The 26 Ghosts of Hyder, Alaska

The 26 Ghosts of Hyder, Alaska Light tunnel . My true story 

Back in 1989  My friend and I took a trip to Hyder Alaska  it took us less than 5 hours to arrive while we were stopping along the road to enjoy the scenery  and have a bite to eat along the road and see so many wild life along the way. We left early morning so we can come back at the same day while we were at hyder Alaska  I decided to venture around the area by foot it was nice day back in end of July 1989 with mild rain every now and then.

My friend suppose to meet some one else in one of the restaurant to talk about winter time tourism business back in north BC as he was a skiing instructor and he used to take THE  USA tourists to good SAFE  skiing spots in north BC  . So I told him that we will meet back in my truck  in 3 hours .

After we had our lunch in Glacier Inn he met his friend to talk about the skiing business and I went to walk around and see the small friendly ghost town , many tourists were walking by and taken pictures with the old cameras I thought may be I go to my car and get my camera too but I was already far and I thought I better enjoy the scenery and then go back I had a small flash light ,umbrella ,a Swiss knife and bear spray can I bought them from the store in Hyder. After a 20 min walk I decided to sit on a broken tree bark not to far from the main old town centre.

I was afraid to venture far and alone in a bear country so I stay closer to the town  about 15 minutes walk from the town and while sitting around 2 in the afternoon I suddenly saw a strange light coming far from the forest area closer to were I was sitting about 200 yards , I took cover behind a tree as I was terrified by it . It look like a tornado but made of light no sand or water in it just swirling light formation, no sound and it was horizontal in direction not vertical.

  I was so upset that I didn’t have my camera with me  . I thought this must be some strange light phenomenon the front of the light tunnel stood at that point I saw 26 light figures they look like human figures but with out facial recognition they all came from east direction 6 figures in each group they were 4 groups and 2 figures were at the front gate of this light  it was like those 2 figures at the gate knows the other 24 figures and welcoming them into the light tunnel , they all enter this gate of light and the gate closes and pulled so fast and vanishes in matter of less than few  minutes and went back to the same starting spot. 

It was like a soul collecting tunnel , a portal of light,  in that day and that time while I was sitting to witness it . I am sure that if it comes one it will come again some where in this earth or multiple times . Until now I think of that moment and ask my self who were those 26 souls and where that tunnel come from and why the angle of death as we know didn’t come first , could it be that after they died took them some times to go to the light ? I turned and walked very fast back to the town looking at the sign at the street of Hydra town that says “the friendlies  ghost town IN Alaska ”

Later when my friend arrived to my truck I asked him to drive back and he looked at me and said whats the matter you look like seen a ghost and loughed and said friendly ghost and loughed again but I didn’t lough and mind was away thinking and trying to make a sense of what had just happened. When I told him what I saw he replied did you drink anything as the bars here serve very strong alcohol. You know I dont smoke or drink, I replied. May be you were sitting relaxed and fall a sleep and dream . No I was a wake and sitting for while and about to return to the town and my car, I replied.

Do you want to go back and we can take pictures , He said .   NO , I dont think you will see that again , I told him it was one think event at that moment and we were in the car trying to make sense of it . My friend asked me that we can stay over night and we can leave tomorrow and we can take pictures . Lets go back home , I told him. and we drive back another 5 hours to Terrace BC.

After researching of the number 26 the only explanation I came up with is those 26 souls that lost their lives in the Granduc mine, Stewart -Hyder, Alaska  avalanche not far away.But the question is why here in this place and not close to the mine it self ! Until now I dont have an answer. I felt may be the 2 white figures at the front of the gate where guiding the rest to come with them and may be they miss them and they want them all to join the light how I wish to know more about those figures .

According to the Gospel of Luke, there were 26 generations from David to Jesus Christ, as well as from Moses to Adam.

Another fact about number 26 that is related to the Bible is that Jesus was in the age of 26 when Joseph died and it is known that Joseph was the adoptive father of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of Luke 26 numbers were used, while number 18 is mentioned 26 times in the Bible.

Also, there are some words that are mentioned 26 times in the Bible, such as “baptism“, “prescription“, etc.

