The New International Encyclopædia/Alaska

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Edition of 1905.  See also Alaska on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

ALASKA (said to derive its name from an English corruption of Al-ay-ek-sa, the great land, and formerly known as Russian America). A territory of the United States, comprising the extreme northwestern part of the North American continent, together with all the islands near its coast and the whole of the Aleutian Archipelago, excepting Bering's and Copper islands, lying off the coast of Kamtchatka. It is bounded on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the east by the Yukon District of Canada and by British Columbia, on the south by the Pacific Ocean, on the west by the Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea, and the Arctic Ocean. The greater part of the mainland lies between the 141st and 168th meridians of western longitude, but the most westerly of the islands, Attoo, lies in 187° W. The mainland on the north extends to 71° 30′ N. lat., and on the south, a narrow strip, about 30 miles wide, stretches down the Pacific coast to 54° 40′ N. lat. at the meridian of 130° W. long.; total length of mainland from southeast to northwest is about 1150 miles; greatest width, 800 miles; area, about 590,000 square miles, exceeding that of the original thirteen States, and equal to nearly one-sixth of that of the United States.

Topography. Alaska is divided by its physical features into four regions, distinguished by great differences of climate and productions: (1) The southern coast region, or Sitka district, extending from Dixon Sound northwestward to Cook's Inlet and bounded inland by the watershed between the coast and the Tananá and Kuskokwim rivers. (2) The Aliaskan Peninsula and Aleutian Islands. (3) The triangular drainage area of the Kuskokwim River, between the Alaskan Mountains southward and the Yukon watershed on the north. (4) The basin of the Yukon, and the plains northward of it to the shores of Bering and the Arctic seas.

(1) The Coast District.—This consists of many islands, a narrow coastal table-land, and the western extensions of the Coast Range, which are from 50 to 75 miles wide, and which northward of Lynn Canal run behind (east of) the St. Elias Alps, pass through Canadian territory, and then reappear to swing around and down into the Aliaska Peninsula as the Alaskan Range; while the St. Elias Alps border the coast from Cross Sound westward to the Kenai Peninsula. The Coast ranges consist of many irregular and nearly equal uplifts, set with peaks reaching about 8000 feet of altitude. The St. Elias Alps, however, are narrower and more regular, and contain some of the highest peaks on the continent, and their western continuation, the Chugatch Alps, bear the greatest glaciers known outside of the polar regions; this range is distinct from the Coast Range topographically and geologically. Among its most prominent peaks (in their order northwestward) are: Mount Crillon (altitude, 15,900 feet), Mount Fairweather (15,292 feet), Mount Vancouver (15,666 feet), Mount Cook (13,758 feet), and Mount St. Elias (18,024 feet). (See St. Elias, Mount.) In an isolated position, about 100 miles north of the mouth of Copper River, is the volcano Mount Wrangel (altitude 17,500 feet), which was in a state of eruption during the early years of the century. Along the southern coast are numerous (1100) rocky, mountainous, forested islands, separated by glacier-cut “sounds” and channels, forming the Alexander Archipelago (area, 13,000 square miles), whose largest islands are Prince of Wales, Admiralty, Baranov, and Chichagov.

The coast confronting these islands, and westward to the Aliaskan Peninsula, is the region of the massive glaciers and magnificent scenery for which Alaska is famous. Rivers of ice occupy every gorge in the littoral mountains, fill the head of each of the many deep fiords that penetrate the coast (all eroded by the still greater glaciers of the past, for everywhere the ice is steadily diminishing), and increase in size successively northwestward. Among the best known are those about the head of Lynn Canal, and those coming down to Glacier Bay, where two glaciers are especially noteworthy—the Muir and the Pacific. The former discharges into the head of the bay, and its front presents a line of ice-cliffs over 200 feet in height, and more than three miles long. The Pacific glacier descends from the Fairweather Range west of the bay, and, like the Muir, discharges daily an enormous number of icebergs, sometimes of huge size. Wherever the mountain channel down which the ice flows opens at a distance back from the shore it spreads out like a fan or delta, and the confluence of groups of such glaciers forms the mighty ice-walls that border the coast westward, of which the Malaspina Glacier in Yakutat Bay is most conspicuous. This is described by Russell as a plateau of ice having an area of five to six hundred square miles, and a surface elevation of about 1550 feet. Another scientific explorer says of it that the greatest of the Swiss glaciers would appear as mere rivulets on its surface, yet many other masses of moving ice reaching tidewater to the westward approach or even exceed it in dimensions and grandeur. The well-known Valdez Glacier has fifteen miles of frontal ice-cliffs, and many lives have been lost since 1897 in attempting to cross it to the interior. (See Glacier.)

