Interest in Photographer Missing
The Mail Tribune
May 16, 1976
By EVA HAMILTON
The snows that bury Crater Lake National Park in deep silence each winter have disclosed many secrets through the years when dissipated by the summer sun. But one remains unknown today despite the suns of 64 summers.
Shrouded in mystery is the fate of B. B. Bakowski, a photographer who sought to record the pristine beauty of the national park with its snow mantle in 1911. Extensive searches failed to locate the missing man although his campsite and supplies were eventually found.
Interest in the case was recently revived by Mrs. Howard Arant of Medford, grand daughter-in-law of W. F. Arant, first superintendent of Crater Lake National Park, and by a “Chronological History and Important Events Log of Crater Lake National Park.” The latter work was collected and edited by Larry Smith and Lloyd Smith, park employes, to “assist with the celebration of the National Park Centennial.” “It was revised in 1972.
A desire to preserve the photographs of Bakowski, treasured by the first superintendent, influenced Mrs. Arant to research the newspaper microfilm. The Smith chronology pinpointed the dates when stories of the photographer’s disappearance were printed.
Mrs. Arant expressed the hope that publication of the pictures might “stir a memory which would throw some light on the fate of such a fine young man who seemed to just drop out of sight.” She plans to give the pictures to the Southern Oregon Historical Society.
W. F. Arant was superintendent of the national park from 1902 to 1913. Just one date, however, pertaining to the disappearance of Bakowski was found by Mrs. Arant among the superintendent’s souvenirs. A postcard from Bakowski is dated Feb. 2, 1910. The message reads: “Am sending you a few of my Crater Lake cards. In about a week – as soon as I catch up with my orders – I shall send you a whole lot of views. Most all we took are O.K.”
The photographer gave “West Side Boarding House, Klamath Falls,” as his address.
Two additional postcards in the superintendent’s files were obviously sent to him later by other persons. The photograph on one is of the young photographer relaxing in a woodland scene. On the card a J. M. Stephenso had written: “This is my favorite photo of Bakowski. He named it ‘Meditation.'”
The other postcard is illustrated with a picture of a campsite in the snow. The inscription reads: “Camp outfit of Bakowski who perished in Crater Lake.” The card was made by E. R. Pershin, commercial photographer, Klamath Falls. There is no personal comment to identify the man who stands viewing the deserted camp.
A studio photograph of Bakowski in the collection was taken by Libby of Spokane. Again, there is no comment and no date attached.
The first brief report of the missing man found in the Mail Tribune microfilm is dated Feb. 22, 1911. Under the headline: “Photographer Lost in Snows of Crater Lake,” the story notes: “According to the Fort Klamath correspondent of the Klamath Chronicle B. B. Bakowski, photographer of Oregon City, who left here three weeks ago to secure photos of Crater Lake in mid-winter has been lost in the deep snows that now surround the Crater.
“Last week Frank Burns and Albert Gipson started out to try and locate the mission adventurer,” the report continues. “They returned and reported having found Bakowski’s sled and shovel. The sled was found 1.5 miles this side of the rim of the crater. It was completely hidden under the snow that has fallen. All of the outfit that Bakowski had hauled in was missing.
“He had evidently taken his Kodak and other supplies off the sled and carried them to some other spot but where could not be located.”
The March 1 issue of the Mail Tribune carried another brief story starting that “Medford Explorers” had reached Crater Lake on snowshoes in the search for Bakowski. In the party were B. F. Heidel, engineer, M. L. Erickson, first supervisor, and Harry H. Hicks (Medford’s Dr. Cook.)
These men found Bakowski’s camera cases at the hotel building “on the rim of the lake, but his supplies, including bedding and food were missing,” according to the report. “This leads the men to the belief that he is still alive and probably camped on the other side of the lake,” the dispatch stated.
The following day, March 2, 1911, another dispatch, head-lined “Perished at Crater Lake,” appeared in the Mall Tribune with a Fort Klamath dateline.
It announced the return from Crater Lake of two searchers, T. S. White and H. E. Momger. They had found the photographer’s supplies and cameras but no trace of him and decided “he is undoubtedly dead.”