It is interesting to say that the Hebrew name of God has 26 as its numerical value. It is also known that the 26th verse in the Bible is about the God’s image. According to the Bible, number 26 could mean the power of salvation. There are 26 letters in the Latin alphabet as well

The story of those 26 minors 

26 died and  twenty workmen injured; buildings destroyed, in the Granduc mine, Stewart -Hyder, Alaska  avalanche disaster Mar 1956 Granduc Mines Ltd hauled in 2,000 tons of freight, on snow sleds, to start the copper mine north of Stewart, near the Alaska Pan Handle.
L. T. Postle was Mine President at that time.
All was not perfect on building this mine.

Feb 18, 1965, at 09:57 am, (10:16 on memorial in Stewart) an avalanche from the Leduc Glacier, covered a Granduc Work camp, and the Mine Portal Tunnel,
And killed 26 workers, injuring 17.

Granduc mine was located 30 km north of Stewart.

Leduc Glacier– Latitude – Longitude (DMS) 56° 13′ 0″ N, 130° 22′ 0″ W, head of the Leduc River

I will attempt to record the names of those that died.
Most of the victims were taken to hospital in Ketchikan Alaska.

Granduc was building a 11 mile (18km) tunnel under 3 glaciers at the time to Tide Lake. Pressure was on to build it, and get the copper mine operating. Approx 154 men were employed here, at this time.

 

Leaving Hyder, the friendliest ghost town in Alaska! A sign in Hyder, Alaska.

The 26 minors  of those who died 

Craig Flemming Anderson– Age 37, Lived in Vancouver, married with 3 children, He was on the job for only 4 days. born in Scotland, Vancouver Crematorium

Andrew Burdick– Age 40, Married, born in Montreal, Quebec, buried in Kirkland Lake, ON

John S. Clausen– Age 38, Single, Born in Germany, Lived in Summerland BC, Buried in Summerland BC

Clifford Matthew Crawford– Age approx 30, Single, born in England, worked for Sentinel Construction

Raymond Ronald Reigh Currie– Age 34, Single, Born in PEI, Lived in Prince Rupert, Worked for Sentinel Construction, buried in Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver BC

Aldege Davis– Age 31, born in Winnipeg MB, married- wife Sally Davis, of Vancouver, had 2 daughters, Welder, buried in Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver BC

Wiolms (Vilmos on memorial) Fekete– Age 37, Married, buried in Ward’s Pass Cemetery, Stewart BC

Edward William “George” Geiger– age 56, born in Saskatchewan, Metal Worker, Bit Grinder for Hard Metals Co. He was from Burnaby. married- Wife Pansy Geiger. buried Forest Lawn, Burnaby

Gordon Robert Lloyd– Age 37, Single, born in Vancouver BC, Powerhouse Operator, buried in Williams Lake BC

Donald John MacKinnon– Age 41, the 20th victim found- from North Surrey BC

Stewart James McLeod– age 35, Single, born in Fort St. John BC, Carpenter, buried Forest Lawn Cemetery in Burnaby

Jerimiah McNulty– Can’t find anything on this mine, so spelling could be wrong?

Wayne Matiowski– Age 18, Single, born in Ohla, MB, Buried in Ukrainian Catholic Cemetery, Oakburn, MB

Christos Nitsos– Age 25, Single, born in Manayouli, Greece, buried in Fairview Cemetery, Prince Rupert BC

Ivan Orein Olson– Age 27, Single, born in Camrose AB, Cat Operator, buried in Scandia Cemetery, Camrose AB

Herman Orlaw– Age 55, married, born in Russia, the 23rd victim found- from North Vancouver- Carpenter. buried in Capilano View Cemetery, West Vancouver, BC

Cecil Alan Palmer– Age 37, Married, born in ON, buried in Veterans Memorial Park, Surrey BC

Arthur Frank Paulson– Age 28, Single, born in ON, buried in Sault Ste. Marie ON

Blake Reginald Rose– Age 21, Single, born in Alberta, buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver BC.

Rodney Leonard “Rod” Rose– Age 24, (23 in one source) Single, born in Alberta. buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver BC. (brother to Blake Reginald above)

Ulrick Gunter Schack– Age 18, Single, born in Berlin Germany, Buried in Kelowna BC

James Alexander Scott– Age 34, Married, Lossie Mouth, Scotland, Heavy Equipment Operator, buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Burnaby BC

Dalton Shannon– Age 39, Married, Born in Matheson ON, Electrician, Buried in Ansonville, ON

Steve Soltesz– Age 25, Single, born in Hungary, lived in Calgary, he was the 22nd body found, buried in Ward’s Pass Cemetery, Stewart BC.

