Page images

lent direction, but blow whithersoever they list. For the same reason the rainfall is light, and though the air over the sea is saturated with moisture, little of it drifts over the land to supply rain.

If there is a region more infested with fogs than the Pacific coast of Alaska it is Bering Sea.

Here fog is the normal

condition, and clear, bright weather the rare exception. It is no uncommon experience for vessels bound for the Pribilofs to miss the islands in the fog, and to spend days searching for them, as for needles in a haystack. They are a small target to shoot a vessel at from Unalaska, 250 miles away, and once missed, are easily lost in this great foggy waste.

The climate of the great interior region is that common to the interior of all continents. The mean annual temperature is practically the same as in the same latitude on the coast of Bering Sea, but the range of temperature is much greater. It is warmer in summer and colder in winter, since the land heats and cools much more rapidly than the sea. At the point where the international boundary crosses the Yukon River the mean temperature of the coldest

month (in 1889) was -17°, that of the warmest month 60°, a range of 77°. Contrast these figures with those given above for Sitka, where the corresponding range was only 26°. Furthermore, consider that the mean temperature of the warmest month on the Yukon, in latitude 64° 41', was 4° higher than at Sitka, over 500 miles farther south. These figures are instructive in pointing the conclusion that if any part of Alaska can become of agricultural importance. it is the interior rather than the Pacific coast. But it is doubtful whether even this region will admit of profitable farming. In connection with this question the experience of the Canadians is instructive. On Peace River, in latitude 56°, 600 miles farther south, many and persistent attempts at farming have been made, but without financial success, although it is doubtless true that certain crops have been matured there.

The extreme range of temperature in the interior is surprising, even to those accustomed to roast by day and freeze by night in our western deserts. this same point on the Yukon, tempertures of -60° and of 87° have been recorded a range of 147°. Again con


[graphic][merged small]
[graphic][merged small][merged small]

trast this with Sitka, where 90° is the extreme range record.

The rainfall in the interior is light, ranging at various places and in different years from 10 to 25 inches. With the cold climate and consequent slight evaporation, it is probably sufficient in the majority of years for agricultural requirements. Differing radically from the coast climates, this climate is bright and sunny. There is little dull, cloudy weather and practically no fog. There is more sunshine here in a month than at Sitka in a year.


The coast, as far to the westward as Cook Inlet, is densely forested up to the timber line, which ranges with the latitude from 3,000 to 2,000 feet above sealevel. The timber is mainly, indeed almost entirely, Sitka spruce. There is some hemlock at higher levels, and in the southern part a little cedar also, but these are of little commercial importance. Red or Douglas fir, which forms the bulk and principal value of the forests of Washington, disappears in British Columbia. The spruce is large and fine, as judged by eastern standards, but as compared with the timber of Oregon and Washington, which is the standard on the Pacific coast, it is inferior, and little use is at present made of it, most of the timber needed being brought from Puget Sound. On Kadiak and the adjacent islands there is little timber, and farther west on the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands none whatever, nor are there any trees on the islands in Bering Sea. Why the timber should thus suddenly disappear on the peninsula and islands is an open question. The rainfall is ample, and the climate. little more severe than at Sitka and less severe than about Prince William Sound. The suggestion that high, cold winds prevent tree growth is negatived by the fact that such winds occur all along the

coast, in forested as well as non-forested parts. Moreover, the forest-fire fiend has not been here.

The interior of the Territory is forested mainly with spruce, as far north as the valley of Koyukuk, and as far westward as the delta of the Yukon. In this enormous region there must be an almost fabulous amount of coniferous timber, sufficient to supply our country for half a century in case our other supplies become exhausted.


The population of Alaska in 1900, according to the Twelfth Census, was 63,592, having nearly doubled in the preceding ten years. Of the total increase, 31,540, about three-fourths was acquired by that portion of the Territory lying north of the Yukon River, and only one-fourth by that portion south of that river, including southeastern Alaska. Half of the increase in northern Alaska consisted of the people of Nome, which had a population of 12,486, by far the largest aggregation of people anywhere in the Territory; the remainder were scattered widely over its great area, but mainly in the valley of the Yukon and along the coast north of the mouth of that river.

In southern Alaska the population increased almost everywhere, but not by any means at as rapid a rate as in certain localities in northern Alaska. Skagway had a population of 3,117; Sitka, 1,396; Juneau, 1,864; Douglas, 825; Wrangell, 868, and the Indian village of Metlakahtla, 465.

Of this total population about 25,000, or a little more than two-fifths, were Indians, Eskimos, or mixed bloods, the remainder being whites. The increase during the past ten years probably consists entirely of whites.

The population is in high degree a floating one, with the slightest possible attachment to localities, and subsequent

censuses will doubtless show radical changes in its location.


The natural resources of Alaska are enormous. The skins and furs, the fish, the gold, copper, and coal, and the timber of the Territory are in value almost beyond calculation, and the mere reaping of this harvest sown and ripened for us by nature will occupy an industrial army for many years. The wealth thus collected will add greatly to the well-being and happiness of our people.

Some of these natural resources, however, have begun to suffer from the drain to which they have been subjected. The gathering of furs and skins, which has been in progress since the early Russian occupancy of the Territory, has been prosecuted so actively that the fur trade is now of comparatively little consequence. Blue foxes are now so valuable that systematic attempts are being made to breed them for their skins. The sea otter has become very rare, and the value of skins correspondingly high. The fur-seals, on account of pelagic sealing, are now reduced to a small fraction of their former number, and only 24,000 skins were obtained at the seal islands in 1899. Even the great brown bear has become scarce and shy, and hides in the fastnesses of the interior, away from the seaboard, where he was formerly abundant.

The sea-birds, once plentiful all along the coast, are now driven to the rarely visited parts, where, particularly on the islands of Bering Sea, they may yet be found by millions.

Fish are still abundant, but with salmon canneries springing up all along the coast, it is probable that the demand will soon make perceptible inroads upon the supply. During the year 1899 these canneries packed and shipped 1,100,000 cases and 25,000 barrels of this fish.

The mineral resources of the Territory

are yet in an undeveloped condition, but unless all signs fail, the chief wealth to be obtained from Alaska will be taken from the ground. Coal is known to exist in many localities, but is nowhere as yet mined on a commercial scale, owing mainly to its inferior quality; the coal in use at present is brought from Nanaimo or Puget Sound. Copper-vein deposits of great magnitude and richness have been found, notably on Copper River and the shores of Prince William Sound, but as yet none of them have been developed beyond the shipping of a few hundred tons of ore for testing. Gold deposits, both placer and vein, have been found in various places all over the Territory. They are so widely distributed and so rich as to lead to the conclusion that with more extended and thorough prospecting, the known auriferous areas will be vastly increased and the yield of the yellow metal multiplied many times. Some of the quartz mines, as the Treadwell, near Juneau, have been worked productively for many years. This mine alone has produced about $10,000,000. Others have recently become productive, and still others, more numerous, are yet in the development stage. The mines near Juneau produced in 1899 gold of the value of nearly two million dollars. several localities in southeastern Alaska and on the Shumagin Islands quartz mines have been discovered, but at present placers are far more abundant. They have been found on many of the tributaries of the Yukon, especially on those from the south, the Sushitna, the Kuskokwim, and the Koyukuk, and in the north, the Ambler and the Noatak. At several places gold has been found in the beach sands on the seashore, and last, but by no means least, on the beach and the stream-beds at Cape Nome and Port Clarence. These last discoveries seem to be the greatest of the whole northwest, rivaling and probably exceeding the great Klondike dis


[graphic][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »