ALASKA AND YUKON (Historic Information)
POPULATION of Alaska, 1920 census, 55,000—whites 30,000, natives 25,000; natives include "full" and "mixed" blood. The name "Alaska" is derived from an English corruption of the native word Al-ay-ek-sa.
Population of Yukon Territory is about 9,000—and the proportion of whites and natives is probably the same as in Alaska.
The name "Yukon" is Indian for river. The territory was a part of Northwest Territory until 1898, when it was given a separate organization, and the name Yukon from the mighty river bearing the same name. Area 207,076 square miles.
Alaska in its greatest extent is included between the meridians of 130o west longitude and 173o west longitude, and between the parallels of 510 and 720 north latitude. It is bounded on the north by the Arctic Ocean; on the west by the Arctic Ocean, Bering Strait, and Bering Sea; on the south and southwest by the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean, and on the east by the Yukon Territory and British Columbia.
Note: The region covered by this guide includes all of Alaska, a small section of the northwestern corner of British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory adjacent to the White Pass & Yukon Route. The topography, climatic variations, treasures of the earth, wild game, scenic wonders, etc., are of the same character over the entire region.
The longitude of the western terminal of the Aleutian Islands is almost identical with that of the New Hebrides Islands, and is the same as New Zealand. Cape Prince of Wales, the most westerly point of the mainland, is nearly as far west as the Samoan Islands.
Thus, a person traveling from New York to Attu Island, the westernmost of the Aleutian chain, on reaching San Francisco, will have accomplished less than half the journey from east to west.
Point Barrow, the northernmost point of the land, is more than 300 miles within the Arctic circle. The extreme southern point is in about the same latitude as Liverpool, Amsterdam, Hague, Glasgow, and Copenhagen. From north to south the Territory extends more than 1,000 miles of latitude, and from east to west over 2,500 miles of longitude.
Klondike River from Ogilvie Bridge. Dredge "Canadian No. 4" in Foreground
That it is not possible to determine the climate of a country by simply noting on a map its distance north of the equator is demonstrated by the widespread error regarding Alaska. Alaska is not an Arctic Ocean province. About 70 per cent of the area of the Territory is in the North Temperate Zone. It has its mountain areas with their snow fields and glaciers—with the loftiest summits on the continent—and broad expanses of mossy tundra; but it has also wide areas of valley lands and timber and nearly as many varieties of climate as can be found in the Eastern and Middle States; controlled largely by the principal mountain ranges and by the Japan Current, which has the same effect on the climate of Alaska as the Gulf Stream has on the climate of Great Britain, Ireland, and Norway.
When people in the States find on looking at the map that the bulk of Alaska lies north of Labrador, they conclude that the conditions of life must be infinitely worse up there than in Labrador.
As a matter of fact, the town of Fairbanks, although 1,500 miles north of New York, and 300 miles north of the southern tip of Greenland at Cape Farewell, has its farms, flowers, mines, electric lights, and all the other comforts of modern life. Here the total annual precipitation is about twelve inches; the mean summer temperature about 560 F.; annual, 250 F. The extremes recorded are— 650 F. and 100° F.
Scenic Alaska. Norway and Sweden are the Mecca and Medina of the European tourists, in search of the picturesque and sublime, and the latter country takes its annual toll of American pilgrims on similar sights intent; but Alaska discounts anything which these countries can boast.
Its mountains over-top Mt. Blanc, the Jungfrau or the Matterhorn; its glaciers dwarf the Mer de Glace and its puny associates; while the fiords of the Southeastern Archipelago do not suffer by comparison with those of Norway, whose grandeur has been embalmed in its sagas, and chanted by the annual procession of sightseers; while all its beauties can be seen from the deck of ocean or river steamer without the dust and discomfort of tedious railroad travel.
Unlike the glaciers of Switzerland and the Tyrol, which debouch on inland valleys, and give the observer but little evidence of their tremendous power and vitality, the energy of which must be left entirely to the imagination, the largest of the Alaska glaciers, like those in Greenland which give birth to the monsters of the Atlantic, terminate on the ocean border or interior rivers, with towering fronts from 200 to 300 feet in height and miles in width; fronts which are daily pushed forward by the titanic force of gravity, only to be undermined by the waves, broken down into avalanches of glittering particles or huge blocks which fall with a roar of thunder and throw the spray 100 feet into the air.
