I'm copying here propriome's wonderful posts making public to us a photograph album scanned and sent to us by the relative of a crew member who saved the photos. He was on Unalga I in 1919.
Frank Wilson Sheppard served as a Fireman aboard USS Unalga during her 1919 trip to Alaska.
Recently Linda Patterson, a relative, contacted us and provided a set of splendid pictures.
To her and her family goes our deepest and sincere gratitude.
Unfortunately there are not many mentions of Frank Wilson Sheppard, a Texan, in the logs:
- He joined Unalga at San Pedro, California, on 25 January 1919 as an USN 3rd class Fireman.
- He got a 10-day leave on 20 March 1919 and returned, eight hours late, on 31 March 1919; his absence was excused.
- He was promoted to 1st class Fireman at Unalaska on 1 June 1919.
- He left, along with many other men from USN and USNRF, at San Francisco, on 10 November 1919, when USS Unalga finally returned from her 1919 summer voyage.
According to Linda, he then returned home to Texas and remained there for the rest of his life. He was very shaken by the epidemic and didn't like to talk about it.
Being born in a very hot place without oceans, his 1919 voyage must have been quite an adventure to him!
In the spring of 1919, USS Unalga prepared to make her summer trip towards Alaska, for her Bering Sea Patrol duties.
The US Coast Guard Cutter Unalga was still under the command of US Navy, even though World War I had already finished.
This would be her last voyage with a crew from both USCG and USN until World War II. On 28 August 1919 the Treasury resumed control of USCG vessels.
She would be quite busy that year. "Normal" Bering Sea Patrol duties comprised checking vessel cargoes for illegal fur trade, censusing cannery employees, giving medical assistance to the population and overall acting as representatives of US Government in those distant and cold lands.
The 1919 voyage was instead quite of a nightmare for the crewmen, and far worse for the native population. The Spanish flu, which had already ravaged around the world and created so much death and woe in 1918, didn't arrive in Alaska until the summer of 1919, due to remoteness of the region and scarce contacts with the rest of the world.
The situation became critical during May and June, when entire villages were wiped out by influenza.
USS Unalga received first notice of the flu epidemic in Unalaska from USS Saturn on 26 May 1919. USS Unalga anchored in port on 27 May, found almost everyone sick, and began to feed and nurse the entire population.
She departed Unalaska, things there being under control, on 17 June 1919 bound for Bristol Bay area, where reports indicated that the situation wasn't better. She remained in the region until 28 June, caring for the population of the entire area.
We've done our best to identify and properly title the pictures. Many of them have no caption and no writing on their back, therefore placing them correctly in space and time has been a little tricky. We hope we have not made serious errors.
Frank Wilson Sheppard, Fireman, 1918
4 July 1919 - A boxing match taking place at the docks - USS Unalga is the ship in the background.
Unalga's Officers are enjoying the show along with crewmembers.
In his diary, Captain E.A. Coffin writes about boxing taking place. Also Unalga logs mention "appropriate sports and passtimes" that day.
USS Unalga anchored in the background
USS Unalga anchored, front view
Unalaska Harbor from USS Unalga deck
Washing down main deck. A daily duty
Another view from USS Unalga deck
A very nice picture of USS Unalga cruising through ice
USS Unalga Officers.
Standing: Lieutenant Junior Grade Willie B. Huebner USNRF; Captain Eugene Auguste Coffin USCG; Two Captains USCG *;
Lieutenant E. W. Scott USNRF (Dental Corps); Lieutenant Junior Grade Dr. F. H. Johnson USPHS.
Sitting: Lieutenant Carl E. Anderson USNRF; Senior Captain Frederick Gilbert Dodge USCG; Lieutenant Gordon Whiting MacLane USCG.*The two USCG Captains are Theodore Graham Lewton and Warner Keith Thompson, but we've not yet been able to identify them for sure.
SS Haller at Unalaska.
Haller was a cannery tender Unalga met several times in Bristol Bay area.
The two ships had a quite close encounter on 12 September 1919.
USS Bear at Unalaska.
Bear arrived at Unalaska on 3 June 1919 and immediately started helping Unalga in relief work.
She departed on 15 June 1919
USS Bear at Unalaska.
Wreckage. Uncertain location.
Wreckage. Uncertain location.
Whaleboats. Uncertain location.
Burying the dead. Third man from the left is Lieutenant j.g. Dr. F. H. Johnson USPHS.
The officer (sixth man from the left) should be Lieutenant Carl E. Anderson.
Burying the dead. The officer in charge of those operations was Lieutenant Carl E. Anderson
One of the many coffins buried in that period
Unalga's crewmen wearing "Flu" masks. All the men taking care of the population ashore had volunteered.
According to the date on the picture, they were about to return to Unalaska from Bristol Bay. At that time the flu emergency had almost finished.
The Russian Cemetery at Unalaska. Hundreds of people died and almost the entire population got sick.
Another view of the Russian Cemetery at Unalaska.