The principal rivers of this district are the Copper, with its affluent the Chechitna, both practically unnavigable on account of rapids; and more westerly, flowing into Cook's Inlet, are the Matanuska, Knik, and Suchitna. The last-named is navigable for light-draught boats for about 110 miles, while its main tributary, the Yetna, is navigable for 100 miles above its mouth, and forms a part of the route to the Kuskokwim Valley. This coast district is bounded on the north by the watershed between it and the Tananá and Kuskokwim rivers, consisting of a line of very lofty elevations called the Alaskan Mountains, which continue the Coast ranges behind the St. Elias Alps and around westward to the Kenai and Aliaskan peninsulas. It is studded with lofty peaks, increasing in height toward the west, where the uplift culminates, about 100 miles north of Cook's Inlet, in Mount McKinley, 20,404 feet in altitude, which is the highest peak in all North America. Close by are unnamed peaks nearly its equal. Other great mountains in the same uplift are the Iliamna and Redoubt volcanoes (about 12,000 feet), Drum (13,300 feet), Hayes (14,500 feet), Kimball (10,000 feet), Lituya (11,832 feet), Sanford (14,000 feet), Tillman (13,300 feet), and many others unmeasured. Many passes admit of travel routes (mere trails) from the coast across to the Kuskokwim, Yukon, and Tananá valleys. The Kenai Peninsula is an important part of this district.

(2) The Aliaskan and Aleutian District.—This is the mountainous prolongation of the continent southwestward, from the great Iliamna Lake, continued by the Aleutian Islands, a chain of half-submerged mountains (about 150 in number) which reaches out almost to the Siberian coast, and separates the Pacific from Bering Sea. All these islands are lofty, some peaks rising to 8000 feet, and including several occasionally active volcanoes; and all are treeless, but clothed with grass, herbage, and some shrubs. The large, mountainous and forested Kadiak Island, off the eastern shore of the peninsula, may be included in this division.

(3) The Kuskokwim District.—The triangular territory drained by the Kuskokwim River and its branches forms a large area likely to be made serviceable in future, in spite of the fact that the great river itself is so obstructed at its delta and so shallow as not to admit of entrance and navigation by large boats. The climate is endurable in winter, and in summer admits of hay culture and gardening along the lower river, where the country is open, while the eastern part of the district lies among mineral-bearing mountains. A comparatively low watershed separates it from the Lower Yukon.

(4) Yukon Valley and Arctic Alaska.—The northern district embraces all of Alaska from the course of the Yukon northward. Along the Canadian boundary it is mountainous, the Tananá coming in from the southeast and the Porcupine from the northeast, both draining rough, elevated regions. The river is much impeded by shallows and islands through the middle part of its course, and broadens into an extensive delta, with outer bars, at its mouth, so that it can be navigated only by flat-bottomed steamboats of light draught, and only from mid-June to mid-September. Northward of the river the country is for the most part an almost treeless plain, swampy, descending gradually to the coast, where the more northern part is a broad area of marshy waste, or tundra, similar to that of Siberia. The coast region north of the mouth of the river, however, is mountainous and deeply indented by Norton Sound, in which lies the island of St. Michael, near the south shore. North of Norton Sound a mountainous peninsula stretches westward to Bering Strait, terminating in Cape Prince of Wales, only 48 miles from the easternmost point (East Cape) of Kamtchatka. Northward of this peninsula is Kotzebue Sound, opening into the Arctic Ocean, and receiving such large rivers as the Selawik and Noatak, while the Kowak and Colville descend from the unknown interior to the Arctic Ocean, the latter far to the eastward. The northernmost point of this coast is Point Barrow, where the Government maintains intermittently a weather observation station and a relief house for whalers. Out in the middle of Bering Sea is the large island of St. Lawrence, the Diomed Islands lie in the throat of Bering Sea, and the Pribylov or Seal Islands form a small, desolate group about 250 miles north of Oonalashka. Owing to its irregular contour, the coast line of Alaska measures about 8000 miles, exceeding the entire coast line of the United States on the Atlantic Ocean; an idea of its extent can be best conveyed by quoting the statement of Professor Guyot: that the island of Attoo is as far west of San Francisco as the coast of Maine is east of that city.

