Historical group to present Burg program

Posted: Monday, September 12, 2005

The Gastineau Channel Historical Society will co-sponsor a free, 90-minute presentation about world traveler and longtime Juneau resident Amos Burg from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, at the KTOO studio, 360 Egan Drive.

The afternoon will begin with Nancy Long's 30-minute documentary, "The Journey of Amos Burg," produced by KTOO in 1992. It includes historical film clips, photography and video excerpts of a 1984 interview with Burg.

"We thought it would be nice to show it again," said Marie Darlin of the historical society. "This is something that has been on our list of programs for some time. "Many of us knew all about Amos and his travels, but there's a lot of new people who don't."

Burg grew up in Portland, Ore., and left home at age 15 to work as a ship hand on commercial steamships traveling to Australia and Japan. After studying at the University of Oregon, he began traveling on U.S. and Canadian rivers in canoes and wrote about a 1928 trip down the Yukon River for National Geographic Magazine.

That magazine and the Encyclopaedia Britannica paid for his pictures and trips through Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, China, South America, Africa, the West Indies, Spain, Scandinavia and the United States. During World War II, he spent time in the Pacific Ocean and survived 21 bombings by Japanese planes. He was also arrested as a spy in Kobe, Japan.

In the mid-1950s, Burg came to Juneau and, in 1958, married Carolyn Warren.

She worked with the federal government for the veterans administration. He traveled throughout Alaska as a writer and photographer for the state Department of Fish and Game.

"He always said, and I always quote him, 'I planned my life backwards,'" said Nancy Ferrell, Warren's daughter. "He retired when he was 15 and went to sea and got his first job when he was in his 50s as far as doing something for somebody else. I think a lot of men and women would like to do that."

Burg retired from the state in 1974 and died in 1986.

"He was a really good guy," Ferrell said. "He loved my mother very much and they made a very good couple. She was kind of a backdrop for him, and she enjoyed it, entertaining and doing things like that."

After Saturday's film, Juneau resident Fritz Funk will lead a 15-minute presentation on The Endeavour, Burg's boat from 1939 to 1983. Named after Capt. Cook's ship, it was a 36-foot double-ended rescue vessel built in 1909. For years it was used as a U.S. lifesaving craft on the Columbia River bar, rolling through heavy surf to attend to shipwrecks.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service hired him to recruit stream guards for creeks and inlets throughout Southeast Alaska. Burg visited the guards on his boat, stopping in villages to show his films.

Funk knew Burg from the Department of Fish and Game and bought The Endeavour in 1983, taking it on as a restoration project. He donated the boat this summer to the Michigan Lighthouse Conservatory.

"He was a very colorful and entertaining character," Funk said. "I really miss Amos a lot."

After Funk's presentation, a handful of Juneau residents will share memories of Burg. Anyone who has a story to tell is encouraged to attend.

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