United States Seaports
Sealing and Whaling
Most of the Eskimo peoples from the Aleutian Islands eastward to Greenland relied on the kayak for hunting a variety of prey primarily seals, though whales and caribou were important in some areas. Skin on frame kayaks are still being used for hunting by Inuit people in Greenland. In other parts of the world home builders are continuing the tradition of skin on frame kayaks, usually with modern skins of canvas or synthetic fabric.
Kayaks were originally developed by indigenous Inuit people, who used the boats to hunt on inland lakes, rivers and coastal waters of the Arctic Ocean, North Atlantic, Bering Sea and North Pacific oceans. These first kayaks were constructed from stitched seal or other animal skins stretched over a wood or whale bone skeleton (frame). Inuit closer to the west used trees whereas the eastern Inuit used whale bone due to the treeless landscape. Kayaks are at least 4,000 years old and today's designs haven't changed much except for high-end, light-weight composite materials.
Contemporary kayaks trace their origins primarily to the native boats of Alaska, northern Canada, and Southwest Greenland.
July 15, 1868, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, USA
THE ALASKA PURCHASE.
Correspondence of the Chicago Tribune, June 11th, contains the following gossip:
Mention of the State Department brings me to the treatment of the Alaska purchase by the House of Representatives. And before I enter upon this, let it be understood that this correspondence, having no facilities for exchanging views with your editorial conduct, is by no means necessarily the opinion of the Chicago Tribune. I say this, because some remarks upon the Capitol City, that I made the other day, have been quoted as " significant," and as with your ascent, etc. My understanding of correspondence is that it is irresponsible, and that the tame paper which prints it has a right to attack its views editorially.
Alaska was purchased by Mr. Seward out of ambitious patriotism, and without a suspicion that party politics would enter into its justification. It was a pure transaction, without the scent of a job upon its garments. It was acquired in obedience to the American tradition that more land is always acceptable. If Mr. Seward had any selfish motive, it was to pin his fame to this possession, and crown with its acquirement his public services. All things considered, this was about as unselfish as any statesman's ambition.
When Seward made the purchase, it was believed that he did it to popularize his New Party project. I must confess, as a young man, he carried me off my feet at once. It looked like a Napoleonic scheme to quiet faction at home by glory and conquest abroad. Of course, afterthought shows me that this was a dodging of issues, the cowardice of an old fox in politics, too artful to be American and Republican. But the House of Representatives, seeing only "Third Party" in the purchase, denounced the treaty and deferred the payment. Seward, so far from being a civil Cortes, was left in the lurch with the Czar, and hisamour propre was foully dealt with.
At present Alaska presents herself to us free from political complications. We are asked to pay for her and take her. Shall it be done?
On this head adverse Committees report, the majority, headed by General Banks, affirming the propriety of the purchase; the minority, by General Cadwallader Washburn, sneering at the acquisition, and advising that the appropriation be refused. I have read both reports, Banks, Myers (Penn.), Blair (Mich.), and Orth (Ind.), sign the majority report. McCarthy (New York), Cullom, (Ill.) and Morgan, (Ohio dismissed ), are said to be with General Washburn in opinion. The latter represents that "except the naked right of governing the country" we were equal with Russia in Alaska before; that Alaska is valueless; that Russia has no right to expect a confirmation of the treaty; and that because she is a strong power we have no business to stoop to her. The minority report is often ingenious, sometimes candid, but it is a tradesman's "jewing down" and not conceived in the spirit of statesmanship. Robert J. Walker has been spitting it in the National Intelligence. The large mind of all parties here favors the acquisition. It is a step in destiny; a sign to Europe; we cannot go back on fate or postpone it; the purchase revolutionizes British Columbia and the lands of Hudson's Bay, stops the British railroad to the Pacific, and stakes the loyalty of the Winnipeg Basin. Chicago has peculiar destinies in it. General Washburn is playing Canute in this. He must move back his Congressman's chair and let the sea roll on. The General cannot be a chess player, or he would see that the best move but one after this purchase is population pouring up the lakes by the route of the Lake of the Woods, to make the neighbors for Wisconsin cross the British line.