John Anthony Tellam– Age 31, Single, Born in windsor ON, lived in Calgary AB, Buried in Calgary AB.

17 men were taken to hospital in Ketchikan AK, 5 seriously injured.

Robert J. Bell- Vancouver

Malcolm Campbell- Vancouver

Uuno Nyrhnnin- Vancouver

Ronald Cooper- Vancouver

Bryan Ludwig- Vancouver

Gene Noramdneau- Vancouver

Berton Owens-Jones- Vancouver

Metro Kindrat- Vancouver

Paul Hoefele- Burnaby

Rene Jollie- Madison ON

Glen Sullivan- Stewart BC

George Kaduk- Edmonton

Robert Soucier- Mallardville BC

Adrien Delrose- New Westminster BC

Paul Whitt- Merritt BC

Theodore Kourletis- Prince Rupert

Jack Ritchie- Quebec

A Memorial was erected in Stewart in 2005, funded by the district of Stewart and the Workers Compensation Board.

Why drive 20 hours to Hyder, Alaska and 20 hours back to Seattle? The best answer I can give: to say that you did! And you cannot go all the way to Hyder and NOT take photos!!! (I mean, you have to prove you were there!) Hanging above the border is a “Welcome to Hyder, Alaska!” sign which makes the perfect road trip photo op!

Entering Alaska sign at the border between Canada and Hyder, Alaska.

Check out the Other Landmarks

While you have to visit customs while leaving Hyder, you can just roll right in to town! Near the entrance is a pole to the side announceing the “Hyder Townsite Limits,” that you are “Entering Alaska,” and that the speed limit is now 20 miles per hour…a sharp contrast to the kilometers we’d been driving all through British Columbia! You can also check out a land marker that shows you which side is Canada and which is Alaska, historic Storehouse No. 4 (Eagle Point Storehouse), and some local businesses, like Captain Terry’s Exotic Junk. All within about 10 feet of the border!

Saving a National Treasure - Storehouse No. 4 - Eagle Point Storehouse - in Hyder, Alaska.
Storehouse No. 4 - Eagle Point Storehouse - in Hyder, Alaska.
Land marker between Canada and the United States in Hyder, Alaska.

Get Hyderized

Getting Hyderized at Glacier Inn is a tradition for travelers to Hyder. You go to the bar, take a very strong shot, and get a certificate to prove you did it. Learn more about getting Hyderized here.

Have you been Hyderized at the Glacier Inn in Hyder, Alaska?

Go to the Post Office (and Check Out the Carved Wooden Bear)

As any town should, Hyder, Alaska has a post office. Mail is picked up at 8 am daily, and dispatched Monday and Thursday only… by floatplane! It’s a fun place to check out and a great place to mail some postcards from. Be sure to check out all the listings on the message boards, there are always some interesting ones.

Outside of the post office, check out the carved wooden statue of a bear. Another great photo op! And the only bear in Hyder you should get close to!

Hyder, Alaska Post Office.
Bear at a picnic table sign at the Hyder, Alaska Post Office.
Wooden carved bear and cub at the Hyder, Alaska Post Office.

 Look for real bears at Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site

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After driving into Alaska, you can turn right to go to the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site, but you can also turn left to walk the small pier and check out some glorious views of the mountains!

Views from the pier in Hyder, Alaska.
Boats near the pier in Hyder, Alaska.
Bridge on the pier in Hyder, Alaska.
Canoes near the pier in Hyder, Alaska.

 Admire the Beauty of the Town

Because Alaska is a beautiful state…no matter if you’re north or south, east or west… And Hyder is both the southernmost and easternmost part of Alaska!

Views of Hyder, Alaska.

 Say Goodbye to the Friendliest Ghost Town in Alaska!

On the back of Hyder’s welcome sign, as you are heading out, there is another sign proclaiming that you are “Leaving Hyder — the friendliest ghost town in Alaska!” Be sure to say goodbye when you’re ready to leave and make your long journey back home!