NIE 1905 Alaska.jpg

Climate and Soil. Alaska varies in climate and soil according to the divisions above noted, and according to altitude and nearness to or remoteness from the sea. The climate of the south coast region, however, is so modified by the shielding mountains and the presence of the ocean (where the Japan current flows along the coast from the eastward) that this part of Alaska may be called temperate, and its climate and productions, as far north as Sitka, at least, differ little from those of British Columbia. The isotherm of 40° mean annual temperature, which passes through the lower St. Lawrence Valley on the eastern side of the continent, curves northward west of the Rocky Mountains, and is the mean annual isotherm of the southern Alaskan coast region; but the climate of this region exhibits less extremes between winter and summer temperature than does that of the St. Lawrence Valley, and is far more rainy, as must necessarily be the case where the prevailing winds come off the ocean and almost immediately strike against snowy mountains which condense and precipitate their moisture almost incessantly. Days without rain are rare, and fogs prevail. These conditions so modify the temperature of the coast that the mercury rarely descends below zero or rises above 80° F. Much the same temperature exists over Kadiak Island and the Aleutian chain, but with greater cold and more wind and snow in winter. Cook's Inlet has the agreeable peculiarity of being almost free of the fogs so prevalent elsewhere. North of the mountains, where the country is barricaded against the tempering influence of the Pacific and exposed to the northern winds, lower temperature and drier conditions prevail.

Data for the Kuskokwim division are scanty, but indicate that the average for midwinter approaches zero and for midsummer about 50°. In the lower Yukon Valley semi-arctic conditions prevail, a brief, warm summer, averaging about 60° F. for July, being followed by a long winter of excessive cold, the average temperature from December to March at Nulato being about 16° below zero, with frequent “spells” of -40° to -50° F. It is colder further up the river, where navigation is limited to three months. (See Yukon.) At St. Michael's Island and on the neighboring coast (Nome) of Norton Sound, the temperature is more moderate than in the interior, the winter being less protracted and severe. Along the northern coast the climate is truly arctic, the annual mean at Point Barrow being about 25° F. The northern interior, wherever level, is swampy, and the soil is permanently frozen a yard or so below the surface. In the southerly half of Alaska, at least, the soil is fertile enough, so far as its qualities go.

Flora. All Alaska north of the Yukon and west of the mountains along the Porcupine River, near the Canadian boundary, is swampy tundra, bearing only small bushes and some dwarf willows and spruce. The hills of the northwestern coast are barren, and those of the Kuskokwim Valley only lightly wooded, except toward its head, where spruce forests clothe the bases of the mountains, separated by grassy valleys, exhibiting a wide diversity of tall flowering herbage and low shrubs. The Aleutian Islands are entirely without trees, except a few scrub willows; but some have great numbers of bushes allied to the cranberry and whortleberry. Under the moist and temperate influences heretofore mentioned, the coastal strip, however, from Kadiak down to British Columbia, is clothed with a forest which becomes of great size, variety, and economic value from Cross Sound southward. Deciduous (hard-wood) trees are white birches, poplars (often very large), alders and similar kinds, usually of small size and importance; but coniferous trees form extensive forests over all the islands and around the bases of the mountains up to the edge of the ice or snow, which lies permanently at an average elevation of about 2000 feet. The most widely distributed species is the Sitka or Alaskan spruce (Abies sitchensis), which is scattered over the whole territory as far north as the Arctic Circle, but reaches a useful size only on the shores of Prince William Sound and on the islands of the Alexander Archipelago. (See Spruce.) It is the tree which serves most of the wants of the natives for house-building, fire-wood, torches, and general purposes, and is the principal resource for lumber for mining and other rough purposes on the coast and in the interior; but owing to its slow growth the timber is knotty and not adapted to the finer uses. The hemlock (Abies martensiana) and the balsam fir may exceed the Sitka spruce, but are uncommon and of little service, except that the bark of the former is useful for tanning hides. The yellow cedar (Cupressus nutkaensis), however, is very valuable. It has been nearly exterminated on Baranov Island, but remains numerous and of large size on several islands southward; it is from this that the great dug-out boats of the Haida Indians are made. Its wood is clear-grained and very durable.

Fauna. The fauna of Alaska is very extensive and economically valuable. The catalogue of its mammals and birds forms a long list of high zoölogical interest. Reptiles and amphibians are of course few, but insects present a wide variety, diminishing toward the north; among these mosquitoes are painfully conspicuous, swarming in summer on the central and northern plains in such dense masses as to make life in the lowlands almost impossible for either men or animals. The neighboring seas are peculiarly rich in small marine creatures (see Arctic Region); hence fishes abound, and these support numerous marine carnivores, such as seals, etc., to be spoken of later. The larger land animals include the moose, south of the Yukon; caribou, formerly widely numerous, but now nearly exterminated, whence the efforts of the Government to restock the country with reindeer; and, in the southeastern mountains, sheep and goats. Porcupines and hares of various species abound, and form an important food resource for the inland natives, besides lemmings, marmots, squirrels, mice, etc.; while suitable streams everywhere south of the Arctic borders support beavers (now uncommon) and muskrats. These animals supply food for bears, lynxes, and a long list of smaller fur-bearing carnivores. The bears include, besides the polar, grizzly, and black species, the huge Kadiak bear and the glacier bear, which are exclusively local. (See Bear.) The marine mammals are whales of several kinds, the Pacific walrus, Steller's sea-lion, and five other species of hair seals (see Seal), and the fur-seal. The fur animals embrace gray wolves, the basal stock of the native sledge-dogs; the white arctic fox, common near the coast from the Aliaska Peninsula northward, and on the islands of Bering Sea, while its “blue” variety inhabits the Aleutian Islands; the red fox, and its variety, the “cross” fox, occur everywhere; but the black variety is rare and almost unknown, except in the eastern mountains. Of the mustelines, the sable is numerous wherever coniferous forests extend; and more generally distributed are the weasels (ermine) and wolverines, while minks are common along all watercourses, and otters less so. The most notable of Alaskan fur animals, however, is the sea otter (Latax lutris), which formerly was numerous along the entire southern coast, but now is found only on a few remote islands, where it will soon become extinct unless rigorously protected. Choice skins are now worth $100 to the hunter, and bring $500 in New York or London. With their disappearance will go the last resources of many Aleuts. In 1899 the catch reported in San Francisco was 154 skins, worth $30,000.