November 18, 1869, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, USA
GOLD STORIES FROM ALASKA
The New York Tribune, which has a chronic grudge against "the Alaska Purchase" gives that luckless Territory the following good notice:
In addition to the turnips, onions, wheat, pumpkins, and apples which can be, or have been, produced in Alaska, it is now stated that gold also has been there unearthed. By an Indian. The lucky aborigine arrived at Sitka with gold which he had found "in the Tacoo country," and which was of the value of one dollar and twenty-five cents. The excitement at Sitka immediately rose to 120 above 0: the poor Indian was sent back with a company of eager white diggers in the revenue cutter Lincoln, and pretty soon we shall hear what we shall hear. This will furnish a good opportunity for the gold-hunters in New Hampshire to emigrate; and as the Government furnishes miners in Alaska with revenue cutters, we think that the New Hampshire geologists are entitled at the very least to a seventy-four.
October 20, 1874, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California
Government some time ago sent a special agent to look into the condition of Alaska. He went, saw, and reported. His report recommends the removal of the United States troops, the creation of a civil government instead of a military one, as cheaper, "the protection of the sea-otter trade;" would it not be better to protect the sea otter from an avaricious monopoly that is exterminating that animal": and laws for the punishment of murderers. As there are a good many Indians there, quietly making their own living, wouldn't it be well enough to send some agents among them to instruct them in the fine art of living off the United States Treasury? The special agent also recommends that the Icelanders who want to settle in Alaska, be turned off and settled at Puget Sound. This needs explanation. Why turn aside these people who want to go where no other civilized persons care to settle, and who would become excellent and productive citizens? Is it because the fur monopoly don't want any honest intelligences near enough to the scene of their operations to detect and expose their greediness and destroy their monopoly? The history of our connection with Alaska, so far, creates the suspicion that the acquisition is of no benefit to anybody in America save this fur monopoly and a gang of Federal officials; and that nobody else is wanted there.
April 9 1890, Sacramento Daily Union
Two Expeditions Left Yesterday on a Trip of Discovery.
Victoria (B. C.) April 8th. Among the passengers who leave Victoria for the north to-day will be Lieutenant Stockton Karr, the young Englishman who two years ago attempted the ascent of Mount St. Elias in Alaska. On his present trip Lieutenant Karr will ascend the Yukon, White and Altschik rivers and the east branch of Copper river to their sources. From the Yukon he will go to Chileat, and then, if possible to Dry bay by a trail which is known to the Indians and will lead straight across Grand Plateau.
The Frank Leslie's party of newspaper men are taking an entirely different route from that which Karr proposes to follow. They are to descend Copper river to its mouth, and then come south by the United States steamer Pinta. It is possible that this party and Karr may meet, but the latter will travel alone, save for his Indian guides. He travels in the interest of the Royal Geographical Society of England, and expects to be absent about four months.
July 23, 1897, Church Weekly, London, Middlesex, United Kingdom
EXPEDITIONS to Alaska have been made by a combined hunting and gold seeking party, under Mr. Kemble, of New York, to penetrate the Copper River Country back of Cook Inlet. Once a year the Copper River Indians come down to Cook Inlet in their skin canoes to trade with the white men of the small settlements scattered along the shores. Then they return no man knows how. Those who have attempted to follow them have invariably come back discouraged; some have never returned. The trails they follow have so far remained a secret, which they keep close locked in their breasts. Almost always the savages bring virgin gold, sometimes in good sized nuggets, sometimes in dust, which, on account of its purity and peculiar colour, has gained a distinctive character and set the white miners nearly crazy with desire.
The Copper River Country is believed to be the great game centre of Alaska: Moose, caribou, bears, goats, wolves, foxes, minks, &c, are found there in large numbers. Virgin copper in nuggets the size of a man's two fists have been exhibited on Cook Inlet, and pelts of the finest and rarest character occasionally find their way to the trading posts, coining from this unknown but wonderfully resourceful country. This much was learned from Captain Hunting, the guide who goes with the party. This man has achieved a reputation as a hunter and prospector in South eastern Alaska, and has also ascended the Shushitna River, going forty miles further than any other white man. He has camped with and studied the ways of the Copper River Indians, and feels confident of making his way into their country this winter. The Indians on the inlet live on fish nearly all the year round. Salmon is so plentiful that they knock them out of the water with clubs. There's a small fish called the candle-fish, which they dry and use for lighting purposes in the winter. So full of oil are they that they burn entirely up.
