National Geographic : 1965 Jun
Black gold from offshore rigs (top) may bring Alaska more wealth than old prospectors dreamed of. Derricks on Middle Ground Shoal and else where in Cook Inlet tap major oil pools. Icy waters, swift currents, and 30-foot tides make drilling hazardous. Long-horned and shaggy, hardy West Highland cattle from Scotland graze on Kodiak Island. Ronald Hurst, who raises them, told the author he first saw the breed pictured in the May, 1946, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. Hacked from the wilderness three decades ago, the fertile Matanuska Valley (opposite) produces 70 percent of Alaska's farm income and contains 58 percent of its cultivated land. 810 "It's not unusual," she replied. "That's just the way people are up here." The sky darkened as we left to catch the overnight ferry to Kodiak. We had heard that the water between Seward and Kodiak could get choppy when squalls hit. Now we watched and waited. Before dinner could be, served, the ship began to pitch, yaw, and roll, and within a few minutes dishes were crash ing to the steel deck. Dinner was can celed. During the night the ship rolled as much as 30 degrees. A fisherman on his way to Kodiak to join his boat ad mitted that for the first time in his life he felt seasick. A waiter revealed that at times like these the ferry was known as the "Dramamine Express." Meeting Place of Wind and Tide When I visited the bridge the next morning, Capt. Maitland Merkley asked with a straight face if we had slept well. Then he smiled. "We had swells coming at us from three different directions in the area we passed through last night. Tides out of Cook Inlet mix with the currents and Aleutian winds coming up Shelikof Strait, sometimes blowing 100 knots. Right in the middle of all that are the Barren Islands" (pages 812-13). I asked if anyone lived there. "Only seals and sea lions. Used to be a guy lived there. Raised foxes. He had the ugliest squaw I've ever seen. Said he used to have a beautiful wife, but some body was always trying to steal her. Somebody finally did, so he married the ugliest woman he could find. Said some fool even tried to steal her." Seventeen hours after leaving Sew ard, we reached the town of Kodiak. In the quake-generated wave which hit Kodiak last year, one man lost a $100,000 fishing boat anchored there. Four hours later the same wave de stroyed a six-unit apartment house he owned in Crescent City, California. The captain docked at the King Crab Cannery. He pointed to the giant crabs being off-loaded near our bow. "Some guys from Louisville found one of those and brought it to me. They asked what it was. I told them it was an Alaskan spider-had to be that big to catch the flies up here. Told 'em they sometimes even jump a jackrabbit."