Monday, June 17, 2013

George Inlet Cannery

That's the Sea Lion Express, the boat we travel in for this tour
One day a week I am the naturalist for one part of a three part trip by visitors.   We take guests from the dock, along the Tongass Narrows and up George Inlet.   We view some of the natural history along the way and then deposit guests at the dock at the George Inlet Cannery.  The cannery, once owned by Libby Corporation,  is no longer in operation and the property is now owned by the Cape Fox Native Corporation.   Our company has a permit to give guided tours of the property and the corporation leases space to local fishermen to store their gear.  Someone has collected and restored all the mechanical parts of the operation.  And while no fish go down the line now, our crew there turns on and runs each of the machines which form the cans from flattened disks (easier to ship them up from "outside,") put the bottoms on, behead the fish, slice it open and gut it (all the unwanted parts dropped thru shoots on the floor and fed a voracious quantity of crabs, eagles, river otters and other animals), cut into slices the right size for the cans, stuff the cans, weigh and sort (with the  light cans diverted to humans to top off), to putting on the lids, extracting air and sealing before going into the ovens.  If anyone wants, they can take a can of sealed, local air, as a souvenir.

 After a tour of the cannery, guests board a bus for the trip back to town.  The road ends just before the cannery so they  is a short nature walk through the forest and across a bridge with nice waterfall.  The bus stops at Saxman Village to see the totem poles.

This is an old dormitory
Sometimes two tours run in opposite directions and we pick up passengers who have come by bus and return them to town by water.  If not, we "deadhead" which is a relaxing trip for me.

My part of the tour is on the water.   While it covers some of the same materials as the Misty Fjords tour in terms of the geologic history, I emphasise the diversity of ecosystems which give rise to the rich fishing of these waters.  That way it ties in well with the cannery tour.

When this was a functioning cannery there was no road to the site.   Workers arrived by boat and were housed in dormitories on the site.   Early contract Chinese workers were used, then Filipino workers, as well as Native Americans and Anglos who  were from South East Alaska. The cannery buildings are in good repair but the dormitories and other outbuildings, except one where the caretaker lives, are no longer safe to enter.  But they are interesting to look at from the outside and to photograph.

Today fishermen store equipment at the site.  Our captain stores his dungeness crab pots here and uses them in the winter months.

At low tide, the ramp is steep.

View up from the dock at low tide