Talking of Indians reminds me of a good story told by Capt. Huts: My Indian boy, who is exceptionally intelligent, was with me when I received a package of papers from a vessel just in. Among them was a copy of the New York Herald, containing an illustrated supplement. After I had looked this over tossed it to him, and I never saw a more interested Indian in my life. He squatted down on the beach, under the broiling sun, with the gnats swarming round his uncovered head, and sat there the live-long day studying those pictures, the like of which he had never seen before. I called to him several times, but he paid not the slightest heed. Once in a while his hand would go up to his head, and mechanically and soberly he would brush the flies away. But they never caused his attention to wander from the paper. Nothing did -- he was in a trance. Finally he got up, looked about him slowly, heaved a deep sigh, and with a wealth of feeling that simply beggars description, exclaimed: "Huh! White man, he know everything. Indian, he all same fool!"
November 16, 1776, The London Evening Post, London, Middlesex, United Kingdom
(Editor's Note: The following article from the London Evening Post uses the type "f" in place of "s." For the sake of accuracy, they have been left in place.)
Extract of a letter from Petersburg, October 25. "We learn from Ochotzk, by letters dated July 18, the following particulars: That the ship St. Paul, belonging to a company of Ruffian merchants, had entered the above Port, which was arrived from the islands of Amnak, Umnak, and Unalaschka, situated in the Northern Archipelago, discovered by some mariners of this nation: That the said ship left those islands the first of June, having on board a merchant, named Solowjew, for an Interpreter. The cargo of the ship consisted of the tributes levied for the Crown, and merchandize, such as beaver skins, and skins of black and red foxes, which are valued, according to the prices fixed here, at above one hundred and fifteen thousand rubles.
"There are also arrived from the said islands some of the natives, viz. five men and two women, one of which, from appearance, should be of distinguished birth. Her face is marked with strange figures, imprinted on the skin by the punctures of a sharp needle. She has a ring pendant at her nose, and from her lower lip are suspended little bones of the Narwhal, shaped like teeth. The face of the other female is marked in like manner, with a ring in her nose. The only motive that engaged the above persons to undertake so perilous a voyage, was to have the satisfaction of feeing her Imperial Majesty, our most gracious Sovereign."
Boundary issues erupted in the 1820s because the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) and the Russian-American Company (RAC) were arguing over trading territories. The key document is an agreement between Russia and Great Britain that divided the Northwest American territories of the two powers, signed on February 28, 1825. As well as substantially reducing the territory that Russia had claimed, it re-opened the Russian colonies to British trading ships for a period of ten years. The HBC had asked for trade and navigation to be opened forever, but British negotiator Sir Henry Bagot told the Governors that no self-respecting government would ever accept such wording. A similar ten-year agreement on trade was made with the United States at approximately the same time, formalizing the activities of independent American trading ships who had been working in the waters of Russian America for decades.
In the wilderness of Northwest America, setting a boundary on paper was the easy part - marking its location on the ground got very complicated.
April 9, 1822, New Times, London, Middlesex, United Kingdom
HAMBURG, MARCH 29. "Accounts from St. Petersburg of the 15th March, say, that the American Company has received information of the breaking out of a dreadful volcano, which opened at the beginning of March last year, in the Island of Unmak, one of the Aleutian Islands, and on its first eruption, which was very violent, covered Oonilashka, and even some more distant islands, with sand, soot, and ashes."
Due to the difficulties (and the cost), sections of the border were surveyed as economic considerations dictated, and no major surveys were done until after the United States purchased Alaska in 1867.
