Crusty old Joe's

Kodiak Alaska Military History

The official web site of the Kodiak Military History Museum

Chirikof Island

[Note: There was no date on the document below but the photo above is dated 25 February 1946.]

Images of the primary document.

ISLAND, ALASKA.  From survey by Lt. G. W. Shoe and Don C. Hutchings,
Civil Engineer.

1. General:  This station was built in 1940 for the Civil Aeronautics
Authority by Morrison & Knutsen, building contractors.  Since then,
the operation of the station has been by naval personnel.  At present,
there are one officer and eleven enlisted men on board this station.
To my knowledge, no maintenance personnel have ever been included in
the station's complement.  That is one reason for the advanced state
of deterioration of the station's buildings and equipment.

2.  Topographical:  The present station is located on the north end of
the island approximately 100 yards in from the bluff.  The soil on the
northerly one-fourth of the island is a loose, fine-grain sand, partially
covered with tundra grass.  In the immediate vicinity of the station,
the sand is constantly being shifted and blown away by wind and rain.
It is frequently necessary to fill in erosive areas around buildings to
protect their foundations. Erosion and washouts are taking place very
rapidly in the vicinity of the towers.  Stabilization of the entire
area at this state is impractical.

3.  Buildings - Structural:  The living quarters and operations buildings
are all wood frame structures.  Foundations are in fair condition with
no appreciable settlement.  Continuous operation and use without maint-
enance leaves the buildings needing complete renovation.  Additional
buildings for food storage, housing the refrigeration unit, storage of
spare parts and replacement equipment, space for housing and repair of
tractor, etc., should help considerably.

4.  Water Supply and Distribution:  The water source is a well 20 inches
square, 14 feet deep with a normal water depth of 4 feet.  This is
pumped by a 1/4 H.P. electric motor to a 40 gallon storage tank.  No
method for water purification is provided.  Broken water pipes, caused
by freezing, has resulted in much make-shift pipe fitting.  The supply
is sufficient for personnel requirements when the pump is in working
order, but entirely inadequate in case of fire.  During the summer
months, the level of the ground water drops.  In dry weather is it pos-
sible the station would be without water.  The distribution lines serve
only the living quarters.

                                 - 1 -

5.  Plumbing Facilities and Sanitation:  According to CAA plans, there
is a concrete septic tank which leads to a wooden leeching well near
the bluff.  The concrete septic tank cannot be located and evidently
never was installed.  Oil drums were put in to serve as a settling tank
before reaching the bluff.  At present, there is sewage welling up a
distance of 150 feet from the living quarter buildings.  This is, at
best, a poor temporary arrangement.  The entire waste and sewage system
should be renewed.

6.  Electricity - Generation and Distibution:  Electrical power is
furnished by two 25 KVA Superior Diesel generators.  These units have
been in operation since the station was constructed and were not new
then; however, at present, both generators are in operating condition.
There is no stock of spare parts for proper service and maintenance.
Voltage is stepped up to 2300 volts for about 150 yards, then down to 220,
for no apparent reason.  At times, this condition is reported to cause some
interference when transmitting.  The remainder of the distribution is
by regular 110V - 220V three-wire service.  Wiring of some fixtures in
the buildings is amateur and considered a fire hazard.

7.  Fire Protection:  The only means of fire protection is small hand-
operated CO2 extinguishers, with the exception of one 2 1/2 gallon CO2
extinguisher in the Generator Building.  Only two buildings have water
service to them, and the maximum storage capacity is 100 gallons.  Using
a 2-inch gasoline pump, the well can be pumped dry in 4 minutes!

8.  Equipment - Needs and Uses:  Under present conditions, the use of a
caterpillar tractor is the only practical method of transporting food and
fuel or moving other supplies on the island.  There are no accomodations
for servicing or repairing equipment on the station.  Minor repairs and
greasing are the only measures possible for equipment upkeep.  Breakdowns
have been numerous and have resulted in frequent complete disorganization
of normal operations.  Were the station located where roads could be con-
structed, automotive equipment would speed up the means of getting supplies
from the landing beach to the station, a distance of four or five miles.
Fuel and lubricating oils have to be stored outside.  Drifting sand will
cover the drums in approximately three or four weeks.  Salt air and
moisture corrode the drums rapidly.  Consequently, there is approximately
a 25% loss in fuel and lube oil due to this condition.

 	                               - 2 -

9.  Living Conditions - Quarters, Mess, Recreation:  Living conditions
at this station may be summarily classified as deplorable.  Quarters are
two frame buildings of the CAA family quarters types (two bedroom houses).
One of these houses is being used as the mess hall, galley and barracks
for six men; the other is their recreation room and the barracks for the
remaining six men.  All furnishings and equipment are inadequate, of im-
proper type and delapidated.  Such defects as follow make living on this
station very miserable:  The cooking range is worn out; the heating
surface has to be operated manually; when generators go out they have no
water, lights or heat; broken doors and windows make clean quarters
impossible; broken-down washing machine, plus no laundry room, makes
cleaning clothes very difficult; all household furniture is held together
with wire or cord.  These are only a few of the many difficulties ex-
perienced by personnel trying to operate this station.