Sealing, Whaling, Fur-Hunting, and Fisheries. The seals that visit the shores of Alaska, especially from the Aleutian Islands northward, are the main dependence of the natives for food, furnishing materials for boat-building, house-making, dog-harness, etc., and are hunted pertinaciously with guns, spears, nets, etc., and their skins are an article of intertribal trade. To white men they are of small importance. The walrus is almost the sole dependence of the Eskimos at and beyond Bering Strait, and is steadily diminishing, because it is also hunted by white men for the sake of its ivory. Fossil elephant ivory is also collected extensively by the Eskimos. The white whale and the great arctic whales are also of prime importance to the Arctic Alaskans, and these animals attract annually a considerable whaling fleet, which endeavors to leave the Arctic Ocean before the straits are obstructed by ice; vessels often fail to do so, however, and must pass the winter in the ice along the north shore of Alaska. In 1898 the catch of whales was 140.

The fur-seal was formerly abundant along both coasts of the strait and on most islands in Bering Sea; now it is restricted to the Copper Islands of the Siberian coast, and to the Pribylov group or Seal Islands, where it is theoretically protected by the government under the care of an American corporation whose rentals have yielded much more than the amount paid for the purchase of Alaska. The Congressional regulations, however, have failed to put an end to pelagic sealing, in the suppression of which Great Britain will not join. In consequence, the herds of seals resorting to the Pribylov Islands to breed, from which an annual quota of 30,000 (formerly 100,000) skins is permitted to be taken, have steadily diminished. The catch for 1898 was 18,032. But 35 Canadian vessels took in pelagic catch from American herds 28,132. This ruthless taking of the seals threatens their early extinction. This would mean the loss to Alaska of the most valuable item in the fur trade of the world. The fur trade was, indeed, the first inducement for the early settlement of Alaska, and until recently her principal commercial resource. Wastefulness, competition, and the degradation of the natives have greatly reduced the output; yet large numbers of skins of foxes, martens, ermines, beaver, and similar furs are still collected; and on several of the Aleutian Islands blue foxes are being reared in semi-domesticity for the sake of their pelts, so that a regular industry in that direction is arising. The annual market value of the fur product of Alaska was estimated in 1880 by Petrov, United States Census Agent, at $2,250,000.

The fisheries of Alaska were naturally unexcelled by those of any part of the world. Cod, halibut, and other valuable deep-sea fishes inhabit the waters off the coast in seemingly inexhaustible quantities, and a beginning has been made of a regular fishery by vessels from San Francisco. The anadromous fishes are numerous and of the finest quality. Every stream, from the farthest north to British Columbia, is crowded with some species of salmon (q.v.), herring, whitefish, smelt (see Candle-Fish), or other fish, ascending them to spawn. Without these hordes of river fish no Indian could long exist in the more northern portions of the territory, and the natives catch and preserve vast quantities for winter use. The salmon have long been the object of extensive civilized industries along the southern coast, and for years the output of salmon has exceeded 600,000 cases, and in 1898 reached almost 1,000,000 cases. In 1899 the canners employed 1298 white men, 830 natives, and 1859 Chinese. The industry is of little service to the territory, however, as nearly all the labor and the material used are extraneous, comparatively none of the wages earned is paid or spent in Alaska, and the fisheries are being conducted in a recklessly wasteful manner.

