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 10 Why Krags were on Alaska's Fur Seal Islands (Read 4313 times)
butlersrangers
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Why Krags were on Alaska's Fur Seal Islands
Aug 6th, 2019 at 7:00am
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Recently 'Knute1' posted a link to a 1200+ page publication that was prepared for a U.S. Congressional committee in 1911.

In the Department of Commerce and Labor documents, spanning 1904 to 1911, was a neat inventory list containing 60 Krag rifle serial numbers. Also listed, were Krag accessories, three .30 cal. Gatling Guns and five 1.65" Hotchkiss mountain guns.

I got to wondering: why so much ordnance at a non-military post - (Two little islands, 240 miles north of the Aleutians, and 300 miles S.W. of the Alaskan coast)???

Well, I'm reading through the collection of documents!

There's Sex (seal sex), pirates, poaching, lawyers, inter-agency rivalry, bitchy dueling environmentalists, the fur trade, corporate greed, 'target practicing' Natives, the Russian Orthodox Church, alcoholism, a company store, the San Francisco Earth Quake, and Teddy Roosevelt.

I'm 2/3 of the way through .... God, finding the buried gems is boring! Lots of deceit, rivalry, ego, and hidden agendas.

It kind of starts in 1904 with the responsibility for administering the Pribilof Islands of Alaska passing from the Treasury Department to the Dept. of Commerce & Labor. Young assistant agent, Walter I. Lembkey, while stranded in the Aleutians at Dutch Harbor, is "promoted" by his Bosses' death ...

The 1904 ordnance inventory:
« Last Edit: Aug 7th, 2019 at 4:22am by butlersrangers »  
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butlersrangers
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Re: Why Krags were on Alaska's Fur Seal Islands
Reply #1 - Aug 6th, 2019 at 7:20am
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Things 'heat up' defending our borders .... er, rookeries. 

Japanese poachers are shot at, some killed, and some apprehended, July 16 & 17, 1906, on St. Paul Island.
« Last Edit: Aug 25th, 2019 at 3:28pm by butlersrangers »  
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butlersrangers
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Re: Why Krags were on Alaska's Fur Seal Islands
Reply #2 - Aug 6th, 2019 at 7:49am
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The Congressional committee was likely looking at things in 1911 because: the fur seal population was still declining, the North American Commercial Company's (fur trade) 20 year lease was expiring, pioneering environmentalists had caught people's attention, and an International agreement was needed to preserve the fur seals.

The 1911 ordnance inventory happened to be included because all correspondence was requested. The spare parts list suggests the 'Alaska Seal Island Krags' had model 1901 rear-sights.
« Last Edit: Aug 8th, 2019 at 9:56pm by butlersrangers »  
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Re: Why Krags were on Alaska's Fur Seal Islands
Reply #3 - Aug 6th, 2019 at 9:56pm
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Page 306 - The 1911 inventory likely reflects the request for more Krag rifles and other equipment, following the illegal sealing raids in 1906.
« Last Edit: Aug 8th, 2019 at 8:54pm by butlersrangers »  
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Re: Why Krags were on Alaska's Fur Seal Islands
Reply #4 - Aug 7th, 2019 at 4:14pm
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Following the Japanese Sealers landing on St. Paul Island in July, 1906, Solicitor Edwin Sims (of the Department of Commerce and Labor) was dispatched to the Alaska Fur Seal Islands.

Edwin Sims did an investigation and wrote a rather concise report covering the U.S. Sealing operations, the poaching threat to the industry, the decline of the fur seal population, and recommendations for action.
Mr. Sims' report was critical of the actions of the U.S. Revenue-Cutter Service in the Bering Sea.

The Solicitors' report went up the 'chain of command' to the White House and 'Teddy' Roosevelt.
The President reacted and was ready to send in the Marines!

Scathing rebuttal letters and objections came from the Revenue-Cutter Service, (which was under the Treasury Department).

(IMHO - It does appear, however, cooperation, performance, tactics, and aggressiveness of the Revenue-Cutter Service would be much improved in 1907, with the seizure of a number of violating vessels).

Many of Solicitor Edwin Sims' recommendations appear to have been acted upon, especially, in regard to increased ordnance on St. George and St. Paul Islands.
« Last Edit: Aug 7th, 2019 at 6:14pm by butlersrangers »  
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Re: Why Krags were on Alaska's Fur Seal Islands
Reply #5 - Aug 7th, 2019 at 6:39pm
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FWIW - The U.S. Revenue-Cutter Service and U.S. Life Saving Service were merged in 1915 to form the U.S. Coast Guard.

Neat postcard from the Bering Sea showing a short lived volcanic island and landing party of Revenue-Cutter Service men.
(This newly-formed volcanic island is mentioned in the 1200+ pages of documents, 'knute1' posted the link to access).

