The Alaska Fisheries Science Center website is now part of the NOAA Fisheries website.
Some information may not be up to date. Join us at our new location,
Please contact with any questions.

link to AFSC home page
Mobile users can use the Site Map to access the principal pages

link to AFSC home page link to NMFS home page link to NOAA home page

AFSC Historical Corner:  Heron (II ),  Research Boat for Little Port Walter

Early Pioneers
Research and Mgmt.
The Albatross, 1882
Early BOF Patrol Boats
FWS Vessels
Newer Research Ships
Pribilof Tenders
Launches/Small Craft
Charters/Other Boats
Vessel Links
The motor vessel Heron in Lake Union, Seattle, April 1948.
Northwest Fisheries Science Center photo.

Vessel Details
Year built: 1940
Location built: Seattle, WA
Builder: Sunde & Olsen
Designer: Edwin Monk
Other names/id: #526163  (USCG ID)
Length: 58', 4"
Breadth: 13.5'
Draft: 3.6'
Original engine: 135 hp, 6-cylinder
Murphy diesel
Average speed: 14 mph
Known skippers: Curt Jenson  (FWS)
Dean Frame  (1960s)
Robert Budke  (1960s)
Known service: 1940-69
Disposition: sold

In 1940, the Bureau of Fisheries transitioned into the new Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and, after nearly a decade, another boat was acquired by the Agency for the purpose of fisheries work in Alaska – this vessel being the newly built Heron.

The construction, which had started in March at Seattle, Washington, was completed during the summer at a cost of $19,000. The boat was a modified purse-seiner type having a double-ended hull designed by Seattle marine architect, Edwin Monk. The Heron had a galley, laboratory and sleeping accommodations for six men.

On 5 August 1940, the boat left Seattle for the FWS Little Port Walter (LPW) field station in Alaska. Aboard was the Fisheries Biological Laboratory (Seattle) director, Dr. Frederick A. Davidson, who reported he was completely satisfied with the Heron's performance.

Upon her arrival at her new LPW headquarters, the Heron became the Agency's first research vessel in the area since the small motor launch Heron, which retired from service five years earlier. The new Heron no doubt got her name from the launch and she was known by some as the Heron II.

The Heron at the time of her launch in 1940.  John Dassow (FWS), photographer.

Monk's  Design
"The performance of the double-ender Heron, a new 58-foot service vessel for the [Little] Port Walter biological station of the Fish and Wildlife Service, aroused much comment in 1940.

'The requirement was a double-end hull that would show some speed,' explained Monk. 'The orthodox double-ender is a good sea shape but to drive it at anything but a very moderate speed is almost impossible. At moderate speeds it drives very easily; but an attempt to push it beyond a given point results in a pronounced ‘squat’ as the hull tends to bury itself aft. This is where the long straight bottom lines of the transom stern begin to show to advantage. The objection to the transom stern for the Heron was that it is a poor performer in a following sea, and it has, to some eyes, a ‘sawed-off’ appearance. Exhaust gases have a tendency to flow into the cockpit, whereas the flow of air around a double-ender eliminates this.'

The Heron's stern was lengthened at the waterline, and the buttocks were also extended and straightened, by superimposing a short chine or knuckle, resulting in ‘a clean running boat with no deep hollow in the waterline amidships.’ Construction costs for this new type of stern were higher, but offset by an increase in speed – which Monk figured would be particularly applicable to trollers and to motor sailers. Powered by a 6-cylinder Murphy diesel, Heron cruised easily at 14 mph."
From:  Oliver, Bet. 1998. Ed Monk and the Tradition of Classic Boats, p. 32. Horsdal & Schubart Publs. Ltd. Victoria, B.C., Canada. 160 p.

In 1962, the Heron's double-ended design (and crew) were put to the test during a severe storm in the Gulf of Alaska. With the skipper rendered unconscious, a crewman took over the wheel and realized the only way of surviving the turbulent swells was to keep the stern facing each wave.
More: 2011 Interview with Jack Helle (AFSC, retired)

Throughout the 1940s, the Heron was used primarily for transportation in support of field camps and for research, such as juvenile salmon surveys and herring studies taking place in Southeast Alaska. As with other FWS vessels, the Heron would be in Seattle during winters for reconditioning – as in 1946-47, when she received significant repairs and renovations in preparation for the upcoming season in Alaska.