Agriculture. Alaska is too far north to be of any importance as an agricultural country, yet the southern coast, the Kenai Peninsula, and the Aleutian Islands possess possibilities of a limited agricultural development. The soil is very fertile, but the expense of preparing it for cultivation is enormous. The census of 1900 returns only 159 acres of farm land; but the cultivation of this showed that the hardier, quick-growing vegetables, such as turnips, rutabagas, potatoes, carrots, beets, etc., could be very successfully raised. Grasses of highly nourishing qualities grow luxuriantly, furnishing excellent grazing facilities. The climate does not admit of the ripening of oats or the curing of hay, but grass can be stored in silos for winter. Two enterprises which have been encouraged by the national government are worthy of note. One is the development of fox farming, the foxes being bred for their furs, as heretofore noted. This industry promises to become of considerable importance in some of the western islands. The other is the introduction of the reindeer into the far northwestern region. The latter is discussed more particularly elsewhere (see Reindeer); but it may be said here that about 3500 reindeer are now in use in Alaska, of which only about one-sixth belong to the Government, the remainder being owned by missions and natives. They thrive upon the moss, but are in danger from dogs, wolves, and reckless prospectors and hunters. They are used as draught animals mainly, and have been of great service in carrying mails in winter, and in transporting provisions, rescuing lost or starving parties of miners and soldiers, and in various other ways. Their introduction seems to be a success. The annual appropriations for their care and for new importations from Siberia have been recently $25,000 annually.

Geology and Mineral Resources. The coast ranges of the southern extremity of Alaska are granitic in character, and their elevation was comparatively recent, geologically, being probably at some time between the Triassic and Cretaceous eras. The archipelagoes belong to them in geological character and history, and everywhere there is evidence of great glaciation. Much more recent than this, even, and probably the youngest mountain range on the continent, are the St. Elias Alps, which Russell considers to have been elevated, with tremendous disturbance of the strata, since the close of the Tertiary period, when the rocks of the Yakutat series were deposited. The peninsula of Aliaska, the Aleutian chain, and the hills along the border of Bering Sea are mainly of volcanic origin, including several volcanoes which have been active within historic times or are now subject to frequent eruptions. (See Geology.) Hot medicinal springs are numerous, and might be of great hygienic importance to the skin-diseased natives if they could be induced to utilize the waters. The line of volcanic upheaval and activity along the south coast is as long as the distance from Florida to Nova Scotia, and the whole of Alaska and the Bering Sea basin are steadily rising. The mountains of the southeastern interior and along the Canadian border consist of an ancient granitic axis overlaid by schists, quartzites, and other stratified rocks, which have been uplifted and greatly disturbed and altered by dikes and other igneous intrusions and overflows, and are substantially a part of the northern, mineral-bearing Rocky Mountain system traceable southward into central British Columbia.

Coal has been found in many places in Alaska. Its deposits near Cape Lisbourne and elsewhere along the Arctic coast have long been known and occasionally utilized by whaling steamers and revenue cutters. It also occurs on the Yukon, in the Aleutian Islands, near Kadiak, on the Kenai Peninsula, at the head of Prince William Sound, and elsewhere. Costly experiments have been made in mining and using it on the south coast, but it is everywhere found to be only a lignite, frequently good enough for domestic use, but poor for steam-making, because so full of sulphur, etc. This poor quality, together with the competition of imported coal, has prevented its serious use thus far. Petroleum, somewhat exploited, iron of poor quality, copper, and many minerals, earth and building stones (marble, etc.) are known, but are not yet commercially valuable. Silver ore has been found in alloy wherever gold occurs, and some galena ores are known, but little profitable working has been undertaken. The total value of the silver product in 1899 was estimated at $181,000. Gold, however, is widespread, and is now the chief source of attractiveness and wealth in Alaska.

Gold Mining.—The presence of gold in the sands of interior rivers and on the southern beaches was known to the Russians and to the fur-traders long ago, but prospecting was discouraged. About 1870 prospecting began, and resulted in discoveries of auriferous placers and quartz veins of varying richness. The first one of importance was on Douglas Island, where a “camp” of miners soon gathered to work the placers. Soon afterward ledges of quartz ore were discovered, and bought by John Treadwell, who organized a company to develop the mines. Works were erected, the town of Juneau arose on the neighboring mainland, and these mines are now one of the richest gold-producing properties in the world. The ore is easily crushed, can be rolled down into the stamp-mills by gravity-tramways, and all machinery (including electric hoists, etc.) is operated by water power. This cheapness enables a low grade of ore to be worked at a large profit, and about 1500 stamps are kept in continuous and almost automatic operation, while Douglas Island and the space under Gastineau Channel and the neighboring shore are being completely honeycombed with tunnels and slopes. Many other good mines have been opened in the neighborhood; and workings have been developed satisfactorily on Baranov Island near Sitka, on Sumdum Bay, at the head of Lynn Canal, and elsewhere in the Alexander Archipelago and on the mainland. The beach sands and river gravels have yielded profitable gold about Yakutat Bay, at Turnagain Arm at the head of Cook's Inlet, and on the shores of Kadiak and Unga islands. The discovery of rich gold placers in the Yukon district in 1897 led to vigorous prospecting of the whole Yukon Valley and its tributaries within the mountains, and auriferous deposits, often of great richness, were found along the river course at and near the Canadian boundary and especially along the Tananá. (See Yukon.) This led to an exploration of the coast hills, and resulted in several “finds” about Norton Sound, of which the most remarkable was that at Cape Nome, where the sands of the beach yielded extraordinary richness, and where later extensive placers were disclosed along neighboring streams. The output of the whole territory increased from $2,700,000, in 1897, to $7,531,000 in 1900. The output in 1900 surpassed that of the preceding year by $2,406,000, the Nome district being responsible for the greater part of this amount. Circle City, Jack Wade, Munock, and Kyokuk districts in the interior of Alaska produced altogether about $1,000,000.