At the Childs glacier you may loll at ease by the river bank on a carpet of flowers, while the glacier splits with a noise like a cannon shot or the staccato reports of small arms, and watch avalanche after avalanche start 300 feet above, driving the water in mighty waves up the gravel slope below you as they take the final plunge and float away in the narrow river. When the mist has drifted by, the dead-white face of the ice disappears. The new dress glistens with the brilliancy of diamonds, and the deeper recesses of the facade gleam blue as a summer sky unflecked by clouds.
Top—Dump of an Underground Drift Mine Middle—Hydraulic Lift Used in Flat Country. Water under Pressure Bottom—Placer Mining—the Early Method. Shoveling in by Hand
The charm of the glaciers is never ending. You may watch them hour by hour, and yet linger for some grander evidence of their power. Beginning as mist, kissed by the sun from the southern seas; drifted by the wind to the Northland; falling as snow on the mountain tops; welded with other infinitesimal fragments into an ice unit; crawling inch by inch a few feet annually; carving the solid earth with power irresistible, only at last to be torn in a moment of agony from its associates of a thousand, or many thousand years, and sent drifting south, the plaything of the sun and the waves; only to be resolved into its primary elements — is there not tragedy in the eternal cycle, repeated through the untold eons of the world's life?
There are sunsets among them such as no painter could ever put on canvas, veritable vortices of flame as though the world were on fire.
Along the Alaska Peninsula the tourist may witness in safety the tremendous pent-up energy of the internal fires; islands raised from the bottom of the ocean one year, only to be engulfed the next, as at Bogoslof.
Extending along the Alaska Peninsula is a chain of volcanoes; first Makushin, then Pogromni, Shishaldin, Pavlof, Katmai, Silvanoski, Iliamna, and Redoubt, rising majestically from 8,000 to 10,000 feet from the ocean level, with many others of lesser altitude.
These are the crowning peaks of a mountain range which, to the northeast, and north of Cook Inlet, culminates in Mount McKinley, thence extending eastward and southeastward, in Mounts Wrangell, St. Elias, and Fairweather and their cold, virginal sisters, grim guardians of the northern wonderland.
These stupendous mountain masses which at St. Elias line the coast for more than a hundred miles, are even more impressive than the loftiest of the world's famous peaks, either in the Himalayas or the Andes; for while these rise from lofty interior plateaus, the sweep of St. Elias is from ocean to sky, with nothing to break the foreground.
Surely the scenic beauties of Alaska, whether they be of earth or water or of sky, are varied enough to bring enthusiasm to the lips of the most blase traveler, ranging as they do from the sylvan groves of Sitka, which could satisfy even the most timid of lovers, to broad plains which whisper of peaceful homes as the years go by; or from placid fiords, where days drift idly by, to exhibitions of the titanic and implacable forces of nature in her most terrific moods. Vast as an empire, there can be no such thing as ennui in the everchanging panorama; distances are forgotten, and the traveler will soon begin to understand the lure of the North, that intangible something which makes the Alaskan, cramped amid the environment of civilization, repeat to himself, day by day, "I want to go back, and I will."—From "Alaska," published by Alaska Bureau, Seattle Chamber of Commerce.
The first explorations of the Alaska region were made by the Russians, Shirikov and Bering, in 1741. Trappers and fur traders entered the region, and in 1786 Gerassim Pribilof, a Russian fur hunter, discovered the Pribilof Islands, the breeding grounds of the Alaska seal. In 1778 Captain Cook surveyed part of the coast.
In 1799 a Russian American company secured the monopoly of the fur trade. In 1821 Russia attempted to exclude foreigners from the Bering Sea and this aroused a controversy which resulted in treaties by Russia with England and the United States, fixing the boundaries of the Russian possessions in America.
In March, 1867, Alaska was purchased from Russia for the United States by William H. Seward for $7,200,000, the transfer taking place on the 18th of October of the same year. For the first ten years it was governed by the War Department.
In June, 1877, the War Department turned control over to the Treasury Department, and the Collector of Customs was chief executive. This arrangement lasted two years, when the customs officers, being unable to maintain order, control of Alaska was transferred to the Navy Department, which was in charge until the passage of the "Organic Act" in 1884.
This act, which provided for a civil form of government to be administered by a governor, has since continued,— the governor being appointed by the President of the United States for a period of four years.
