USS Buffalo -- 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition (Part 1: April-June 1914)

Photo # NH 105458: USS Buffalo handling its cargo pontoon at Dutch Harbor, Alaska, in May or June 1914.

To maintain order following the discovery of gold in Alaska, the Army in 1897 established military posts in various parts of Alaska and built an extensive system of telegraph wires and submarine cables to allow them to communicate with each other and with Seattle, Washington. In 1904 the Navy won jurisdiction over the new science of radio, and it soon came under intense pressure from the Army and other Government departments to provide a network of stations along the Alaska coast. The Navy responded with stations at Japonski Island near Sitka in 1907 and at Cordova in 1908, but a larger effort was needed and between 1911 and 1914 the Navy sent a series of three Alaskan Radio Expeditions to build additional stations. The 1911 Alaskan Radio Expedition, in USS Buffalo, and the 1912 Alaskan Radio Expedition, in USS Nero, built stations on Woody Island near Kodiak, on St. Paul and St. George in the Pribilof Islands, on the island of Unalga, and at Dutch Harbor near Unalaska. In 1914 Buffalo returned with the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition which upgraded and repaired these five stations plus those at Sitka and Cordova.

Buffalo departed San Francisco with the 1914 expedition, which included 44 civilians, on 7 May and returned to Mare Island on 27 October 1912. Planners originally expected that it would need to visit only Sitka and Cordova, but Kiska was added after the plant there burned down in July 1913 and the mission ended up visiting all seven radio stations. Buffalo was considered "well adapted" for the mission and received only minor modifications. The photographs on this page cover the early part of the mission, notably the loading of the ship at the Mare Island Navy Yard and the implementation of a recommendation made by the 1912 expedition. Nero's report stated that, based on experience gained at Unalga, "it is believed that a decked-over pontoon, made from two sailing launches, offers one of the most efficient means of landing material and is much better than lighters, barges, or ship's boats." A pontoon of this type was fabricated at the Mare Island Navy Yard and assembled upon the ship's arrival in mid-May 1914 at its first work location, Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Most of the ship's work at the Dutch Harbor radio station was completed by late May. The pontoon was later used to move supplies ashore at Unalga and other locations and, near the end of the mission, to lay an underwater power cable at Sitka.

The photographs of the 1914 expedition are from two sources: the official report of the expedition (an oversized looseleaf volume containing copies of documents, blueprints of facilities and equipment, and photographs), and a photograph album made for the Commanding Officer of Buffalo, Commander Montgomery M. Taylor, USN. Both items are now in the collection of the Naval Historical Foundation at the Naval Historical Center.

This page features views of USS Buffalo during the early phases of the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition.

For other images concerning this ship, see:

  • USS Buffalo (1898-1927, later AD-8)
  • USS Buffalo -- Activities and Crew
  • USS Buffalo -- In Drydock
  • USS Buffalo -- 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition (Part 2: May-September 1914)
  • USS Buffalo -- 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition (Part 3: September-October 1914)
  • USS Buffalo -- 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition -- Crew
  • USS Buffalo -- 1914 Alaskan Radio Radio Stations and Settlements
  • Nictheroy (Brazilian Auxiliary Cruiser, 1893-1898)

  • Click on the small photograph to prompt a larger view of the same image.

    Photo #: NH 105447

    USS Buffalo
    (1898-1927, later AD-8)

    At the Mare Island, California, Navy Yard circa April 1914 while preparing for the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition.

    Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation (NHF-165-B).

    U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

     
    Photo #: NH 105448

    USS Buffalo
    (1898-1927, later AD-8)

    Loading supplies at the Mare Island, California, Navy Yard circa April 1914 while preparing for the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition.

    Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation (NHF-165-B).

    U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

     
    Photo #: NH 105449

    USS Buffalo
    (1898-1927, later AD-8)

    Loading supplies at the Mare Island, California, Navy Yard circa April 1914 while preparing for the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition.
    The large metal drums may be fuel tanks for installation at Alaskan radio stations. The radio equipment was powered by storage batteries that were recharged by kerosene fueled generators.

    Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation (NHF-165-B).