Transportation and Commerce. The southern coast of Alaska has numerous excellent harbors, which are accessible the year round, as far north as Sitka and Juneau. The bays of the farther coast (except Valdez) become filled with bergs from glaciers and pack-ice in winter, thus closing the head of Cook's Inlet and compelling the people of Sunrise City to travel to Resurrection Harbor, on the south side of Kenai Peninsula, in order to take ship most of the year. It would seem as though these people might easily pass from Turnagain Arm across the narrow isthmus to Prince William Sound, and so effect a great saving of distance; but Morey learned in 1899 that the crags and glaciers which constitute that neck of land were practically uncrossable, except on sledges or snow-shoes in winter, when the adjacent harbors are useless. The harbors of the Aleutian Islands are open all winter, but drifting ice packs and freezes along the shores of the shallow Bering Sea closing the bays early in November; after which St. Michael's Island, Nome, and all other ports of that coast are closed until the ice comes out of the Yukon and dissolves in the sea. This rarely happens before June 15, after which that river is navigable for about three months, September 15 being the latest date when it is considered safe to leave Eagle City for the last outward trip. (See Yukon River.) There are few safe harbors along this coast, where the water is exceedingly shallow for a long distance from shore, and the deltoid river-mouths are obstructed by bars; and at St. Michaels, Anvik, Nome, and other settlements vessels must anchor in the offing and load and unload by means of lighters, with constant readiness to steam away from storms, so that expensive delays are likely.

All the traffic of the Yukon River is by way of the island and port of St. Michaels, some 60 miles from the Yukon mouth, long ago established as a fur-trading station. Here ocean steamers land and receive passengers and cargoes during the open season, which are there transferred to and from the river-boats. These are flat-bottomed, stern-wheeled steamboats, the largest of which may draw four feet of water; the distance to the eastern boundary of Alaska (Eagle City) is about 1500 miles, and sufficient boats are in service to fill the needs of traffic, and afford a regular and constant means of transportation between the upper river and the coast, where regularly sailing steamers ply between Nome or St. Michaels and Victoria, B. C., or Seattle or San Francisco. There is also more irregular, but frequent communication between Sitka and all the places of call along the south coast and the Aleutian archipelago. Steamer communication between Sitka, Skagway, Juneau, or Fort Wrangel, and either Vancouver or Victoria, B. C., or the ports of Puget Sound or California, is almost daily in summer and at frequent intervals in winter. From Skagway a railroad crosses White Pass to Whitehorse Rapids, where passengers and freight are transferred to the steamboats of the upper Yukon lines, by which the journey is continued to Dawson. Thus, in summer regular and comfortable means of access are open to all parts of the Yukon Valley. The White Pass Railroad is operated as continuously through the winter as the weather permits, and travel and the carriage of mails continue more or less regularly by means of public stages and private dog-sledges. Several other railway routes have been sketched out, and a wagon road has been built from Port Valdez to the Copper River.

Telegraph Lines.—The Canadian Government has constructed a telegraph line from the summit of White Pass, continuing a line from Skagway, down the Yukon Valley to the boundary, where it connects with an American telegraph line from that point (Eagle City) to Valdez. A telegraph cable is in operation between St. Michaels and Nome, and an overland line is building from Nome, via Eaton (reindeer station), Nulato, and other landings along the Yukon, to Eagle City.

The foreign trade of Alaska has been steadily increasing. There arc no statistics of the commerce between Alaska and the ports of the United States, inasmuch as it is administered as a customs district. The foreign commerce for the year ending June 30, 1901, shows that the imports of merchandise for that year amounted to $558,000, and the exports of merchandise to $2,534,000, of which $2,018,000 was domestic merchandise. The imports of gold amounted to $15,816,000, of which a large part was the product of the Yukon district in Canada which passed through Alaska for exportation. One hundred and eighty-six American and one hundred and twenty-seven foreign vessels entered Alaskan ports during the year.