Want to see more? Here’s a video montage of my road trip to Hyder, Alaska!

What to do in Hyder, Alaska - the Friendliest Ghost Town in Alaska!
What to do in Hyder, Alaska – the Friendliest Ghost Town in Alaska!
In 2005, this memorial was erected in downtown Stewart, near the entrance to the estuary boardwalk. Click on the photo to enlarge it in a new window.
Memorial to the victims of the 1965 Leduc Avalanche at the Granduc Mine

    In December 1964 the climate stations at Stewart, B.C., Ketchikan, Alaska, and Cape Annette, Alaska, recorded temperatures 5.5 C deg below normal and precipitation 35 percent below normal. Between 13 and 31 December only 12 mm of precipitation were recorded at Stewart, with overnight temperatures ranging down to -25°C. Both the precipitation and the temperature remained low in the first week of January.

    In February heavy snowfalls followed the early cold dry weather. For several days prior to 18 February a great sub-arctic storm raged and an estimated 4.3 m of snow fell at the Granduc Mine.

 

ACCIDENT SUMMARY

    The Granduc Mine is 30 km northwest of Stewart, B.C., near the Alaska border; the Leduc Camp of the mine was located on a moraine at the junction of the North and South Forks of the Leduc Glacier and was accessible only over glacier covered terrain.

    At 0957 h on 18 February an avalanche destroyed the southern portion of the camp and the buildings surrounding the mine portal, not quite blocking the portal. In the camp proper there were four bunkhouses, a recreation hall, warehouse, first-aid building and temporary hospital, a small helicopter hangar with workshop, and ten smaller buildings. After the avalanche only the bunkhouses, mine office, warehouse, the first-aid building/hospital were left intact. Between the camp and the portal, and at the portal itself, there were a large power-house, a large workshop and new and old dry buildings. All were demolished.

    There were 154 men in the Leduc Camp; 68 of them were caught in the avalanche. The others were in buildings that were untouched or were working in safe areas outside; 21 men were working underground. The men caught in the avalanche were shoveling roofs, bulldozing pathways, digging out equipment and working on construction and machinery in the area of the mine portal. One of them was Einar Myllyla who was alone in the carpentry shop.

RESCUE

    The avalanche destroyed the power-plant, but within minutes auxiliary power was connected to the radio transmitter and a distress signal was sent to the Stewart mine office. Survivors, fortunately including a doctor and first-aid attendant, commenced rescue operations immediately. At the time of the disaster 15 men were working outside the portal and all were buried. The mine shift boss, who had fortunately been on the surface just before, knew the approximate positions of all these men and set the underground crew working in the hope of uncovering survivors. All 15 were found fairly quickly; six were alive, but nine were dead on recovery.

    As most survivors in the rest of the camp were in varying states of shock and injury, the rescue work was slow. Lack of proper equipment and the ongoing storm hampered operations. Using bare hands, shovels and makeshift equipment, 41 men were saved that day, the last one to come out alive 5 1/2 h after the slide.

    The distress signal to Stewart was heard by that Alaska State Police who immediately notified the RCMP in Prince Rupert. Mine officials in Stewart had operations well under way, arranging for a helicopter base to be set up and ground rescue to be initiated. As normal air access to the mine from Stewart was still impossible, a helicopter base was set up at the mouth of the Chikamin River on the Alaska side. Meanwhile ground rescue teams had left by snowcat from the nearest road camp; although it would take 3 days to cover the rugged 55 km, this might be the only means of rescue if the area remained closed by air.

    The news was almost immediately in the hands of the press and brought aid from many quarters of British Columbia and Alaska. By 1700 h operations at the camp had become more organized: communications with Chikamin were established and a helicopter pad was bulldozed out of the debris in front of the wrecked mess hall. Unknown to all, Einar Myllyla lay 3 m below the pad in an icy prison, conscious of operations above him.

    On 19 February the first helicopter was able to reach the camp from the Chikamin River base, after spending the night on a glacier between the two sites, forced down by weather. Further machines brought additional trained rescue personnel and trained rescue dogs. An evacuation shuttle to Chikamin and Ketchikan was established.