Crewmen digging graves in Russian Cemetery at Unalaska. Notice Orthodox crosses.
Crewmen digging graves in Russian Cemetery at Unalaska.
The officer superintending the men could be Boatswain S.B. Johnsen or Lieutenant Carl E. Anderson
The Church of the Holy Ascension of Christ at Unalaska, with crewmen digging graves.
Orphans were very numerous. The flu struck hardest against the stronger immune systems, therefore most of the younger adults with children had died.
Unalga's men nursed, feed and cared for the children full-time, until proper orphanages and other families of the island were ready to receive them. The man caring for the children is Peter Bugaras, Unalga's Master-At-Arms
Another splendid picture of some of the orphans in charge of Peter Bugaras.
He cared for them night and day at USS Unalga Orphan Home from 30 May 1919. Ten of the older ones were transferred to the care of US Deputy Marshal of Unalaska on 4 June 1919.
The USS Unalga Orphan Home was the temporary structure at Unalaska, built to shelter and keep all the children together.
The man on the far left is Seaman George D. Wright, who was a friend of Frank Wilson Sheppard.
Peter Bugaras is the man at the center of the image. He volunteered to take in charge all of the children.
Frank Wilson Sheppard wrote some information on the back of some of the postcards (the previous image exists in two copies, in one of the two George D. Wright is marked).
Another fantastic image of USS Unalga Orphan Home with four crewmen and the children.
The man on the left is George D. Wright, who was in charge of cooking for them.
A nice image of the seaman George D. Wright (the third man from the left, employed as cook for the children), two male nurses and the doctor of USS Unalga Orphan Home.
A beautiful panoramic picture of the shore at Unalaska.
The Russian Church of Holy Ascension of Unalaska can be seen in the center of the picture, in front of Unalaska Lake.
Unalaska shore, with the Russian Church of Holy Ascension in the center of the picture.
Unalaska shore. This picture has been taken from the Russian Cemetary hill, northeast of the town.
An islet in the sea. Uncertain location.
Hunting scene on Unimak Island.
The Unimak Pass, a wide marine channel, is the main waterway connecting Alaskan Bering Sea region with Pacific region.
Cruising along Alaskan coast. Uncertain location.
A waterfall. Uncertain location.
Sunset on the Bering Sea.
Due to latitude, day length is 17-18 hours in July, with sunsets taking place around 11:30pm and sunrises around 6:30am.
Sunset on the Gulf of Alaska.
An old Russian Fort in Unalaska. Alaska was bought from the Russian Empire in 1867 for $7 million.
Lieut j.g. Dr. F. H. Johnson USPHS (on the left) and Master-at-Arms Peter Bugaras (on the right) seem in hurry.
Unalaska picture taken from the town docks, at the mouth of Iliuliuk River (hidden by houses and streaming to their right).
The Russian Curch of Holy Ascension can be easily spotted in front of the dead end.
A seaman is posing before a rather big anchor. Uncertain location.
A whaling harpoon.
Whaling was an essential part of the economy in the whole Bering Sea region.
Crewmembers are curiously observing the result of a whale hunt. Uncertain location.
A single whale produced an enormous amount of whale oil, which was highly prized in the markets.
USS Unalga visited St. Paul and St. George islands on 12 and 13 July 1919.
A group of seals on St. George Island.
A numerous group of seals seems to enjoy the beach.
Captain E.A. Coffin speaks about this picture in his diary. The baby seal is about 3 days old.
Saint Michael's Cathedral of Sitka. Unalga anchored in that port during her voyage towards Alaska, on 8 May 1919.
A picture of Alaska inland. Uncertain location.
Tlingit totem poles in Sitka National Historical Park.
Sitka (Shee Atika) was the place of a battle between Tlingit natives and Russian colonists in 1804.
The site was designated as a National Park in 1890 by President Harrison.
Excerpts from USS Unalga's logbooks:
- At Unalaska (Part 1 , Part 2 ) 26 May - 17 June 1919
- In Bristol Bay area (Link) 20 June - 28 June 1919
- Followups (Link) 20 July - 23 July 1919
- The Abner Coburn Issue (Link) 3 September - 15 October 1919
- A Short History of the Bering Sea Patrol by Dennis L. Noble, which gives a lot of information about the flu epidemic, describing Unalga work at Unalaska
- Jesse Lee Home Alaska and the Pandemic of 1919, reporting excerpts from "Family After All: Alaska's Jesse Lee Home, Vol. I, Unalaska, 1889-1925" by Raymond L. Hudson, talking deeply about the epidemic at Unalaska from a different point of view, and giving names to some of the dead people mentioned in the logs (note: some of Unalga crew and officer names are wrong)
- Eugene Auguste Coffin personal diary 1919-1923, contains many fantastic details about Unalga operations at Unalaska and, later, in Bristol Bay.
- A transcript of John Eddie Roberts memories, contains several details of Unalga work at Unalaska, and the description of some touching moments of Peter Bugaras with the oprhan children.