Population. The natives of Alaska consisted of several different peoples. The bulk of northern Alaska and its coasts were originally occupied by people of Eskimo stock. These were in contact with the Athabascan Indians, who occupied the mountains eastward, the valley of the Yukon, and the south coast region as far west as Cook's Inlet, beyond which the Aleutian Islands were possessed by an entirely separate people, the Aleuts. The coast and islands from Yakutat Bay southward to Puget Sound were held by the advanced and skillful tribes of the Thlinkeet race. The numbers of all these, when first encountered by the Russians, can only be surmised. The first careful census was that of 1880, which gave 31,240 as the total native population of unmixed blood. The census of 1900 reported 29,536. More than half of these are Eskimos. The natives of Alaska have shown a greater willingness to adopt a civilized manner of life than most of the other native American tribes. Whole communities have taken up the vocations of white men. The native shows a willingness to work, which is quite unusual among people of his race. The United States has not forced the reservation system upon him, and he has always been self-supporting. However, his present status, in many instances, is most pitiable. Fishing companies, in disregard of the rights or interests of the natives, have depleted many of the streams of their supply of fish, thus destroying the Indian's principal source of a livelihood. The destruction of fur-bearing animals does him similar injury. The denial of citizenship, which he is eager to assume, prevents him from locating mining claims, acting as pilot, and enjoying other privileges which are granted as a matter of course to his intruding white neighbor. Other influences toward his decrease and degradation are the ease with which he may obtain or make intoxicating liquor, despite prohibitory laws, and the spread of syphilitic diseases. For an ethnological description of the natives, see articles Aleutian Islands, and Eskimo.

The white population for many years after the departure of the Russians consisted only of fur-traders and similar wanderers. In 1880 only 430 white persons and 1756 half-breeds were to be counted in all Alaska. The subsequent discovery of gold caused an influx of population, and the census of 1900 reported a white population of 30,507, only one-tenth of which was female. The increase was mainly in the valley of the Yukon and on the Norton Sound Coast, and later accessions to the Nome district probably added 25,000 to this during 1901 and 1902. The largest town is Nome (q.v.), near Cape Nome, on the northern shore of Norton Sound, which in 1902 had a population of about 40,000. Anvik and many other settlements and mining camps are near it, where a large part of the population spend the brief summer at work, gathering in Nome for the winter. Eagle City is at the point where the Yukon crosses the Canadian boundary, and has a customs and military garrison (Fort Egbert). Circle City, near the Arctic Circle, is the river-port for the gold diggings in Birch Creek and in the central Tananá Valley, and has a fluctuating population of from 500 to 1500. There is a military post (Fort Liscomb) at the mouth of the Tananá. Sunrise City, at the extreme head of Cook's Inlet, is the supplying point for a group of placer diggings on the Kenai Peninsula, and contains from 1000 to 2000 people. Settlements are found on Kadiak Island (St. Paul's or Kodiak) and on Unga. Valdez, at the head of Valdez Bay, an inlet from Prince William Sound, is of permanent importance as the port of entry for the Copper River Valley, to which a wagon road leads eastward, since it has been made the military and surveying headquarters of the Government, which has erected a garrison there, and the village contains several hundred people. Sitka is one of the oldest settlements on the northwest coast, and was the Russian headquarters. (See Sitka.) It is now the judicial and official centre of the territory; but owing to its distance from important mines, fisheries, etc., had a population in 1900 of only 1396. Larger and more active is the gold mining town of Juneau, at the entrance of Taku Inlet, which is the centre of a fairly permanent population of about 3000, At the head of Taku Inlet is Skagway, the seaport of the White Pass Railway, with a population of about 1500. Fort Wrangel, a settlement formerly of importance, but now in decline, and scattered fishing villages, occupied chiefly by Indians, complete the list of towns. Seventy-eight settlements altogether were reported in the census of 1900.

Government. Alaska is an unorganized Territory, there being no general legislative body. Alaska is controlled by laws passed by the United States Congress, and its administrative and judicial officers—governor (residing at Sitka), surveyor-general, attorneys, judges, and others—are appointed by the President of the United States. Towns of a certain size are allowed to incorporate and elect governing bodies. Legislation in 1900 divided Alaska into a judicial district, with three courts, at Juneau, St. Michaels, and Eagle City. These judges are authorized to appoint commissioners throughout Alaska, who are to act as justices of the peace, recorders, probate judges, and perform other duties civil and criminal. A new criminal code for Alaska was adopted in Congress in 1899, and a new civil code the following year. As yet, it is impossible for settlers to acquire title to the public lands. In 1898 Congress extended the operation of the homestead law to Alaska, but has failed to provide for a survey of the land and thus render settlement possible.