    The search for survivors was greatly hampered by the mass of wreckage in the snow. Rescue dogs were confused by the maze of human scents. Probing turned up only more scattered material. Poor visibility, snow, fog, and wind continually hampered operations. For two days, between fitful comas, Myllyla could heard helicopters landing and taking off above him. Finally, on 21 February, after abandoning hope of finding further survivors, careful trenching of the debris began with bulldozers shearing off only a few inches at a time. Spotters rode the blade to watch for bodies.

    On that afternoon, while work progressed in the area of the helicopter pad, a large section of snow sheared away, revealing a blinking Myllyla, who looked up at astonished spotters saying “Don’t move me, I think my legs are frozen.” He had been buried for 3 days, 6 h. He was immediately taken to Ketchikan where a team of doctors saved all but the toes of one foot and some fingers. The last body was recovered by mine personnel on 18 June – leaving 26 dead and 20 injured.

AVALANCHE

    The details concerning this avalanche are rather sketchy. Montgomery Atwater, the expert flown in at the time of the disaster, described the starting zone on Granduc Mountain after the avalanche occurrence as having “hardly enough snow to cover the brush.” His analysis of the situation was as follows:

“Abnormally low temperatures in early winter were accompanied by high winds which may have created unstable hard slab conditions. In February exceptionally heavy storms deposited large quantities of snow on the unstable base, until it finally collapsed yielding a large climax avalanche falling some 2500 vertical feet onto the camp.”

    The prevailing winds in the area are usually west or southwest, scouring the slopes at Granduc Mountain. In this case an east wind may have loaded the starting zone with deep snow.

    The Granduc disaster is the largest of its type to have occurred in Canada since the Rogers Pass disaster of 1910. The rescue operation, involving so many diversified international groups, can only be praised as a massive effort on the part of many. Adverse weather conditions and geographic factors of terrain and location made all operations most difficult.

    Winter observations at Granduc Mountain had not been made prior to the winter of 1965 and no previous avalanche occurrences had been observed that winter. The camp was located on a moraine forming a promontory, with the adjacent depression providing a natural, probably unplanned, avalanche catcher. As the camp grew it proliferated down from the moraine, exposing more and more buildings. Furthermore, the mine portal was in the track of large avalanches. Avalanche control was not applied here prior to the disaster, but a large-scale program was later introduced for the protection of the camps and access road. During the rescue operation helicopter bombing at Granduc Mountain was carried out by M. Atwater, probably the first time this control method was used.

      To a 14-year-old boy living a sheltered life in a Vancouver suburb, the headlines were virtually incomprehensible. The aerial photo of a huge glacier on the B.C./Alaska border was a view of a world that I’d never seen except in my imagination. This was my first intimate look at what life was like in that world – for reasons that I still don’t completely understand, I saved every article on the Granduc slide, never dreaming that ten years later, almost to the day, I’d be working underground at the Granduc copper mine, looking out of a portal high over the glacier where 26 men lost their lives on that awful morning of February 18, 1965, in one of the worst avalanches in Canadian history.

      The Portland Canal area has been attracting prospectors for over 100 years now. It was on May 4, 1898 that the first large group arrived, 64 men from Seattle following rumours of gold in the glacier-studded mountains that make this one of the most spectacular fjords on the coast. Although this group of prospectors was only mildly successful, the first gold claims were staked in 1899. The number of prospectors working along the canal grew each year, and by 1903 the annual report of the B.C. Minister of Mines was able to report that:

The past season has seen a large number of prospectors in this camp and considerable development work done, besides some on various properties. Still, with all the prospecting done, there is a large extent of this vicinity which has never yet been entered by a white man. It is expected that this will develop into an important camp before many years, the geological formation and general conditions being reported as exceptionally favourable.

      In 1906, the Stewart area came to prominence when stories spread about “a mountain of gold” that had been found. While not exactly a mountain full, some rich properties had been located, and the following year, a 75-ton-per-day mill was constructed to process the ore. Staking activity in the area was so intense that a separate mining district, the Portland Canal District, was created. As well as gold, copper and silver-lead-zinc properties were being developed, although not on as large a scale. A large gold operation at Maple Bay, 35 miles south, built 3 aerial tramways, the longest of which ran 6,000 feet, to connect their 3 main tunnels to ore bunkers on the beach. Two railways (which never materialized) were soon incorporated – the promoters apparently raised money before they scouted out the topography! Another town also grew rapidly at the head of Portland Canal, just on the Alaska side of the border – it was named after Canadian geologist Frank B. Hyder.

