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This was a very interesting Alaskan....

Allen Hasselborg..." The Wild Grizzlies of Admiralty Island " 1930 by John M. Holzworth

And in 1996 a story about his life " Bear Man of Admiralty Island " by John R. Howe

Its long but a very good read......This was Wilderness Living

Allan Hasselborg was a young man of 22, but already tall and assured, when he boarded a ship in Seattle in 1898 and dis-embarked a week later in Ketchikan. His Viking forebears in Minnesota had be- queathed him a wandering bent, and he drifted west as a muleskinner and later a buffalo hunter, chasing what remained of the bison herds. He came to Alaska, not to pan for gold but to hunt the great coastal bears for their pelts.

Hasselborg’s hunting ground was the islands: Admiralty, Chichagof, Baranof. He shot the bears and sold their skins for $15 apiece in Ketchikan, a small enough reward for the hardships and the danger involved. Aside from the bears themselves, there was the cold gray sea and the Alaska storms, but Hasselborg was at home here. When Frank Hibben sailed up the coast in the 1930s to hunt Alaska brown bears, he found Hasselborg quietly ensconced in a lonely cabin on Mole Harbor, on Admiralty Island, where he homesteaded in 1900. A difficult man as only hermits can be difficult, tall, gaunt and bearded, never seen without a pack on his back and a rifle in his hand, Hasselborg looked to Hibben “like a prophet in hip waders.” But Hasselborg took a liking to the young college professor and big-game hunter, and guided him to a big brown bear on Admiralty, climbing into the interior through the dripping foliage, camping in the rain.

“I haven’t killed a bear in twenty years,” he told Hibben.

There was a reason for that.

Allen Hasselborg was a man in his prime when he sailed into Chichagof Island’s Basket Bay one day in 1918. He had built the small boat himself, with a tiny cabin and a cookstove. It was massive and solid—a one-man boat for heavy seas—and Hasselborg was powerful enough to handle it on his own. He anchored offshore where it would still be afloat when the tide went out, with a draw-line to a tree in the event he returned at high tide. It is a system still used by bear guides along the Alaska coast. With his boat secure, Hasselborg turned inland through the tall, wet grass, skirting a large beaver swamp. He was following a trail when he came upon the fresh track of the largest bear he had ever seen. The footprint was more than 18 inches long, and he could only imagine the size of the beast.

As he approached a dam, he spotted what appeared to be a small bear dozing in the grass, but then it moved and revealed itself to be not a small bear but the hump of a truly immense bear, snuffling and feeding and occasionally raising its head to look around.

Mesmerized by its size, Allen Hasselborg began a lengthy stalk, moving silently in his hip boots through the shallow water of the beaver swamp. As he closed in, his rifle across his chest, his toe jarred an alder branch wedged in the mud. It kicked loose in a shower of water. The bear’s head came up. Seeing Hasselborg only 15 yards away, the bear charged. The rifle came up and fired and the bear went down, blowing blood, and slumped in a motionless heap. Hasselborg sloshed to dry land and leaned his rifle against a bush. Excited by the thought of a huge pelt that would bring twice the normal price in Ketchikan, he forgot all the rules of bear hunting he had learned in his 20 years on the Alaska coast and turned, knife in hand, to start skinning.

Hasselborg found himself confronted by a wet black wall. The bear was towering over him—a bear twice the height of Hasselborg, who was well over six feet. The bear’s head was as big as a washtub, and his immense jaws gaped open in a nightmare of frothy blood and yellow-white teeth. His front paws, with their six-inch claws, hung before Hasselborg’s astonished eyes.

Looking doom in the face, the hunter turned and dived into the muck, burrowing down, protecting his head with his arms and preparing for the mauling he knew was to come. The bear’s first pass with his claws tore away Hasselborg’s shirt and belt, and he felt the bear’s head come down close to his shoulder. Its breath was hot with rotting salmon as the jaws spread and the teeth sank into Hasselborg’s shoulder. He later recalled the strange sensation of the teeth scraping along bone and the sound—the distinct ripping sound—of his shoulder being torn away before he lost all consciousness.

Hasselborg regained consciousness some hours later. He never knew how many hours. One shoulder was useless. Blood lay around him in huge clots, like chunks of raw liver. Of the huge bear, there was no sign. The rifle was broken, crushed in its jaws. Hasselborg slowly gained his feet and began to stagger the two miles back to his boat. Several times during the journey, he passed out. Each time he would come to and struggle on, and eventually he reached the shore on his knees and his one good arm. There, he confronted another problem: The tide was in; the water was chest-deep at the boat; he was unable to climb over the gunwale. He slept on the beach that night and into the next day.

Finally he was able to pull the boat into water shallow enough that he could clamber in, and then he passed out from the effort. Now he found himself a prisoner of his own anchor chain. It was almost 48 hours since the bear attack. His cheeks were sunken and he was becoming weaker by the hour. With only one good arm, he couldn’t budge the anchor. Wrapped in a blanket turned almost to iron with clotted blood, shivering in the incessant rain, Hasselborg tried to heat some soup but couldn’t master the cookstove. He slept once more, knowing that when he awoke he would have to break free of the anchor or die where he was.

In desperation, he looked over the boat he had built himself, a man facing death and surveying his possessions one last time. His eye fell on his axe, still razor-sharp as he meticulously kept it. Taking the axe in his one good hand, bracing himself for the pain, summoning all his remaining strength, he raised the axe over the anchor chain where it dug into the gunwale, and directed one despairing blow.

The next day, a small boat drifted into a bay by the Indian village of Hoonah. Slumped unconscious in the stern was Allen Hasselborg, still wrapped in the soggy, bloody blanket.

From that day, Allen Hasselborg was never without a pack on his back—something for the bear to rip, for, as he said, “One bite is enough.” And a rifle in his hand—never, ever, out of reach.

And, for reasons he never explained to anyone, he never again hunted Alaska brown bears.


Allen Hasselborg dwelt alone on Admiralty Island until the summer of 1955 when, at the age of 79, destitute and too weak to live by himself any longer, he was taken in by the Pioneers’ Home in Sitka. The strain of living with other people—and without his beloved bears—for the first time in a half-century must have been too much. He died, six months later, on February 19, 1956.

288 Posts
I tried to ask my uncle today if he remembered Hasselborg, as some things he remembers like yesterday, i.e. when he saw a newspaper article about Stan Price he immediately started to cry upon seeing the picture without being prompted at all as to who it was, and began talking about him. And when he learned Stan's old stomping grounds had become a bear sanctuary named after him, he cried some more.

However he didn't recall the name Hasselborg but I have an idea now to maybe get him that book although I don't know if he would have the patience to try to read it I know he could skim certain paragraphs out of it with my prompting. His eyes are still pretty good; it's his concentration -- he can't remember one minute to the next, most of the time.

I visited Mole Harbor in 1963 when the Wheat family lived there. I was three. I do not remember it well except for their fantabulous dining table --- it was a big ol' wooden picnic table with benches! At that time in my life, you see, I hadn't seen much yet, and it made a big impression. :p

But my uncle's 92 nearly 93, well-cared for, and seems to be in a pretty good mood most of the time even tho he can't remember sheeeeet.

Life is good, huh? 8)
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