In 1903 the boundaries with Canada were definitely fixed, by an agreement specifying that the sea coast of Canada be extended no farther north than 50° 40', and in 1906 Alaska was recognized as a territory.
By the act of May 7, 1906, Alaska was given power to elect a Delegate to Congress, and the act of August 24, 1912, provided for a Territorial Legislature.
The total area of the Territory is 590,884 square miles, or more than 375,000,000 acres. It is nine times the size of the State of Washington, which, in turn, is larger than all theNew England States combined. Alaska has 26,000 miles of coast line.
The main mass of Alaska is nearly rectangular and is carved out from the continent by the Arctic Ocean and Beaufort Sea on the north and the Gulf of Alaska on the south. An extension to southeast is furnished by the so-called panhandle of southeastern Alaska, and to the southwest by the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands.
The Territory has three peninsulas of considerable size — Alaska, Kenai, and Seward.
The Alaska Peninsula forms a broken barrier between Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
The Kenai Peninsula, which is much smaller than the Alaska, and lies farther east, is separated from the mainland by Cook Inlet on the west and Prince William Sound on the east, with Kodiak and the adjacent islands forming an extension to the southwest.
Dawson, Yukon Territory
The Seward Peninsula, whose extremity marks the westernmost point of the continent, extends from the central part of Alaska, and is bounded on the north by Kotzebue Sound and the Arctic Ocean, and on the south by Norton Sound and Bering Sea.
The greater part of Alaska is taken up by the long stretch to the west of the Aleutian Peninsula and Islands, and the stretch to the south of the narrow southern peninsula.
Sitka Spruce. These Trees Are 37 and 39 Inches in Diameter
Along the coast lies the Pacific Mountain System, succeeded inland by a great plateau region marked by flat-topped ridges and rounded hills of almost uniform height; stream erosions having cut down the original level with the exception of these heights.
The Pacific Mountain System is made up of three coastal ranges and an inland range. In this latter is the loftiest peak in America, Mount McKinley, about 20,300 feet high.
In the Yukon Basin is an area of dead-level flats. Mountain masses rise out of the basin, except toward the Yukon delta on the west coast, where the plateau is generally unbroken and slopes gradually down to the sea.
The Rocky Mountain System is divided into two continuous ranges of inconsiderable altitudes. Beyond the Rockies is a plateau succeeded by a tundra-covered coastal plain region sloping down to the Arctic Ocean.
The Aleutian Islands are the crests of submerged peaks, forming part of the Alaskan Mountain System. Many of these peaks are volcanic, but all practically inactive.
"In considering the value of undeveloped resources of Alaska we must in part be governed by the reports of scientific investigators and study of pioneer development under like conditions. It has been only during the last few years that even the most optimistic would concede that Alaska would be a land of a permanent and prosperous people, simply because, as a people, we were not used to such climatic conditions as obtain throughout the northland, and we had in nowise grasped the extent of her enormous undeveloped, universal wealth and natural resources.
White Pass & Yukon R. R. in Sawtooth Mountains
"It was only after a study of what had been accomplished under like conditions of climate by the sturdy races of Asia and Europe in countries that can in nowise compare with Alaska in mineral wealth and natural resources, that we realized the immense potentialities of our great northern Territory. "A few comparisons will not, I think, be out of place. Norway, Sweden, and Finland in the same latitude as Alaska and with very similar climatic conditions have a combined area only two-thirds as great. They support a population of 10,900,000, as against approximately 55,000 (1920 census) for Alaska. These lands have no universal wealth other than iron — no coal, not near the area of arable lands, nor the wealth of fisheries with which Alaska has been so lavishly endowed.
Foot Path Along Indian River, Sitka
"A prominent Alaskan Swede, who has been over a great portion of the northland, said, when talking of the possibilities of Alaska: 'If Norway and Sweden were one-half as rich in resources as Alaska, none of us would ever have left there.'
"Finland with an area of less than one-fourth the size of Alaska had a population in 1909 of 3,059,234.
"The total value of her products in that year was $79,468,200, while that of Alaska in 1920 was $75,306,986; population of 55,000.
"Finland has 2,444 miles of railway of which 2,214 were built and operated by the States. The gross receipts of the government railways in 1912 were $10,317,780.
"Finland and Alaska are largely included between the parallels of 58o and 70o north latitude.
