, 1917 - 1950

Known Auklet skippers   
Henry Dannenberg  (1917)
Jesse L. Nevill  (1919-22)
Charles E. Tibbitts  (1923-29)
L. J. Collins  (1931)
Daniel Drotning  (1940)
Roy R. Lindsley  (1942)
Gifford Close  (1944)

During her initial 2 years of service, the Auklet experienced a couple of significant events. A few days before departing on her initial trip to Alaska in 1917, she participated in the 4 July celebration of the formal opening of Seattle's Lake Washington Canal that connected Puget Sound with Lake Washington. During the event she followed the Bureau's new Pribilof Islands tender Roosevelt, which served as the flagship leading a flotilla of hundreds through the canal.

Then, in the following year on 12 September 1918 while docked at Juneau, an accident occurred when the Auklet's house sustained extensive damage after she was hit by the ill-fated Canadian Pacific steamship Princess Sophia *.

In addition to her normal fishery patrol work, the Auklet was used to provide transportation for several Bureau employees and supplies; such as foodstuffs from Prince Rupert, B.C. to the Alaska merchants in Wrangell and Ketchikan who were experiencing shortages during the 1920 steamship strikes. In 1934, the Auklet worked on the Civil Works Administration's project for clearing log jams and other obstructions in salmon streams that were blocking the fish from reaching their spawning grounds. Two years later, she participated in the construction of a 70-foot concrete fish ladder at the falls of the Pavlof Harbor headwaters on Chichagof Island in Southeast Alaska.

At times the Auklet would sail to Seattle for repairs and overhauling and, when needed, she would make these trips with other Bureau vessels in tow. This was the case in 1921 when she towed the Osprey to Seattle for auctioning, then returned to Alaska pulling the newly acquired BOF patrol boat Petrel.

In the late 1940s, the Auklet was part of the Fish and Wildlife Service's Alaska fleet engaged in salmon hunting and trapping winter patrol work. She was scheduled to conduct first-time downstream fish migration research in early 1949. Her long federal service came to an end when she was sold in the fall of 1950.
 

The Murre, 1917 - 1942*  (* last known service)

Known Murre skippers   
Andrew K. Rastad  (1917)
George G. Naud  (1919-22)
Arthur McLean  (1922-23)
C. C. Garfield  (1925)
Frederick W. Oliver  (1926-31)
Alvin T. Pickett  (1940)
Sam Bartholomew  (?)

Throughout her long service with both the Bureau of Fisheries (BOF) and Fish and Wildlife Service, the Murre was assigned primarily to enforce fishing regulations in Southeast Alaska, although the boat occasionally patrolled other parts of Alaska, as in the mid 1930s when she was sent to Seward, Katalla, and Prince William Sound areas.

The vessel was used in Alaska by other agencies as well. In 1919-20, she was on loan to the Bureau of Census, and in the next winter to the Bureau of Education and the Department of Justice. The War Department used the Murre briefly during the spring of 1924 to inspect for improper lighting on unattended fish traps and structures that could pose as hazards in navigatable waters.

Some of the non-patrol work done by the vessel and her crew included:

Rendering help in 1930 and 1936 (known years) with the pink salmon tagging operations and the studies of salmon migration routes being conducted in Alaska by  Dr. Willis H. Rich.
 
Assisting B. E. Smith, of Ketchikan, in March 1932 who was transporting and planting approximately 300,000 Japanese seed oysters to Southeast Alaska in the hopes of establishing an additional food source.
 

As far as significant mishaps to the Murre, they began early in her federal service.

Considerable damage and loss of the crew's property occurred when fire broke out in her galley on 3 December 1919, at Hoonah, Alaska. The captain and crew were aboard at the time and fortunately awoke in time to extinguish the fire. Repairs amounted to $600.
 
On 1 April 1920, while conducting census work for the Bureau of Education, the vessel struck a rock and was beached in Keku Strait, Alaska. She was towed by the Auklet to Wrangell where repairs costing over $1,600 were made. The ensuing investigations determined that both incidents were non preventable and no blame was assessed.
 
In April 1937 the Murre encountered a broken crankshaft while enroute from Seattle to Alaska, which required a tow by the BOF vessel Teal.

The Murre was used into the 1940s, with the last known reference to the boat being from the 1942 "Merchant Vessels of the United States" (p.530), which lists her as a FWS boat transferred to the U.S. Navy Department for service during World War II.
 

Auklet and Murre
The Auklet and Murre.  Photo from Pacific Motor Boat, June 1917.
 

Additional reading:

Anonymous. 1917. Patrol Boats For U.S. Fishery Service. Pacific Motor Boat, January 1917. p.22.
Anonymous. 1917. Two New Vessels For Alaska Fishery Service. Pacific Motor Boat, June 1917. p.31.
Murre account:  Stan Bishop - A True Sourdough, Coming to Alaska and the Yes Bay Hatchery.  Interview with Stan Bishop transcribed by L. Harrington, 1997. Halliday family website  (last accessed 4-11-13)
Anonymous. 1917. Marine Pageantry Marks Opening of the Famous Lake Washington Canal. Pacific Motor Boat, Aug. 1917. p.5-10.
* Kiffer, D. 2005. The Grounding of the Princess Sophia. SitNews (Ketchikan) website  (last accessed 6-26-13)
 

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