BTW - The U.S. Revenue Cutter "Perry" ran aground on St. Paul Island, Alaska, in a fog while patrolling in 1910. The crew of 60 was saved, but, the ship was not salvageable.
« Last Edit: Aug 8th, 2019 at 2:15am by butlersrangers »  
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Knute1
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Re: Why Krags were on Alaska's Fur Seal Islands
Reply #6 - Aug 7th, 2019 at 10:58pm
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I know that there was a lot of money at stake along with the environmental concerns. Thanks for condensing.
  
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Re: Why Krags were on Alaska's Fur Seal Islands
Reply #7 - Aug 8th, 2019 at 2:21am
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The revenue, from just the fur seal industry of the Pribilof Islands, paid-off the purchase price of Alaska in about a dozen years.

A Good Deal! ..... But, a grotesque industry and cruel exploitation of wildlife. It is depressing to read about it.
  
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Knute1
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Re: Why Krags were on Alaska's Fur Seal Islands
Reply #8 - Aug 8th, 2019 at 3:20am
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You can go to YouTube and find vintage videos on seal hunts that will depress you, also. There were some mighty tough men that worked in this trade, body and mind.
  
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butlersrangers
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Re: Why Krags were on Alaska's Fur Seal Islands
Reply #9 - Aug 8th, 2019 at 4:06pm
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The Natives of the Pribilof Islands were descendents of people brought from the Aleutian Islands (probably by force) by the Russians, when the fur seal Rookeries were discovered in the late 18th Century.

The Natives became 'Wards' of the U.S. Government with the purchase of Alaska. The Natives are recorded in various Island Censuses and lists of pay-scales. They have Russian sounding names and belonged to the Orthodox Church. The native people subsisted on marine mammals, fish, wild fowl, and food items bought from the company store. Employment and survival revolved around the Fur Seal.

The population of the Pribilof Islands consisted of native families (who selected their Chiefs), company employees & families (managers, store keepers, teachers, doctors), Government Agents & families and Clergy

The private companies, that leased the Fur Seal harvesting rights from the Government, did so for 20 year periods. The leasing company had complicated obligations toward the native population, including housing, providing a school, maintaining a store, maintaining the Church, and supplying coal.

There was a tremendous demand for the 'skins', oil, and other byproducts of the Fur Seal. It was a lucrative, but, gruesome and exploitative industry. 

The Pribilof Islands are remote and seem rather desolate, but, they are an essential natural habitat for Fur Seals and numerous bird species.
As a place for humans, it requires food, fuel, and numerous goods be supplied by boat from the outside World.

No one lived there before the Russians discovered the remote Fur Seal Rookeries on Islands often hidden in fog.
« Last Edit: Aug 8th, 2019 at 10:11pm by butlersrangers »  
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Local Boy
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Re: Why Krags were on Alaska's Fur Seal Islands
Reply #10 - Aug 9th, 2019 at 6:44am
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Well BR...with your vast knowledge of Alaskan history we're going to make you an honorary Alaskan citizen!

Here's some more Pribilof history if your up to the task:

(You need to Login or Register to view media files and links)



  
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butlersrangers
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Re: Why Krags were on Alaska's Fur Seal Islands
Reply #11 - Aug 9th, 2019 at 2:24pm
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'Local Boy' - Interesting Read! (BTW - I'm not very knowledgeable about Alaska. I'm just an interested Fan).
  
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butlersrangers
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Re: Why Krags were on Alaska's Fur Seal Islands
Reply #12 - Aug 9th, 2019 at 4:43pm
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It would appear 'Teddy' Roosevelt took Solicitor Edward Sims' report very serious and 'yanked some chains'.

In 1907 and 1908, the U.S. Revenue-Cutter vessels were far more active in policing the Seal Islands and cooperative with the Department of Commerce Agents.

Gatling Guns, Hotchkiss Canons, and 43 more Krag rifles were sent, as well as, telephone equipment.

The U.S.N. Cruiser "Buffalo" made an appearance in the Bering Sea.

Note - It would appear that with the addition of 43 Krags, (25 & 18), mentioned in these documents and the 18 that arrived in 1904, there must have been a total of 61 on the Pribilof Islands in 1908.

There are only 60 Krag rifles listed in the 1911 inventory. (Someone must have lost one?).
  
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Re: Why Krags were on Alaska's Fur Seal Islands
Reply #13 - Aug 13th, 2019 at 3:47am
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Pribilof Islands, March, 1909 - The need for so much firepower is questioned.

Exchange of letters confirms sixty-one Magazine Rifles, five Hotchkiss 1.65 inch Mt. Canons, and three .30 cal. Gatling Guns are on islands.

The need and practice routine are explained.
  
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Re: Why Krags were on Alaska's Fur Seal Islands
Reply #14 - Aug 13th, 2019 at 7:05am
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Report on loss of Revenue-Cutter "Perry".

A beautiful craft!

(Ship and crew pictures from off the internet).
« Last Edit: Aug 13th, 2019 at 1:22pm by butlersrangers »  
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