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Alaska Mining History


          Schlosser Mine in Port Fidalgo

Mining and exploration history in Prince William Sound

For history buffs, Port Fidalgo's past includes; Eskimos from the misty reaches of prehistory seeking better hunting grounds, Russian adventurers trapping for sea otter pelts, Fox Farmers, Fur Traders, English and Spanish Sailing Ship Explorers looking for a Northwest passage, Gold prospectors, Geologists, Glaciologists and Loggers.

Captain James Cook first discovered Prince William Sound in the year 1778.  His ships were the research vessels, "Discovery" and "Resolution", dispatched by King George III to seek the Northwest Passage above the American continent so the British might engage in fruitful trade with the far east.  Captain Cook would spend time in Port Fidalgo repairing the "Resolution" and trading with the nearby village of Tatitlek before leaving the Sound. 

                                 Captain Cook in Port Fidalgo Alaska

In 1786, a English fur trader named John Meares commanding the vessel "Nootka", took refuge during a violent storm in one of Port Fidalgo's bays, Snug Corner Cove.  The promise of more pelts and the lateness of the season encouraged Meares to winter in the Sound.  He considered the protection  provided by Snug Corner to be insufficient and moved the "Nootka" further into Port Fidalgo to Sunny Cove.  Meares found the cove anything but sunny during the winter and complained about the low sun disappearing behind the high peaks to the south.  Here, frozen into the fresh water ice, he and his men spent a hellish winter.  The Natives, although friendly, were able to provide them with very little food and had the disconcerting habit of carrying off every piece of iron they could find, even prying loose nails from the ship's deck with their teeth.  During the winter, scurvy ravaged the crew.  Meares and some of his crew protected themselves from this dreaded disease by chewing the unfamiliar tasting conifer needles which are rich in vitamin C.   By spring, the Natives were able to provide them with food, but not before twenty-three of the stubborn seamen who had refused to chew conifer needles had perished from scurvy.

In 1790 the Spanish explore named Captain Fidalgo would sail to Prince William Sound, cruising the east coast.  He would later give the names to the Sounds two major towns, Puerto de Valdez and Puerto de Cordova.  Fidalgo returned home telling of his adventures and one strange story of visiting what is now known as Columbia Glacier and "the floating snow banks" or icebergs.

In 1791, Captain George Vancouver, who served under Cook during his second and third voyages, was commissioned by England to find a Northwestern passage around the American continent.   He would spend three summers exploring the inside waters of British Columbia and Alaska.  During his visit to Prince William Sound, he named Port Fidalgo after Captain Fidalgo in honor of the great Spanish explorer.

1785-1867 would be a period of Russian dominance as fur traders settled several trading posts throughout the Sound.  They would also establish Russian Orthodox churches, like the beautiful blue domed church that still stands today at the native village of Tatitlek.  Located between Port Fidalgo and Port Valdez.  The United States would purchase Alaska from Russia in 1867 and officially recognize Alaska as a state in 1959.

Between 1898 and 1915, three copper mines operated in Landlocked Bay on Port Fidalgo.  Although it is unlikely that the combined output of these three mines totaled over 10,000 tons, the ore was of fairly high grade yielding 7-8% copper.  The more productive mines were those on the south shore.  The Fidalgo Mining Company Mine, just south of Whalen Bay, produced 360,376 pounds of copper and 20 ounces of silver.  The Dicky Copper Company claim above Irish Cove produced 29,346 pounds of copper.  The Schlosser Mine (where Ravencroft Lodge is now built) was the area's largest producer with 4,160,820 pounds of copper, 1,384 ounces of silver and unspecified amount of gold.  The main ore body was discovered high up on a mountain side, so the ore had to be taken out using a cable tram system to the beach.  The ore was then stored in a beach-side warehouse and shipped periodically to Portland Oregon for smelting.  The Schlosser Mine would also play host to The National Geographic Society Expedition in 1910, stopping for an extended time to resupply their ship the "Admiral Watson".  Their extensive study of the area's coastal glaciers would  contribute greatly to glaciology in the future.  *Picture of the Schlosser mine and the "Admiral Watson" docked, are at the top of this page. 

     
     
   steam tractor by lodge   steam engine at lodge
                                                    

During the 1970's a logging operation was based in Two Moon Bay, that encompassed various parts of Port Fidalgo. The timbering operation continued and was completed around the end of the 1980’s.  Years later, the Hodgin family bought the property where the lodge now resides and started construction of Ravencroft in 2002.



*Content from "A History of Prince William Sound Alaska" by Jim and Nancy Lethcoe (incredible book packed with history on PWS) 

*Vintage photo's from Alaska's Digital Archive

 
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