On 16 February 1942, the Heron left Seattle and returned to Little Port Walter to participate in the counting of pink salmon fry resulting from the eggs spawned in Sashin Creek during the previous fall – a project headed by FWS biologist, Samuel J. Hutchinson. Late in the decade, the vessel was used in 1948-49 by Stream Improvement Project staff in their ongoing stream survey work being conducted on the east coast of Prince of Wales Island in Alaska.

During the 1950s, the Heron continued to be used for the annual pink salmon fingerlings census. Following the 24 June opening of the 1955 fishing season, the Heron and the FWS vessel Sablefish were both inspecting all commercial fish traps in the western and eastern districts of Icy Strait in Alaska. In 1956, the operation of the Heron was assumed by the new Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (BCF, part of U.S. FWS). Throughout the end of the decade, the Heron was headquartered at Juneau, Alaska, and was used primarily for biological research.

As a BCF boat, the Heron remained working in Alaska, servicing the Bureau's Olsen Bay station in the early 1960s. At the end of June 1963, the she was sent to Juneau for repairs after her duties were taken over by the USFWS amphibious Grumman Goose aircraft. During the ensuing winter, the Heron once again received extensive maintenance and restoration. This work included a complete engine overhaul, repair of the dry rot in the deck and superstructure, major replacement of the plumbing and wiring, and the installation of an aft laboratory. She was also outfitted for the upcoming 1964 estuarine field program.

Late that spring, the vessel filled in at Traitors Cove, Alaska, for the BCF boat Murre II, which was undergoing repairs. Through May and June, hydrographic work was being done at Traitors Cove by the BCF Biological Laboratory's Oceanographic Investigation Program. During part of the 1964 summer, the Heron, along with the 20-foot craft Blue Boat, completed a series of several successful cruises to determine the juvenile salmon seaward migrations through summer nursery areas to the Gulf of Alaska.

Heron   Heron
(left) The BCF/USFWS research vessel Heron in 1959 at Lamplugh Glacier, Glacier Bay National Monument, Alaska.
(right) After her flying bridge was added; most likely during the winter 1963-64 renovations.
  Auke Bay Laboratories photos.

In 1965, early life studies of salmon were conducted during outings aboard the Heron in Alaskan and British Columbia waters. In the following year, plans were made that would use voice radio from aboard the Heron and Murre II to report weather conditions to the Juneau U.S. Weather Bureau station.

The Heron visited Traitors Cove again in 1967 with the camp scow in tow from Ketchikan, Alaska, which allowed the chum salmon studies field program to begin on 19 May. From here the Heron was used during the summer months to release over 17,000 international plastic orange drift cards throughout Southeast Alaska and British Columbia to study surface currents and salmon migrations. For two days in the early fall of 1968, scientists were aboard the vessel trying to determine the cause of intense Brachyphallus crenatus infections found in juvenile herring migrating into Auke Bay, Alaska.

The early 1970s marked the end of the Heron's time with the Agency as she was sold at auction to a private party. The vessel was reported to have been seen in the late 1990s in Southeast Alaska while she was being operated by a hunting guide. A 2008 online nautical forum member's profile indicated their ownership of the Heron in Tacoma, Washington, with plans to restore the vessel for a trip to "Mexico and points south."

Heron photos in the AFSC Multimedia Gallery.

Additional reading:

Piloting the Heron through a storm in 1962.  Taken from an interview conducted with retired AFSC biologist Jack Helle on 4 November 2011.
Anonymous. 1940. A New Type of Stern Speeds the "Heron". Pacific Motor Boat, Nov. 1940. p.29.
Oliver, Bet. 1998. Ed Monk and the Tradition of Classic Boats. Horsdal & Schubart Publs. Ltd. Victoria, B.C., Canada. 160 p.

            | Home | Site Map | Contact Us | FOIA | Privacy | Disclaimer | | Accessibility | Print |           doc logo