March 21, 1868, The Anglo American Times, London, Middlesex, United Kingdom
The purchase of Alaska has been too recently completed, and the territory has hitherto been too little known, to enable the Californians as yet to form any clear notion of its value. Immediately on the treaty being announced, a scientific expedition was dispatched, but this was not early enough in the summer, nor on a scale sufficiently comprehensive to collect the information desired. Still much has been accomplished, and a general knowledge of at least the appearance of the country obtained. The coast line is intricate, the ranges high, bold, and irregular; in many instances rising to grandeur. When the vicinity of Sitka island was reached, the expedition was surrounded by rugged snow-capped mountains.
Through the clear atmosphere the huge ranges could be seen at vast distances; some of them throwing up volcanic cones, such as Edgecomb, which marks the entrance to Sitka Bay, and Mounts Fairweather and St. Elias, the latter sometimes visible to those 150 miles away. A second series of volcanic hills commences at the head of the peninsula of Alaska, extending southward, and forming the peninsula, then curving to the west and rising in the long chain of Aleutian islands, which stretch like stepping-stones to the Kamtskatka coast, trending north-east and south-west instead of northwest and south-east as on the coast of the mainland. Unimak Island is said to present the most remarkable view of volcanic cones and peaks to be found in the known world. Shihaldiu and Pogronmaja rise in graceful and unbroken symmetry from the sea to a height of 10,000 feet, with a low volcano irregular in outline between, called Destruction Peak. It is thus named as it is a volcano in an early stage of development, which in 1863 caused the loss of many lives by an eruption.
On the island of Ounalaska, Mr. Blake landed with some officers of the expedition, and made the ascent of Makuskin, an active volcano on the northern end. Its height he gives approximately at 5,600 feet; the snow line, 3,168 feet; at 2,500 feet vegetation ceased, except the "red snow," which commenced a thousand feet below the summit. The hills were covered with a thick growth of grass, but the island, wholly composed of volcanic rocks, was destitute of trees. Mr. Blake says, "The published and glaringly inaccurate rate charts of the north-west coast, north of Vancouver Island, fail to give an adequate idea of the vast archipelago of islands and network of channels with which the whole coast of British Columbia and that of the lower and eastern part of Alaska, below 59 degrees, are fringed.
The Straits of Fuca are the southern point of this complex system of labyrinthine channels, which afford peculiar facilities for inland navigation." Amid the rugged mass is the island of Sitka covered with its beautiful spruce, remarkable for the grace and the mathematical regularity with which its branches grow from the central stem. The roughness of the island in common with those in its vicinity and the coast line makes it peculiarly difficult to investigate the geology. A heavy growth of timber covers the steep hill-sides intertwined and obstructed by masses of fallen and decaying trees overspread with thick moss and always saturated with water. Though the distance across the island of Sitka was not more than 20 miles, Mr. Blake asserted he had yet to hear of the white man or Indian who had crossed it. The rock is a hard grit, sometimes coarse, often passing into digitally trending parallel to that of the coast, and extending south to the " Deep sea," a remarkable fresh water lake 12 miles S.W. of Sitka, where syncretic granite occurs. Limestone highly crystalline is found North, and within a few miles of the town. The Mining and Scientific Press says, "Along Chatham Straits, east of Sitka, the rocks are metamorphic, stratified mica schist, standing almost vertically, and showing a parallelism in their trend to the line of the coast and of upheaval. Glaciers are common along the inland waters north and to the back of Sitka Island. Three of these sweep grandly from the mountain gorges and rush to the water's edge, generally terminating in a low crescent- shaped flat, formed by the wash from their terminal moraines. In Icy Straits, north of Sitka Island, the ice from them falls into the sea, and so great is the accumulation as to render navigation dangerous. In latitude 50 deg., along Chatham Straits, every marked depression has its glacier of greater or less extent. These glaciers are to be seen at points as far south as the mouth of the Stickeen river, and the lowest known limit on the coast is about latitude 54 deg. in British Columbia, east of Port Simpson."
