The Evangel at Kaguyak and Shearwater

Author's note: These two places the Evangel regularly visited on the south end of Kodiak Island share one sad fact in common: they were both completely destroyed by the 1964 Tidal Wave.

Beautiful Little Kaguyak

The village of Kaguyak from the side, circa 1954

Our next stop in our southbound journey is the village of Kaguyak. It has a much smaller population than most of the island villages, and even fewer amenities, but it is a friendly and inviting place. The village is laid out following the pattern of many of the ancient archaeological digs: a sheltered harbor, low, flat land for dwellings, and a fresh water supply. With its face toward a shallow bay and its back to a beautiful freshwater lake, Kaguyak had probably existed for hundreds of years before the Russian traders came. I have nothing but pleasant memories of my visits there, and this visit is no exception.

The wide beach and shallow bay at Kaguyak, 1954 (my brother Noel Smith is on the far right)

As we pull into the shallow bay and head toward shore in the skiff, there is already a small group of kits waiting for us on the wide beach. We get provided with dinner shortly after we arrive, in the form of a nice, plump, newly-caught and cleaned red salmon. Dad puts the salmon in the skiff, and we make a few house calls before heading back to the boat for supper. Soon, Mom has made some freshly caught salmon steaks, nicely floured and pan-fried, accompanied by boiled potatoes and a can of peas from our larder under the bow. This is a poor village, and they have provided us a generous feast. When we go back ashore, Mom and Dad are respectfully thankful by merely mentioning how delicious the salmon was in the presence of the family who donated it.

A fishing boat off Kaguyak in the mid-1950s. The colors indicate that it is a Kadiak Fisheries seiner.

There aren't many people in Kaguyak, and many of the residents are off fishing or working in canneries, but there's quite a handful of children and young people. Later that evening, a small flotilla of skiffs brings most of the residents of town out to the Evangel for some filmstrips and fellowship. Dad starts the little generator, Mom has the pump organ unpacked, and we hold a little service, including the popular animated filmstrips based on Bible stories. Somehow, Mom has produced Kool-Aid and graham crackers for everyone. It is a festive time, but eventually everyone has to go ashore. I ride along as Dad ferries some of the kids back to the beach. The brightly-lit Evangel and the crisp drone of the generator are a stark contrast to the dark houses of the village in the summer twilight. Hardly anyone has a generator, and the light of kerosene lamps doesn't usually carry too far out of the curtained windows. We will stay the night before making our good-byes in the morning. I go to sleep with yet another pleasant memory of Kaguyak as a peaceful, happy place filled with good people.

This 1960 photo from a Baptist publication shows Norman and Joyce Smith in the cabin of the Evangel. The Evangel was used in this way at many canneries and smaller villages like Kaguyak. The famous "Christ Our Pilot" painting and the folding pump organ are visible behind Joyce. My sister Robin, with young brother Kelly on her lap, is at the far end of the bench. The people in the center are sitting on folding stools that stored away when not needed. The engine room door is behind Norman.

The village of Kaguyak from the lake behind the village, 1957

Epitaph for Kaguyak:

Kaguyak's beautiful and ideal location became its undoing. When the 9.2 Great Alaskan Earthquake generated a series of tidal waves on March 27, 1964, Kaguyak was destroyed. With its shallow bay too close to the open ocean, Kaguyak was inundated by high, cresting waves when the tsunami came roaring in. Several lives were also lost. After the Tidal Wave, the surviving residents relocated to Old Harbor and Akhiok.

Shearwater Cannery (Kadiak Fisheries)

The Evangel leaves Shearwater cannery, in a light rain. (Photo taken in 1956)

Epitaph for Shearwater cannery:

We frequently visited Shearwater on our south-end visits with the Evangel. It was between a couple of the villages where we regularly stopped. By the end of the 1950s, however, Shearwater had closed down, retired by Kadiak Fisheries in favor of other, more profitable canneries. When the Tidal Wave destroyed it, Shearwater had been deserted for several years. I still mourn the loss of it and the many other picturesque canneries from a now bygone era in Kodiak Island history.

Part Four: The Evangel at Akhiok and Alitak

Written by Timothy Smith, web author. See the About Me page for more information. Always feel free to send me comments, suggestions or corrected information about this article or any of the articles on this site. (Write to: This article and website is 2005 Timothy L. Smith, Tanignak Productions, 14282 Tuolumne Court, Fontana, California, 92336 (909) 428 3472. Images unless otherwise listed are from the collection of Rev. Norman L. Smith or the Timothy L. Smith collection. This material may be used for non-commercial purposes, with attribution. Please email me with any specific requests. You are welcome to link to this site.

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