At the opening of the third year, explorations had been carried over so large an area that it seemed wise to defer their continuance until some areal surveys could be executed. These were so vigorously pushed that at the end of the summer nearly 15,000 square miles had been mapped. Since that time the areal work, both geologic and topographic, has held first place, though explorations have not been entirely neglected. The most notable of the explorations was made in 1902, when a small party, under the leadership of W. J. Peters and F. C. Schrader, starting in the dead of winter, made a 1,400-mile journey with dog teams. When the ice broke they continued their explorations in canoes, reached the arctic divide, portaged across and descended the Colville River to the Polar Sea. There they skirted the coast westward, rounded Point Barrow, the northernmost cape of Alaska, and finally reached Nome.
A comparison of the two maps here reproduced will indicate the progress of the areal surveys, and this matter is summarized in greater detail in the following table.
|Explorations by U. S. Geological Survey||80,000|
|Geologic and topographic reconnaissance surveys||60,000|
|Explorations by other departments||50,000|
|Coastal province, shore line surveyed by coast survey and some geological surveys made by geological survey||
|Unmapped and practically unexplored||310,000|
|Total area of Alaska||620,000|
Besides this about one thousand square miles have been surveyed in great detail. The above statement does not include the extensive special investigations of mineral resources which have been made, for which about twenty per cent, of the total appropriations has been used.
It is difficult now to realize how little was known of Alaska previous to 1896. The general courses of the larger drainage features were laid down on maps, but only in a very crude way. The coastal mountains were known, but the two great inland ranges, one of which contains the highest peaks on the continent, were hardly indicated on any map. Only a few of the passes were known and the altitude of not a single point away from the coast had been established. Now all but two of the larger rivers have been surveyed, and contour maps have been made of over 150,000 square miles. All of the larger geographic features have been outlined by the network of explorations which have been extended over the entire territory. There are no new mountain ranges to be discovered, though there are several which are but imperfectly known.
In the purely geologic work the results are still more striking.