      This boom didn’t last long, and Stewart and Hyder both became virtual ghost towns for a few years. In 1916, however, Pat Daly staked what would eventually become the Premier Mine, one of the richest gold mines in the world – the entire mine was paid for in the first 2 years of production! At its peak in 1927, the Premier employed more than 800 men, working in over 17 miles of tunnels. It wasn’t until 1950 that the Premier ore body was finally exhausted, and the mine closed.

      The richness of the ore at the Premier naturally prompted prospectors to force their way further and further into the mountains, and other rich properties, copper as well as gold, were discovered. At the Big Missouri, it was reported that pockets of nearly pure gold were discovered. In 1928, Charlie Lake and Neil McDonald were hard at work, driving a tunnel on their copper property near Tide Lake, 30 miles from Stewart. Although they were never able to find a commercially viable ore body, they remained optimistic that they were close – and their optimism was well-founded.

      In 1948, Tom McQuillan and Einar Kvale located and staked the copper that Lake and McDonald had predicted. Four years later they optioned the property to Granby Mining, but it took many years for Granby’s engineers and financiers to work out how to extract the ore from this most difficult of locations.

      Finally, in 1964, it was announced that everything was in order, and work would begin at once on a development expected to cost $55,000,000. The ore, centred in what was named the Leduc ore body, would be extracted through a 11-mile-long tunnel, to be drilled from both ends. Several camps were set up, including one to house 140 people at the Leduc Glacier end of the proposed tunnel. With 4 bunkhouses, a dining hall, recreation hall, auditorium, offices and powerhouse, the workers were able to live fairly comfortably in the harshest of conditions. A large runway was constructed right on the glacier, and supplies arrived by aircraft on the few days when the weather allowed. The rest of the time, Cat trains brought everything needed by the miners. The Cat trains wound through the mountains on a circuitous, 22-mile route that crossed a 5,500-foot pass, and involved travel along several glaciers, including the massive salmon glacier . In September 1964, work began on the tunnel.

      This area gets some of the heaviest snowfalls on earth, averaging about 800 inches each year, with the record at over 1,100 inches. To the men working at the camp, the 16 feet of snow that fell in the second week of February 1965 merely meant some extra work to keep their work areas usable. But high above the camp, incredible pressures were building as the snow deepened.

It is an eerie, desolate scene. A huge signal fire sends up warming flames and sparks – a beacon to rescuers. One building only is intact. Tired men huddle inside. Twenty fellow workers are out there in the snow, probably dead in their shattered bunkhouse. The injured lie on the floor. Dr. Veasey from Stewart moves from one to the other doing his best under primitive conditions. There is no light. It’s cold…

      The snow piles up deeply in the coastal mountains – it’s heavy snow, perfect for building glaciers, awful to work in. On the steep mountainsides above Portal Camp of the Granduc Mine, millions of tons of snow let loose at 10:16 AM, February 18, 1965. The survivors mostly remembered that it happened silently, with no warning.

      Radio operator Inn is Kelly managed to get a brief “Mayday” message out before his equipment faltered, and within hours, a massive rescue force from across Canada and the United States was battling storms to reach the scene, where 50-70 mile per hour winds were reported. While nearby helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft waited for the weather to ease, 4 cat trains ground through the drifts at top speed, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Cape Romain got into position to move the injured to hospital as quickly as possible, the huge Alaska ferry Taku was equipped as a hospital and sailed for the harbour closest to the disaster, and a wide array of other military, police and civilian aircraft and boats from both countries sped to the area.

      Virtually the entire camp was wiped out by the avalanche. Some of the survivors were missed when the slide split into two forks, and many were able to dig themselves out when they were buried. Bertram Owen-Jones, a 20-year-old cook, was holding a knife when the cookhouse was blown apart – caught under a portion of wall, he was able to use the knife to cut himself free after 3 hours. The tunnel had only been driven 28 feet when the avalanche struck, and several men were protected inside it

      As the details filtered slowly out, it became apparent that many of the victims of the slide were new to mining, drawn by the high wages, and probably the excitement offered at this high-profile project. Brothers Blake and Rod Rose came from a mining family, but had heeded their mother’s wishes to stay away from mining until a few days previously. Unable to find work in Vancouver, though, the boys hired on as labourers and, along with janitor Craig Anderson, arrived at Portal Camp 4 days before the slide hit – all 3 were killed.