Near the place where they had located the sled on a previous trip they noticed that someone had been chopping wood, indicating that the man for whom they were searching had been camped somewhere in the neighborhood. Digging around in the snow they came upon a canvas stretched across the opening of a tunnel which extended through the snow to the ground 10 feet below, the newspaper report stated.
“Going into this tunnel they found Bakowski’s telescope and all of his supplies, including provisions. There were two comforters, shoes, socks, underwear, cap and extra clothing. At the mouth of the tunnel Bakowski’s pencil stuck in the snow.
“In the telescope there were papers and letters, including three from Miss Georgianna McKenzie of Spokane, Wash. One had been written December 27. Also found were some 60 unexposed films and three cases of exposed films and three cases of exposed films,” the newspaper account revealed.
“The camp appeared to have been occupied for two or possibly three nights and it is possible three nights and it is possible that he (Bakowski) was there but one night. Two green logs had been cut and taken into the tunnel,” the men were quoted as saying. “These logs were burned probably half in two. No cooking utensils were found.”
The finding of two cameras at the building at the rim, the searchers considered as proof that he had been there.
On March 3, 1911, the Mail Tribune carried still another story. It was headlined: “Gale raging Crater Lake. Blizzard has Prevailed for Past Three Weeks — Little Doubt but that Photographer Bakowski Perished – Probably Lost his Way.”
This story had a Feb. 27 dateline, “Crater Lake Lodge.” It identified Bakowski as a photographer from Burns, Ore., and stated that “Whether he plunged to his death over the snowy precipices of Crater Lake or was frozen to death in the blizzard which held the lake in its embrace for three weeks will probably not be known until the summer sun has melted away the huge drifts of snow.”
The story continued with: “For the past four days a searching party from Fort Klamath has been trying to locate the missing man, but only traces of his camp were found. The searchers have been assisted by Benjamin F. Heidel, M. L. Erickson and myself. We arrived at the lake Saturday evening.”
There is no bylines on the story but the writer was probably Harry H. Hicks, listed in another dispatch as the third member of the Medford explorers.
The report continued with a description of conditions after stating that Bakowski left Fort Klamath alone five weeks earlier to secure winter scenes of the lake. He had provisions for a month, and left word for some one to come after him if he did not return.
“The searching parties have been greatly hampered by the severe blizzard which is raging at the lake. It is impossible to see over 200 yards ahead and snow is drifted many feet high. A high gale prevails,” the writer emphasized.
“The party from Fort Klamath gave up the search leaving the Medford party to continue it. [this portion of the sentence is illegible] alive,” the report concluded.
(The summer of 1910 and the winter of 1910-11 are recalled by many old timers as catastrophic seasons. Thousands of acres in the forests and were devastated by fires in summer. Blizzards derailed trains, marooning many and bringing death to some travelers.)
There are no references to the lost man in later important events listed in the Crater Lake chronology which covers the years from 1832 through 1972.
In 1970, a human skull was found in Crater Lake National Park but it was identified by U.S. Navy officials as that of Ens. Frank R. Lupo of Newark, N.J. He was lost in the wooded area at Crater Lake in 1945 when his plane, part of a flight from Pasco, Wash., to San Diego, crashed. The wrecked plane was found earlier but the name of the pilot was not released until the skeletal remains were found. The skull was identified by dental structure, the Navy told the press.
“Last week Frank Burns and Albert Gipson started out to try and locate the mission adventurer,” the report continues. “They returned and reported having found Bakow- [this portion of the sentence is illegible] doubtedly dead.”
Near the place where they had located the sled on a previous trip they had noticed that someone had been chopping wood, indicating that the man for whom they were searching had been camped somewhere in the neighborhood. Digging around in the snow they came upon a canvas stretched across the opening of a tunnel which extended through the snow to the ground 10 feet below, the newspaper report stated.
“Going into this tunnel they found Bakowski’s telescope and all of his supplies, including provisions. There were two comforters, shoes, socks, underwear, cap and extra … [the last sentence is illegible]
Note: I apologize to the reader. This story was transcribed from a difficult to read copy. I will try to get the illegible portions in the near future.