Good coal and paying quantities of gold, Mr. Blake says, are yet to be discovered. Copper abounds on the dangerous Copper River, and magnetic iron ore and galena are reported. Fossils of the carboniferous age occur at Capo Beaufort on the Arctic coast, of the Jurassic period on the east coast of the peninsula, tertiary fossils on Kodiak Island, and several other points. The resources and capacity of the country those who know it best assert to be considerable. The fur trade and the fisheries alone would supply remunerative labour to many persons. There arc, it is believed, 700 Americans now in the territory, and 7,000 Russians and half-breeds permanently located there."
In December 1872, following the discovery of gold in British Columbia's Cassiar region, U.S. President Grant ordered that the entire coastal fringe, termed the lisi re in the original document, be surveyed. Canada surveyed the boundary at the Stikine River in 1877 so they could set up a Customs post to collect duty on goods headed to the Cassiar gold fields.
In 1887-1888 and again in 1895, William Ogilvie surveyed the region around the Forty mile gold discoveries. In 1889, an American survey party under the direction of J. Henry Turner discovered that the HBC trading post of Rampart House was 30 miles west of the 141st Meridian, well inside Alaskan territory, and the company was forced to retreat up the Porcupine River and build a new post.
The discovery of gold in the Klondike brought the boundary issue into critical focus - when every square foot of land could yield enormous wealth, the precise location of the border must be known. And this is where things got complicated - what exactly was meant by the 72-year-old description of the border through the coastal mountains and around or across the deep fjords?
The head of Lynn Canal, where Captain William Moore had homesteaded, was one of the main gateways to the Yukon, and the North West Mounted Police sent a detachment to secure the location for Canada. This was based on Canada's assertion that that location was more than ten marine leagues from the sea, which was part of the 1825 boundary definition.
A massive influx of prospectors to what became the town of Skagway very quickly made a retreat advisable. There are stories that a group of heavily-armed Americans demanded that the Canadian flag on the police post be taken down or they would shoot it down (Hamilton, 229). Semi-permanent posts were then set up on the desolate summits of Chilkoot and White Passes, complete with a mounted Gatling gun at each post. This was still disputed territory, as many Americans believed that the head of Lake Bennett, another 12 miles north, should be the location of the border. To back up the police in their sovereignty claim, the Canadian government also sent the Yukon Field Force, a 200-man Army unit, to the territory. The soldiers set up camp at Fort Selkirk so that they could be fairly quickly dispatched to deal with problems at either the coastal passes or the 141st Meridian.
The posts set up on the passes by the Mounties were effective in the short term - the provisional boundary was accepted, if grudgingly. In September 1898, serious negotiations began in Quebec City between the United States and Canada, to settle the issue beyond further dispute. Those meetings failed, and Great Britain was finally brought in as part of a six-man tribunal. The American representatives were Elihu Root, Henry Cabot Lodge and Arthur Turner; Sir Louis Jett and Sir Alan Silverstone represented Canada, and Lord Silverstone was the British representative.
February 27, 1879, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.
Alaska as a Penal Colony.
It is again suggested that Alaska be utilized as a penal colony. The first question suggested in this connection must be, do we require a penal colony? And upon that point there is certain to be considerable difference of opinion. If, however, the project were adopted, it is probable that the tendency would be for the Alaskan convicts to filter through, in larger or smaller numbers, and to land finally either in British Columbia or Oregon. This would be agreeable neither to the British Government nor the American communities on the Pacific coast.
Map: Alaska Excursion Steamers and Northern Pacific Railroad. Poole, 1891
It is of course possible that a grand national penitentiary system might be established in Alaska, but if every State had to guard and support its own criminals there, we should have to choose between two courses: either there must be separate systems of imprisonment, each demanding as large expenditures as the State Prisons do now, or there would be such a laxity of discipline that the escape of convicts could not be prevented. A penal colony scheme must be administered well and completely, or it will become only a new and serious form of nuisance. As the officers in charge of the undertaking will necessarily be beyond active or effective supervision, there would be plenty of opportunity for the growth of abuses, and our Indian experience ought to have shown us that in cases of this kind it is hardly wise to expect the best results. The subject, however, is a large one, and should be carefully considered in all its aspects.
Alaska Steamship Company Panoramic Map
August 10, 1897, Hawaiian Gazette,, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A.