      One of the real miracles of the disaster was the story of Eino Myllyla, a carpenter who was buried for 79 hours, while huge rescue helicopters landed on the snow directly above him. He was uncovered by a bulldozer which dislodged a cap of ice covering him. Suffering from frostbite, dehydration and oxygen deprivation, he was rushed to hospital in Ketchikan, where he remained for months.

      Winter harrassed the rescue crews right until the second they left – extreme danger from more slides forced the emergency evacuation of the last 54 rescuers, with helicopter pilots braving a wild snowstorm to bring them out, navigating to the camp using the smoke from still-burning fuel tanks. The following day, the DC-3 carrying the 19 bodies recovered to that point skidded on the runway at Stewart and plowed into a snowbank, forcing a C-46 to come in to retrieve the bodies.

      While the tunnel crews were at work, a permanent camp and a massive concentrator were also being constructed at Tide Lake. To get supplies in and concentrate out, a 32-mile all-weather road was built to reach Stewart, where a large dock was built to berth ore freighters as large as 50,000 tons. The town of Stewart quadrupled in size, with the modern “Granduc Subdivision” extending to the north of town. By November 1970, everything was completed – the final bill came to $115,000,000, over twice the original budget. Only 3 months later, however, the first shipload of copper concentrates were on their way to Japan.

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These are some historic facts of that region 

Exploring Stewart, BC and Hyder, Alaska

The old Granduc apartment building has been abandoned for many years. A woman I met outside it said that she heard that it’s been sold and is going to be rebuilt – it must be someone with very deep pockets! Dozens of townhouses around it are in similar derelict condition.
Granduc apartment building in Stewart, BC
In the 1970s this was the New Naked Spud restaurant. Yes, I am serious 🙂 It was a typical “small-town-Canada” Chinese menu, but every now and then they’d bring seafood in right off a boat, and I had some incredible abalone there.
The former New Naked Spud restaurant in Stewart, BC
This was the Empress Hotel, built in 1908 by a German financier, Alvo Von Alvensleben. Nothing but the best went into the hotel, and the initial cost is said to have been $100,000. The hotel opened for business in July 1910, as construction began on the Portland Canal Short Line Railway which would connect Stewart with the outside world – only 14 miles of track was ever laid, though.
Historic and derelict Empress Hotel in Stewart, BC
Historic and derelict Empress Hotel in Stewart, BC
There are old pieces of mining and to a lesser degree logging equipment scattered everywhere in Stewart. I haven’t found a guide to vintage Caterpillar haul trucks, but I’d guess this one as being from the 1960s – perhaps an early Granduc model.
Vintage Caterpillar mine haul truck in Stewart, BC
The head of Portland Canal, looking south at the Stewart dock. I flew to Stewart in April 1975, and my wife and new Chevy Blazer followed on the freighter Northland Prince, which docked there.
The head of Portland Canal at Stewart, BC
The trees along the road to Hyder, Alaska, are all dripping with this moss-type stuff.
Mossy trees at Stewart, BC
There is apparently a granite quarry up there. A woman in Hyder said that the blasting practically knocks her over, despite those blasting mats at the lower right.
Granite quarry at Stewart, BC
The town of Hyder was originally built on those thousands of pilings.
Pilings at Hyder, Alaska

Although there is no Customs inspection post going into Alaska, there is coming back into Canada. To avoid any hassle, I asked the CBSA officer at the desk if there would be a problem taking a loaded cargo truck into the States and was told that there might be. So I left the truck in Canada and walked over.

