Alaska's Maritime Heritage: Resources and Projects

An Overview of Alaska's Maritime Heritage

Alaska's past is preserved in archaeological and historical sites and maritime cultural landscapes along Alaska's coast. For thousands of years, the majority of our state's population has lived along or near the coast where proximity to the sea and major rivers meant ready access to natural resources. Eroding midden deposits and village sites, along with the remains of fish traps and canoe runs, now comprise an archaeological record that bears witness to the marine subsistence strategies and ecological realms of the past. Later, the exploration of Alaska's coast by 18th and 19th century Russian fur-hunters, and their establishment of settlements, also left a legacy of preserved material culture. This includes remnants of pier foundations, the sites of shipyards, eroding settlements, and shipwrecks. The transfer of Alaska from Russia to the U.S. set the stage for the industrialization of fisheries, particularly salmon, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this period, many of Alaska's coastal villages and fishing camps became the sites of the large canneries with which the communities have identified for generations. This precipitated the establishment of harbors and piers that provided critical transportation infrastructure. This was of critical importance during the gold rush era when coastal waters brought tens of thousands of prospectors to Alaska. During this time, the federal government began building lighthouses at strategic locations, charted the coastline, funded harbors, and established military bases along the coast. All of these chapters of Alaska history left a legacy of tangible maritime heritage, including submerged sites that have not be recorded or studied to the same degree as more easily accessible terrestrial sites.


Partner Projects
  • The Wreck of the Kad'yak
  • Southeast Alaska Historic Shipwrecks
  • SS Portland
  • Maritime Heritage Awareness Workshops
  • Settler's Bay Landing Craft
  • Juneau vessel boneyard

OHA and Collaborative Projects
  • Fox Island Barge YF-754
  • 1871 Whaling Fleet
  • 1871 Whaling Fleet
  • St. Michael steamships
  • Politkofsk
  • Eliza Anderson

Maritime Heritage Resources
  • Maritime heritage legal framework (David Howe / 2000 MAHS article)
  • Ownership and management of Alaska's submerged cultural resources
  • Issues in marine conservation
Recordation Forms
Web Links