Alaska, our remarkable outlying territory, is almost us large in area as the entire United States east of the Mississippi. It is rich in mineral wealth, and has already yielded many times its cost in the precious and other metals. Every year its value to the United States is increasing, and yet it is entirely isolated from the rest of our territory Just as Cuba would be, were we to acquire it. Ex.
Alaska Steam : A Pictorial History of the Alaska Steamship Company
D. E. Skinner
An inspiring story of the Alaska Steamship Co. and the pioneers who navigated the hazardous waters of the northern travel lanes to serve the people of Alaska. With more than 100 historical black-and-white photographs. 160 pages. "Alaskans and those of the "Lower 48" who knew Alaska before the hectic oil-boom years are going to love it... a delightful and detailed history of the Alaska Steamship Co... Don't miss it. -- The Seattle Times/ Post-Intelligencer
Alaska: Saga of a Bold Land
Walter R. Borneman
The last American frontier, Alaska packs into 615,230 square miles the American saga of explorers and hunters, followed first by miners and soldiers, then homesteaders and tourists making their way into the wilderness. Borneman, a historian and lawyer who has produced multimedia programs for National Geographic, writes about these heroes who battled treacherous weather and terrain. At the same time, he stages their adventures against the backdrop of military and political events. Though some newspapers derided Lincoln's secretary of state, William Seward, for purchasing the territory as a strategic outpost in 1867, his decision proved prescient through the years.
Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush:
Secret History of the Far North
In the boomtowns of the Alaska-Yukon stampedes, where gold dust was common currency, the rarest commodity was an attractive woman, and her company could be costly. Author Lael Morgan takes you into the heart of the gold rush demimonde, that "half world" of prostitutes, dance hall girls, and entertainers who lived on the outskirts of polite society. Meet "Dutch Kate" Wilson, who pioneered many areas long before the "respectable" women who received credit for getting there first... ruthless heartbreakers Cad Wilson and Rose Blumkin... French" Marie Larose, who auctioned herself off as a wife to the highest bidder...Georgia Lee, who invested her earnings wisely and became one of the richest women in the North... and Edith Neile, called "the Oregon Mare," famous for both her outlandish behavior and her softhearted generosity.
Alaska Days with John Muir
Samuel Hall Young, a Presbyterian clergyman, met John Muir when the great naturalist's steamboat docked at Fort Wrangell, in southeastern Alaska, where Young was a missionary to the Stickeen Indians. In Alaska Days with John Muir he describes this 1879 meeting: "A hearty grip of the hand and we seemed to coalesce in a friendship which, to me at least, has been one of the very best things in a life full of blessings." This book, first published in 1915, describes two journeys of discovery taken in company with Muir in 1879 and 1880.
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette
James Gordon Bennett, the eccentric and stupendously wealthy owner of The New York Herald, had recently captured the world's attention by dispatching Stanley to Africa to find Dr. Livingstone. Now he was keen to re-create that sensation on an even more epic scale. So he funded an official U.S. naval expedition to reach the Pole, choosing as its captain a young officer named George Washington De Long, who had gained fame for a rescue operation off the coast of Greenland. De Long led a team of 32 men deep into uncharted Arctic waters, carrying the aspirations of a young country burning to become a world power. On July 8, 1879, the USS Jeannette set sail from San Francisco to cheering crowds in the grip of "Arctic Fever."
The Clara Nevada: Gold, Greed, Murder and Alaska's Inside Passage
Steven C. Levi
February 5, 1898. Witnesses report a giant orange fireball reflected in the glacial waters of Alaska's Lynn Canal. At the height of Klondike gold fever, the Clara Nevada disappeared into an epic storm--taking passengers and priceless cargo with it. Was the explosion an accident or a robbery gone wrong? Did Captain C. H. Lewis make off with $165,000 ($13.6 million in today's currency) in raw gold? Or was the sinking a case of a sea-weary steamer meeting an untimely end? Alaska historian Steven C. Levi combs the archives to piece together the true account of the Clara Nevada's final voyage, attempting to solve the riddle of the lost steamer that resurfaced ten years after that tragic night and became known as Alaska's ghost ship.