National Geographic : 1969 Apr
holding the tide against water that hissed in from all directions. It was like walking through a car wash. "It's a tough job-and expensive-just digging out the ore," Dundas said, "and that's only the beginning." Later, back in his office, Dundas unrolled a large map of Alaska. "The trouble is, we're out in the middle of no place," he said. "The nearest railhead is down here in Fairbanks [map, page 548]. To reach it, we'd have to build a road 350 miles long. We could barge the ore down the Kobuk by dredging more than 200 miles of the river, but any port we built on Kotzebue Sound could only stay open four months a year. Either way we go, it's an expensive trip." A more immediate problem than transport developed at Bornite soon after I left. Water began to flood into the shaft at the rate of 20,000 gallons a minute. This new trouble, coupled with the transportation barriers, could delay production for years, Kennecott spokesmen say. Sockeye Salmon: More Than $1 a Fish Considering Alaska's 34,000 miles of coast line, it is not surprising that fishing is the No. 2 industry (it was first until oil surpassed it in 1967). Unlike the state's Arctic ports, the southern coasts are open to shipping the year round. But the fishing itself is mainly for salmon, which are seasonal. As a result, a town like Naknek, just off Kvichak Bay, stands almost deserted most of the year. Then, in June, airliners begin bring ing in fishermen and cannery workers from as far away as California for the madcap month-long run of red sockeye salmon.* Ken and I arrived at the height of the run. We buzzed the canneries that cling to the muddy banks of the Naknek River. Then, dodging power poles and pickup trucks, we touched down between two rows of houses. A Naknek street served as our runway. Over at the Nelbro cannery, the fleet was waiting to pounce on the next tide. I sought out the Neva, one of the beamy little 32-footers, Gales and churning seas batter the salmon boat Cherie as she struggles across Kvichak Bay. Wheeling gulls snap up small fish whirled to the surface by the craft's propel lers. Each summer Bristol Bay swarms with salmon fishermen. After oil, seafood brings Alaska its greatest income-$200,000,000 in 1968. Several rivers on the Bering and Chuk chi coasts recently were opened to commer cial fishing as an aid to the Eskimo economy. 556 and found her skipper, salty Sigurd Lundgren, tuning the engine. Sig, I was told, had been fishing and trapping around Bristol Bay for more than 35 years. So far his Neva was the season's "high boat," making the biggest catches of the fleet. "The season is short, but the average price is more than a dollar a fish," Sig said between *See "The Incredible Salmon," by Clarence P. Idyll, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, August 1968.