At the far left is the Canada / United States border monument. The little stone building, Army Engineer Storehouse No. 4, was Alaska’s first masonry building when it was built in 1896 under the direction of Captain David D. Gaillard during his exploration of Portland Canal.
The international border at Hyder, Alaska
As far as I walked there were only two businesses open – a gift shop and the laundry. In Hyder it can be hard to tell which buildings might be open in the summer, but I think it’s a safe bet that this one won’t be.
Abandoned building in Hyder, Alaska
The large sign on the Sealaska Inn declares Hyder to be Mile 0 of the Alaska-Yukon Hwy. There’s no such designation of a highway officially, but sure, why not? 🙂
Sealaska Inn in Hyder - Mile 0 of the Alaska-Yukon Hwy
Getting Hyderized at the Glacier Inn used to be a big deal, but now it’s just an expensive shot of 190-proof grain alcohol! It used to be called “snakebite” here.
The Glacier Inn at Hyder, Alaska
Looking back to Canada Customs as I left “The Friendliest Ghost Town in Alaska”.
Hyder, The Friendliest Ghost Town in Alaska
Back in Stewart at 5:30, I picked up my room key, which was in a basket outside the closed office as promised, dropped my suitcase in the room and went for dinner.
Stewart, BC
The choices for Easter Sunday dinner were limited – it was the King Edward Hotel, or the grocery store. The burger was very good, better than I remember them being when I lived at “the King Eddie” for a couple of weeks in 1975.
King Edward Hotel restaurant in Stewart, BC
Back at the main lodge of the Ripley Creek Inn – there are quite a few buildings with restored rooms now.
Ripley Creek Inn at Stewart, BC
Here’s a unique bulldozer! The body is an early 1950s British estate wagon – a Hillman, Anglia or similar. The owners of the Ripley Creek Inn have a huge collection of old “stuff” that is parked, displayed or just stashed everywhere in and around the many buildings on the property.
A unique bulldozer at Stewart, BC
This short video will give you a better idea of what the room is like. I loved it.
This is the common lounge of the main lodge, beside my room on the second floor.
Ripley Creek Inn at Stewart, BC
The finest of the historic buildings in Stewart is the former Bayview Hotel, built in 1925 by the Rapaich brothers from Yugoslavia. It was restored in 1994 and the ground floor now serves as the Bitter Creek Restaurant, probably the best restaurant in Stewart but only open in the summer.
Historic Bayview Hotel in Stewart, BC
I really liked seeing mine haul trucks pounding through Stewart again. When no mines are operating, the town is far too quiet. There’s actually so much going on now that none of the locals I talked really had a good handle on the situation, and nobody seems to have tried a summary online yet.
Mine haul truck in Stewart, BC
Built in 1910 as the fire hall and government office, this building and its grounds became the museum in 1976. It’s in rough shape now, though, due to wet rot, and the inside part of the museum was moved into the court house 2 years ago. The grounds to the left are still the home of many artifacts.
1910 firehall in Stewart, BC
These two buildings are both part of the Ripley Creek Inn complex. I have no doubt that the rooms are really nice, as they all are, but it must be a shock to drive up to 🙂 These must be the latest additions, as the Web site doesn’t have any photos of the rooms yet.
Stewart, BC
Just before 9:00 pm, I took a few last shots of the grocery store, went back to my room and was soon in bed, getting ready for the big push home on Monday.
Stewart, BC

On Monday morning, I was back at the King Eddie for breakfast at 7:00 am, took a few more photos around town and was on the road before 8:00. I had a nag that I wasn’t finished with Stewart yet, though, so I only got about 10 km up the highway before turning around. There were 2 things I wanted to see yet – the estuary boardwalk and the toaster museum.

At the entrance to the boardwalk, I was surprised to find a monument to the 26 men killed in an avalanche during development of the Granduc mine on February 18, 1965. Death came silently ; the Granduc mine disaster tells the story – this was one of the first stories I ever posted online, in 1998.
Granduc Mine memorial in Stewart, BC
The boardwalk was a wonderful way to start the day. The views all around are amazing, and looking closer has lots of interest, from nurse logs to pilings from Stewart’s booming past.
Nurse logs in Stewart, BC
A video is a better way to share the feeling of the estuary boardwalk.
The Toast works Museum, the main reason I turned around, was well worth the backtrack. I’ll tell you more about it in a future article.
Stewart, BC

Now well satisfied with my visit to Stewart, I was back on the road just after 10:00 am. I didn’t have a game plan for the day – it would depend on the weather, what caught my interest along the route, and how tired I got.

Steve Ramsey – Okotoks , Calgary 

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