                                   - 3 -

Retrieved from 15 April 2014

Chirikof Adventure
By Raymond Rivers, FM-5020

Except for the defeat of the U.S. Navy by a herd of wild cattle, the expedition to Chirikof Island was a complete success. It was July of 1949 and our mission was the salvaging of abandoned, but serviceable, radio range equipment from Chirikof for subsequent reinstallation on the air route to the Arctic Coast. At that time, the Navy was conducting an extensive program of oil exploration along the Arctic slope, and additional navigational aids were required in the area for the air carriers and bush operators assisting in the exploration program. Hence, the Navy's interest in the Chirikof salvage operation.

Chirikof Island is located about 80 miles southwest of Kodiak Island in the North Pacific. It is south of and separate from the main Aleutian Island chain. [This is not an accurate location of the island.] The island is roughly 12 miles long and 8 miles wide. For the most part, Chirikof is treeless, and the low, rolling, grass-covered hills are ideal for the raising of stock. There are no predatory animals large enough to endanger stock, streams provide a year-round supply of good water, and the surrounding ocean tempers the climate so that it is never either very warm or very cold on Chirikof.

When the residents of Chirikof were evacuated during World War II, they left their cattle behind and, in the succeeding years, the herds multiplied and became semi-wild. These were the cattle that routed the Navy during this expedition.

Our modest task force consisted of a seagoing tug called the USS Bagaduce, an LCT loaded with the various items of heavy equipment needed for the salvage operation, the crews of these two vessels, a beachmaster, plus a number of specialists including heavy equipment operators, riggers, mechanics, and electronic people. Being somewhat of a specialist in the types of equipment to be salvaged, I represented the CAA on the expedition, since it was planned that the CAA would reinstall and operate the equipment at its new location.

The Bagaduce, with the LCT in tow, departed Kodiak in fine weather, which rapidly deteriorated as we left the shelter of the land. The Bagaduce proceeded through a quartering sea with a combined pitching and rolling motion, particularly disturbing to the landlubbers aboard. To avoid disgracing the agency I represented, I spent most of the outbound trip in my bunk, braced with feet and elbows to keep from rolling onto the deck. Eventually, we arrived off Chirikof, cast off our line to the LCT, and went aboard her for the trip to the beach. By nightfall, we had all of the heavy equipment ashore and had moved it to the job site.

Morning revealed the magnitude of the problem we faced. The range station had been built in an area of old sand dunes. During construction, the slight cover of vegetation had been removed. Following deactivation of the station and its abandonment, the winds had blown the sand out from under some of the buildings so that a man could stand underneath among the supporting piling without stooping. Some buildings, more seriously undermined, leaned at odd angles on their partially collapsed supports. The bottom step of the range building was 5 feet above ground level, yet the building itself contained tons of sand. Around the range towers, the situation was reversed. Drifts of sand surrounded the tower bases, completely covering the tower tuning houses which we were to salvage. A bulldozer, a welder with a cutting torch, and a crew of shovelers were needed to excavate the tuning houses.

Within the buildings, it was necessary to remove large amounts of sand from around the various items of equipment before they could be disconnected and removed. Special ramps and rigging were devised to move the heavy items of equipment from the buildings to the sleds, which were later towed behind bulldozers to the waiting LCT.

We were on cold rations until the removal operation was completed, so everyone was anxious to get back to the ship. By late afternoon, all of the equipment had been loaded on the sleds for the return trip to the beach. Two Navy enlisted men, who had brought along their rifles, elected to walk back to the LCT, swinging inland to scout for game.

During our stay on Chirikof, we had noted a herd of perhaps 200 hundred head of wild cattle grazing on the nearby hills. The two Navy men, during their trip inland, approached the herd and, deciding they would like to see a stampede, fired some shots over the heads of the herd. Instead of retreating, the herd went on the offensive, moving in a body against their attackers. The hunters retreated, and the cattle pursued at an ever-increasing rate. By the time the Navy men reached the beach, they were in full flight with the herd close behind. The cattle, having won such a decisive victory, calmly went back to feeding in the knee-high grass.

The rest of the mission was completed without incident. The salvaged equipment, which amounted to several tons, was unloaded at Kodiak and later air-shipped to the CAA station at Bettles. The equipment augmented with five 135-foot steel towers salvaged by CAA from another abandoned installation, soon became an operating radio range station, which continues to operate today, performing a vital service to pilots flying the air route between Fairbanks and Point Barrow.


Best regards,
Robert Welcyng
Anchorage, Alaska

Approximate location of the radio station: N55 54, W155 35, on the north end of the island.

Alaska Penninsula on left, Chirikof Island bottom center, Kodiak Island top right.

One source of above story

Chirikof mentioned in Alaska Naval history

Origins of Cattle on Chirikof Island maybe.

A bit more Chirikof cattle history and Sitkalidak.

Grounding of Flying D 2002 expedition.

Main index This page created 2014 April 30, updated 2016 May 9