Tag Archives: B&W

Wrangell – St Elias


Revisiting Kennecott

At its peak, the five mines of Kennecott: Mother Lode, Glacier, Bonanza, Jumbo & Erie, produced $32.4 million in copper ore in 1916. Between 1909 and 1938, Kennecott produced 4.6 million tons of ore and 1.183 billion pounds of copper.

The Kennecott mine and mill town were named after the Kennicott Glacier, which lies in the valley below the mine, although with a slight misspelling. The change is blamed on a clerical error.

The Alaska Syndicate, headed by Daniel Guggenheim and J.P. Morgan, had bought 40% of the Bonanza Mine from the Alaska Copper and Coal Company in 1906. Eventually, the venture turned public, and the Kennecott Copper Corporation was launched in April of 1915.

At its peak, 300 people worked in the mill town, and up to 300 more in the mines. A self-contained company town, Kennecott contained a hospital, general store, school, skating rink, tennis court, recreation hall, and dairy.

The Great Depression had driven down the price of copper, and by 1938, the quality of ore coming out of the mine had dropped. The final train traveled from Kennecott down the CR&NW rail line in November of 1938.

Deserted for decades, Kennecott was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986, six years after Wrangell-St Elias National Park & Preserve was established. Much of the old mill town was purchased by the National Park Service in 1998. Since then, NPS has been slowly stabilizing and rehabilitating several of the structures within Kennecott.


Walking the streets of Kennecott


Glacier through the alley


A view of Kennicott Glacier from an alley at the old mine

I found an old roll of black & white that I shot the last time I was out in the McCarthy area, hiking around the Kennecott Mines. I recently developed the film, so over the next few days I’ll share a few photos of that trip/hike.

Some of the photos are okay, some are just fair, but the old mine is fascinating, and I love heading out there. I do remember that the weather was absolutely wonderful, barely a cloud in the very bright sky, which isn’t always the best when shooting B&W.


Danger in Kennecott


The Akutan Zero

On 4 June 1942, during the Battle of Dutch Harbor, a 19 year old Japanese pilot, Tadayoshi Koga, left the carrier Ryūjō in his Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero. Upon reaching the harbor, Koga and his two wingmen shot down a PBY-5A Catalina Flying Boat. Koga strafed the PBY survivors while they were in the water, and when doing so, his Zero was hit by small arms fire.

Akutan Zero trailing oil
Koga’s Zero above Dutch Harbor after it was hit by small arms fire. Notice the oil trail.

The fatal shot to Koga’s Zero hit the oil return line. Koga and his wingmen flew to Akutan Island, which was a recovery point for Japanese airmen. A submarine was nearby to pick anyone up who needed evacuation. The Zeros all circled the grassy field and Koga went in for an emergency landing. With his wheels down.

Akutan Zero
Koga’s inverted Zero

The wheels of the Zero immediately caught in the soft muskeg, and the plane flipped, killing Petty Officer Koga. The wingmen had orders to destroy any Zero to keep it out of enemy hands, but the wingmen could not fire on the upside down Zero, because they did not know if Koga was still alive. They flew off for their home carrier.

akutanzero1
Recovery of the Akutan Zero

On 10 July 1942, Lt William Thies spotted the wreckage while on patrol in his PBY Catalina. The PBY circled the downed plane several times, marked its location on a map, and returned to Dutch Harbor with the news.

The next day, a recovery team flew out to inspect the Zero. Thies talked his way onto the team. The Zero was almost completely intact. Petty Officer Koga was believed to have died instantly when the plane’s canopy hit the earth. Koga was cut from the Zero and buried nearby.

On 15 July, the Zero was pulled out of the mud and transported to a barge. In Dutch Harbor, it was flipped upright, cleaned and loaded onto the USS St Mihiel. By 1 August, it was in Seattle, and then onward to San Diego, where it was repaired. By 20 September, the Zero was flying again, this time painted with the American Blue Circle/White Star insignia.

Several wrecked Zeros were recovered after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but none were in near flying condition as the Akutan Zero. The plane was analyzed thoroughly, and it is generally agreed that the recovery of the plane led to information which helped the pilots flying against it.

The Akutan Zero was destroyed in February of 1945, when a SB2C Helldiver lost control and ran into the Zero on the runway. The Helldivers propellers cut the Zero into pieces. Several museums, including the Alaska Heritage Museum, have parts of the aircraft.

Tadayoshi Koga
Petty Officer Tadayoshi Koga


Happy Fourth!


A July 4th pillow fight, Fairbanks, Alaska 1917

Photo courtesy of the University of Alaska – Fairbanks Archives