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AFSC Historical Corner:  Penguin II,  Pribilof Islands Tender (1950-64)

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
Lt. Raymond Zussman
The Army ship Lt. Raymond Zussman (FS-246) prior to FWS service as the Penguin II.  National Archives and Records Administration - Pacific Alaska Region photo,
record group 22, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  NOAA website.

Vessel Details
Year built: 1944
Location built: Bellingham, WA
Builder: Northwestern
Shipbuilding Co.
Designer: H. C. Hanson
Other names/id: Lt. Raymond Zussman,
FS-246 (Army, WWII)
Length: 148'
Breadth: 33.25'
Tonnage (tons): 540 gross
Original engine: 875 hp Fairbanks
Morse diesel
Pribilof service: 1950-63
Disposition: retired in 1963

In the days following the fire on the Pribilof Islands tender Penguin, it was decided that the cost to convert a replacement vessel would be less expensive than the estimated $75,000 cost for repairing the damaged Penguin. On 9 June 1950, within a week of the fire, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) acquired a surplus World War II freighter from the U.S. Army Transportation Corps, the Lt. Raymond Zussman (FS-246).

The vessel was named posthumously after Raymond Zussman, a U.S. Army second lieutenant who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism during World War II – his command and courageous single-handed actions resulting in the capture of nearly 100 prisoners.

Along with the FWS vessel Dennis Winn, the Lt. Raymond Zussman was one of the several 148-foot wooden transports designed by H. C. Hanson and built during the war. The ship was constructed by the Northwestern Shipbuilding Company in Bellingham, Washington, for the U.S. Army, which took delivery of the vessel in June 1944.

The Zussman was considered a significant improvement over the Penguin. In comparison, her 875-horsepower Fairbanks Morse diesel engine provided more speed. The Zussman, at 540 gross tons, was also larger than the 394-ton Penguin and, after renovations in February 1951, had more cabin area, twice the cargo capacity, and 10 times the refrigeration storage compared to her predecessor. An electro-mechanical steering system was later added.

unloading supplies
Without sufficient landings at the Pribilofs, a baidar (or "bidarrah") is towed out to unload the Penguin II which must anchor offshore – a slow and long-standing process which was still being used (pictured here) in 1961.  National Archives and Records Administration - Pacific Alaska Region photo, record group 22, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  NOAA website.

Immediately after her acquisition by the FWS, the Zussman, loaded with passengers and supplies, left Seattle for the Pribilofs on 17 June; only four days later than the Penguin's originally planned departure. That summer, Secretary of the Interior, Oscar L. Chapman, announced; "The goodwill built up for 20 years in the name of the Penguin will not be lost...the vessel's successor has been named Penguin II". On 21 September 1950, the ship's name was officially changed.

Three round-trips between Seattle and the Pribilof Islands were made during her maiden year with the FWS. This number increased to five trips in 1952 (26,387 miles) and to six in 1953 (32,351 miles) – hauling 612 passengers, 3,450 tons of general cargo and 146,484 gallons of fuel oil. Many of the 66,378 seal skins harvested in 1953 at the Pribilofs were also transported by the Penguin II. In addition to supplying the islands, the vessel provided inter-island transportation and delivered much needed goods to small Aleut communities scattered throughout the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands. Each fall, a supply of Christmas trees was also brought along.

By the early 1960s, the Penguin II was considered too small and inadequate for continuing the Pribilof runs that were requiring an ever-increasing amount of supplies. The ship was consequently retired from service in 1963 and offered for sale the next year. A magazine announcement (pictured below) declared she was to be auctioned on 18 August 1964 in Seattle.

  Penguin II sale announcement
Announcement for the selling of the Penguin II.  From Pacific Fisherman, Aug. 1964.


A maritime hobbyist-historian, George Schneider, reported that he spotted the vessel in 1976 in Los Angeles Harbor (California) and, after talking with a crew member, learned that the vessel had been renamed the Aurora homeported at the San Andres Islands sailing under the Columbian flag.

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