    U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

     
    Photo #: NH 105450

    USS Buffalo
    (1898-1927, later AD-8)

    Loading supplies at the Mare Island, California, Navy Yard circa April 1914 while preparing for the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition.
    The large metal drums may be fuel tanks for installation at Alaskan radio stations. The radio equipment was powered by storage batteries that were recharged by kerosene fueled generators.

    Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation (NHF-165-B).

    U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

     
    Photo #: NH 105455

    USS Buffalo
    (1898-1927, later AD-8)

    Loading supplies at the Mare Island, California, Navy Yard circa April 1914 while preparing for the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition.

    Collection of Admiral Montgomery M. Taylor, donated by Louisa R. Alger, 1962 (NHF-164-B).

    U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

     
    Photo #: NH 105445

    USS Buffalo
    (1898-1927, later AD-8)

    Leaving Mare Island, California, for the California City Coaling Depot in early May 1914 just before departing on the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition.

    Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation (NHF-165-B).

    U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

     
    Photo #: NH 105456

    USS Buffalo
    (1898-1927, later AD-8)

    Hoisting a newly-assembled pontoon at Dutch Harbor, Alaska, in May or June 1914 during the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition.
    The pontoon consisted of two of the ship's boats with a rectangular deck constructed on top and connecting them. It was used to take supplies ashore from the ship at several radio stations and later for laying a communications cable at Sitka, Alaska.

    Collection of Admiral Montgomery M. Taylor, donated by Louisa R. Alger, 1962 (NHF-164-B).

    U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

     
    Photo #: NH 105458

    USS Buffalo
    (1898-1927, later AD-8)

    Hoisting or lowering a newly-assembled pontoon at Dutch Harbor, Alaska, in May or June 1914 during the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition.
    The pontoon consisted of two of the ship's boats with a rectangular deck constructed on top and connecting them. It was used to take supplies ashore from the ship at several radio stations and later for laying a communications cable at Sitka, Alaska. Many of the radio and construction personnel in the expedition were civilians.

    Collection of Admiral Montgomery M. Taylor, donated by Louisa R. Alger, 1962 (NHF-164-B).

    U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

     
    Photo #: NH 105459

    USS Buffalo
    (1898-1927, later AD-8)

    Hoisting or lowering one of the ship's steam launches at Dutch Harbor, Alaska, in May or June 1914 during the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition.
    The smokestack of the launch was folded to port for stowage aboard ship.

    Collection of Admiral Montgomery M. Taylor, donated by Louisa R. Alger, 1962 (NHF-164-B).

    U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

     
    Photo #: NH 105460

    USS Buffalo
    (1898-1927, later AD-8)

    Transporting construction materials ashore at Dutch Harbor, Alaska, in May or June 1914 during the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition.
    The construction lumber is loaded on a pontoon built by the ship that consists of two of the ship's boats joined together by a rectangular deck on top. The pontoon is connected by a towline to one of the ship's steam launches, in the background, which will tow it to the shore. Note the tiller and rudder on the pontoon.

    Collection of Admiral Montgomery M. Taylor, donated by Louisa R. Alger, 1962 (NHF-164-B).

    U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

     
    Photo #: NH 105457

    U.S. Navy Radio Station, Dutch Harbor, Alaska


    During construction work being performed by USS Buffalo in May or June 1914 during the 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition.
    The small railroad track was built by the ship to carry supplies from the shoreline to the radio station. The supplies were brought from the ship to the shoreline by an improvised pontoon towed by the ship's steam launches. The construction work probably included the erection of the station's second radio tower, which was located to the left of the station building.

    Collection of Admiral Montgomery M. Taylor, donated by Louisa R. Alger, 1962 (NHF-164-B).

    U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

     


    For other images concerning this ship, see:

  • USS Buffalo (1898-1927, later AD-8)
  • USS Buffalo -- Activities and Crew
  • USS Buffalo -- In Drydock
  • USS Buffalo -- 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition (Part 2: May-September 1914)
  • USS Buffalo -- 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition (Part 3: September-October 1914)
  • USS Buffalo -- 1914 Alaskan Radio Expedition -- Crew
  • USS Buffalo -- 1914 Alaskan Radio Radio Stations and Settlements
  • Nictheroy (Brazilian Auxiliary Cruiser, 1893-1898)

    Page made 19 October 2008