"Alaska is bordered on the north by the Arctic Ocean and Finland nearly touches the Arctic.
"The cultivated area in Finland comprised about 7,000,000 acres in 1901. In 1909 that country produced 19,759,488 bushels of oats, 12,084,853 bushels of rye, 4,887,319 bushels of barley, 19,226,108 bushels of potatoes, 7,766,203 bushels of turnips, and 2,895,087 pounds of flax and hemp.
"The output of butter was 26,585,600 pounds. The number of the principal domestic animals at that period was: cattle 1,491,264, sheep 904,447, swine 221,972,'and horses 327,817."
Fort Wrangell, Alaska
Special local features divide Alaska into six natural subdivisions according to rainfall, temperature, and latitude.
First: Southeastern Alaska, 300 miles long by 125 miles wide, and the coastal region as far west as Cook Inlet, are characterized by heavy rainfall and moderate temperature. The average temperature for the three winter months is similar to that of Boston and New York. This region is heavily timbered, possessing many available garden spots and rank floral vegetation. In a narrow belt lying between the ocean and the Chugach Mountains, it extends westerly to Cook Inlet, and all its ports for the entire distance of 900 miles are open the year round to the-commerce of the world.
Second: This region covering the southern coast of the Alaska Peninsula has a moderate rainfall and similar temperature, but it is almost timberless, the forests giving place to grazing lands. Like the first region, the harbors remain open during the winter. "
Whitehorse, Yukon, in June
The Alaskan Salmonberry
Third: This region covers the entire coastal district of Bering Sea, from Bristol Bay to Point Barrow and also the coast bordering on the Arctic Ocean, and is characterized by wide areas of tundra and treeless plains, but like many parts of Arctic Russia, is capable of supporting great herds of reindeer. In its 2,000 miles of coast line, the rainfall and temperature vary greatly, both diminishing as we go northward.
Along the shores of Bering Sea, the mean summer temperature varies from 40o F. to 50° P., and the mean annual temperature from 25o P.' to' 40° F. The extremes of temperature recorded at Nome are about 77o F. in July and — 38o F. in January. The precipitation is about 15 inches at Nome, 14 inches at St. Michael, and 36 inches at St. Paul Island.
The climate of the northern half of Bering Sea region is comparable with that of the Province of Archangel, in northern Russia, a region which supports some agricultural population. The Arctic provinces, which include the littoral of the Polar Sea, as well as the drainage basins of the tributary rivers, are similar to that of Bering Sea region, but colder.
At Point Barrow, the northernmost cape of Alaska, the mean annual is about 10° F. and the mean annual precipitation less than 8 inches.
The highest temperature recorded at Point Barrow does not exceed 65° F. and the lowest —55° F.
Fourth: The Copper River Valley, protected from the heavy rains of the coast by the lofty Chugach Mountains, possesses a comparatively dry climate with colder winter conditions; and is much less thinly timbered than the first region, lying to the south.
Dining Room of a Yukon River Steamboat
Fifth: The Kenai-Susitna region offers a compromise between the first and fourth regions, the rainfall being moderate and the average summer temperature about 54o F. Much of this region is heavily timbered and contains large areas of good farming land.
Sixth: This covers the central area, containing the great valleys of the Yukon and Tanana. Protected as it is on the south by the lofty Alaska Range with its extensive snow fields, it is well watered, although the average precipitation rangesfrom only 13 to 20 inches, while the thermometer in summer climbs to 90o F., or over, in the shade; and the average summer temperature is about 58° F., or somewhat higher than any of the five regions, while the average of the low summer temperature is only slightly less than in Southern Alaska.
Cultivated Area at Beaver City, Alaska, on the Arctic Circle
The total annual precipitation in the upper Yukon Basin varies locally from 10 to 16 inches, at Eagle 12 inches, at Dawson 13 inches, at Fort Gibbon, the mouth of the Tanana, about 14 inches. The snowfall in this district is from 3 to 5 feet. Some precipitation occurs on about 80 days in the year.
The precipitation on the lower Yukon and Kuskokwim is about 17 to 20 inches. The average summer temperatures are a little lower than at Fairbanks; winter temperature the same.
Alaska Indian Birch Bark Canoe
A Salmon Packing Plant, Where the Great "Iron Chink" is Operated
Prince William Sound
Sketch of Port Wells