Much trouble has grown out of the working of the mining laws. The right to locate claims by power of attorney granted by these laws results in extensive districts being staked and then abandoned, awaiting such developments as will give the holdings a speculative value. Much “claim jumping” has been practiced; indeed, there have been but few paying claims that have not been involved in litigation. It has been impossible to anticipate the emergencies which have arisen from the sudden addition to the population, and oftentimes civil order has been disrespected and legal justice has been extremely tardy. This was conspicuous at Nome; but the evils there were corrected in 1901, and proper laws put into operation. Military force at times has had to assert its authority, and a considerable force was maintained in the territory from 1899 onward. On the whole, however, while the miners have been a law unto themselves, the instinct for good and for order has been in the ascendency, and remarkably few excesses have been perpetrated.

Education. In 1900 the United States Bureau of Education maintained twenty-five public schools in the Territory on an inadequate annual appropriation of $30,000; but incorporated towns may provide for themselves by their privilege of using one-half of the money collected from license fees for educational purposes.

Religion. The Russian Greek Church was the first in the field, and continues to support churches and schools at different points. The Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and other religious denominations carry on extensive missionary and educational work in the Territory. The Presbyterians maintain, moreover, an industrial training school at Sitka. Almost the whole native population has been brought under the influence of Christian teaching.

History. In July, 1740, the Danish navigator Bering, who was in the Russian service, discovered a number of islands, among them that bearing his name. Russian explorers and traders gradually pushed further eastward and came into conflict with the natives, whom they cruelly maltreated. The coast of Alaska was visited by Captain Cook in 1778, and by the Spaniards at about the same time. In 1778 a Russian company was organized to exploit the new country. In 1784 the first permanent settlement was made at Three Saints, on Kadiak Island, and in 1790. Alexander Baranov was made manager of the trading company. In 1799 the Russian-American Company was chartered, and was granted control of all Russian interests in North America for twenty years. Trading posts, including Sitka (1799), and missions of the Greek Church were established at many new points. The charter of the Russian-American Company was renewed in 1820 and 1844. In 1864-67 parts of the country were explored by the Western Union Telegraph Company, with the object of connecting Europe with America by telegraph at Bering Strait, but the project was abandoned when the Atlantic cable became successful. In March, 1867, the Territory was ceded to the United States for $7,200,000 in gold, and on October 18 a military force of the United States at Sitka took formal possession. In 1868 the laws of the United States relating to customs, commerce, and navigation were extended over the mainland, islands, and waters. A military post was maintained at Sitka for ten years, and other garrisons were established, but in 1877 all troops were withdrawn. In maintenance of its claim to joint possession with Russia of Bering Sea (q.v.) as an inland water, the United States several times seized British vessels engaged in taking fur seals, and the complications resulting therefrom were made the subject of prolonged negotiation between the United States and Great Britain. The whale and seal fisheries of Alaska were rapidly approaching exhaustion, when the discovery of gold along the Yukon in 1896-97, and at Cape Nome on the west coast in 1898-99, completely changed economic conditions there, and caused a sudden inroad of population. The vast importance of the Canadian Klondike region brought the long-standing boundary dispute between the United States and Canada to a crisis. Canada demanded such a rectification of the line in the region of the Lynn Canal as would have placed in her possession Skagway, Pyramid Harbor, and Dyea, the principal entrances to her gold-fields. In 1901 nothing more than a modus vivendi between the two countries had been arrived at. By a congressional act of June 6, 1900, Alaska was made a civil and judicial district.

Bibliography. Abercrombie, Copper River Exploring Expedition (Washington, 1900); Schwatka, Along Alaska's Great River (New York, 1885); Swineford, Alaska: Its History, Climate, and Natural Resources (Chicago, 1898); Bruce, Alaska: Its History and Resources (Seattle, 1895); Bancroft, Alaska (San Francisco, 1886); Elliott, Our Arctic Province (New York, 1886); John Burroughs et al., Harriman Alaska Expedition (New York, 1891); Emmons, “Alaska and Its Mineral Resources,” National Geographical Magazine (Washington, 1898); Ingersoll, Golden Alaska: A Complete Account of the Yukon Valley (Chicago, 1897); Heistand, The Territory of Alaska (Kansas City, 1898); Dall, “Report on Coal and Lignite of Alaska,” United States Geological Survey, Seventeenth Annual Report, Part I. (Washington, 1896); Reports and Bulletins of the United States Geological Survey for 1899 (Washington, 1899); United States Geological Survey, Explorations in Alaska (Washington, 1900); Reports of the United States Board of Education, of the Treasury, and War Departments (Washington, 1899-1901); Reports of the Governor of Alaska to the Secretary of the Interior; United States Military Affairs Committee; Narratives of Explorations in Alaska (Washington, 1900); bibliography in Appleton's Guide to Alaska (New York, 1896); Ray and Murdock, Report of the International Polar Expedition to Point Barrow, Alaska (Washington, 1885); Nelson, Report on Natural History Collections Made in Alaska, 1877 to 1881 (Washington, 1887); Turner, Contributions to the Natural History of Alaska (Washington, 1886).