North Coast Journal


Mystery solved

by Judy Hodgson, Editor and Publisher

SOME PHOTOGRAPHS ARE unforgettable, like the one on last month's cover.

Arcatan Gail Gourley knew she had seen it somewhere before. After rummaging through old clippings, she produced an article from the December 1994 edition of a Seattle-based magazine, Pacific Northwest. Sure enough, man kissing fish. Photograph by Natalie Fobes.

We tried prior to publication to find the name of the photographer -- and the identity of the fisherman -- in the photograph, which was lent to us by Humboldt State University fisheries Professor Terry Roelofs. (Roelofs has hundreds of photos he uses in lectures and he couldn't recall where he got this one.)

Fobes is also based in Seattle and we were able to reach her by phone.

"It was a lucky shot," she told us. "I was in Bristol Bay (Alaska), home of the largest salmon run in the world. There is a tradition among gill-netters to kiss the first fish brought aboard and then release it. He reached in the net and pulled out a fish. I got one quick shot and he threw it overboard."


The fisherman's name is Pete Blackwell.

Fobes is an award-winning free-lance photographer who once worked for the Seattle Times. In 1986 she received a grant and a 14-month leave of absence to pursue her life's work of recording the dwindling salmon populations of the world. The photograph was taken in 1987.

When she returned, the Times published a 12-page special section on salmon that netted her a Pulitzer Prize nomination. The essay that appeared in Pacific Northwest, "Barging Down the River" by Brad Matsen -- along with Fobes' photographs -- were excerpted from a book, "Reaching Home: Pacific Salmon, Pacific People," published by Alaska Northwest Books in 1994.

We also received an update last month on another cover story, "Humboldt remembers Iwo Jima" (February 1995). Readers may recall a photograph of three local veterans holding a Japanese flag that had been carried by a fallen Japanese soldier.

U.S. Marine veteran Ed Walsh, who found the flag, wanted to return it to the soldier's family members if they could be located. Another veteran, Frank F. Schmidt -- along with Japanese friend, Tadakatsu Tsutsui -- assisted in the search for more than a year but could not locate them. Walsh has decided to give the flag to his own grandchildren for safekeeping.

Schmidt writes, "I think this is a wise decision. In the future the Walsh grandchildren can remember the sacrifices made by their grandfather -- and the people of two countries -- in a horrible battle in the final six months of World War II."

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