United States. Revenue-Cutter Service.

Report of the operations of the U.S. revenue steamer Nunivak on the Yukon River station, Alaska, 1899-1901 online

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58th Congress. / SENATE. j Document

U Session. \ ' No. 155.







1899- I 901

Fix-si I .i.-m . .1 . < '. < '.V XTW ]•; I . I ,. R. C. S.,
( 'ommanding.


L9 04.

In the Senate of the United States,

February 1". l!)n' h

Ordered, That the Report of the Operations of the United States
Revenue Steamer Nunivak on the Yukon River Station. Alaska,
L899 L901, together with the maps and illustrations, be printed as a

Attest: Charles (i. Bennett. Secretary,

By II . M. Rose, Chief Clerk.

Treasury Department.

Document No. 2276.

Division of Rt vi nut -( l utt\ r Servict .




Letters of transmittal 5

Department orders 7


Chapter I. Introduction — Description of the Xunivak — Necessity for a vessel
of the Revenue-Cutter Service on the Yukon River — Arrange-
ments for the voyage of the vessel to her station— Departure
from San Francisco L9

Chapter II. Incidents of the voyage of the Nunivak from San Francisco to

St. Michael 23

Chapter III. Arrival at St. .Michael — Preparations for the journey up the
Yukon River — Departure from St. Michael and incidents of
the tirst season's work on the station- Selection of winter
quarters for the command in I>al! River and laying up of the
vessel at the end of the active season :;.")

Chapter IV. First winter at Fort Shoemaker Incidents of life in winter
quarters — House building — Work of the command — Sled
trips— Opening of spring Departure from Fort Shoemaker. . 47

Chapter V. Resumption of duties on the Yukon River — Enforcement of
law and order- Reconnoissance of the Koyukuk River
Assistance rendered steamer l.,,ih Return to St. Michael for
supplies Quarantine duty at St. Michael Departure from
St. Michael and return to regular duties on the Yukon
Assistance rendered sick and destitute natives Return to
Fort s 1 1< ii •maker and close of the second season of open navi-
gation .">!>

Chapter VI. Incidents of life at Fort Shoemaker during the second year of
its occupancy as winter quarters Description of the breaking
up of the ice in the spring 76

Chapter VII. Abandonment of Fori Shoemaker and resumption of active
cruising on the station Incidents of our third season's dutj
on the river Return to St. Michael and the laying up of the
Vunival and placing her oul of commission Return of the
party to the states 99



( ha | iter I. Description of the station Ill

Chapter II. Traffic and transportation 125

Chapter III. Winter travel L56

( 'ha | iter I V. Economic coin I it ion- 1 1,,

Chapter V. Social conditions 176

Chapter VI. Law and order |S|

l^S??^ 1 251 2.«?8


Part III— M 1 \ ES Wl> MINIM..


CIki] a or 1. Minerals, occurrence, ami distribution I'M

Chaptei 11. Methods of locating and working claims 199


Chapter 1. Habits and customs of native inhabitants 209

Chapter II. Language 231


Reconnoissance of the Koyukuk River by Second Lieut. B. II. Camden,
R. C. S , 239

Reconnoissance of the Dall River, Koyukuk Trail, by Third Lieut. Eugene
Blake, R. C. S 249

Part VI.
Medical report, by Surg. James T. White. R. C. S 257


A. Table of distances between settlements on the Yukon River 277

P.. Schedule of freight and passenger rates on the Yukon River 278

( '. List t" vessels engaged in commerce on the Yukon River 280

D. Comparative vocabulary of the Eskimo and In,L r alik tribes inhabiting the

regi« in 281

]'.. i iomponenl parts of the ration issued to the crew of the Nunivak while on

the station 285

F. Natural history:

1. List ..f birds 285

2. List of mammalia 288

3. List of fishes 289

4. List i .f plants 290

5. List i if fossil 290

G. Meteorological record 291


Treasury Department,

Office of the Secretary,

Washington, August ' h 1902.
Sir: The operations of the LJ. S. steamer Nunivak, conducted under
obedience to Department orders bearing date April 24, L899, having
been completed, I have the honor to submit herewith thereportof First
Lieut. John C. Cantwell, K. C. S. . covering the operations of his com-
mand during the years 18!M), 1 !>()(.). and 1H01, and request that the same
be printed.


C. F. Shoemaker,
Captcvm, Revenue- Cutter Service, Chief of Division.
The Secretary of the Treasury.


r. S. Reventte-Cutteb Service,

Appraiser's Building,
San Francisco, Oal., May 25, 1902.

Sir: In obedience to Department ordersof October 2, L901 (C.F.S.),
I have the honor to transmit herewith a report of the operations of the
U. S. S. Nuni/odk, while under my command, on the Yukon River
station, Alaska, together with L55 photographs to illustrate' the same.

In the execution of the Department's orders directing me to lay the
vessel up for the winter of L901-2 at St. Michael. Alaska. I have to
acknowledge the receipt of a great deal of valuable assistance and
many acts of courtesy extended to me through the kindness of Gen.
George M. Randall. U. S. Army, commanding the Department of
Alaska, and his stall'.

Thanks are also due to the various officers of the Army on duty at
the several military posts along the river for their unfailing coopera-
tion with myself and officers in the promotion of the comfort and effi-
ciency of the command, and to the managers of the various trading
companies doing business in the country for their universal kindness
and consideration of our wants while in the country.

In the preparation of the report I have to acknowledge, with grat-
itude, the services of Mr. Leverette Mills Loomis, director of tin 1

museum, ( lalifomia Academy of Sciences, of Prof. I'\ M. Anderson, of

the University of California, and of Miss Alice Eastwood, curator of
botany, California Academy of Sciences, in the work of identification
and classification of the specimens of natural history collected on the

[desire i to exceed L,000 miles up

the 91 ream.



:.. In order thai the best interests of the public service may be sub-
served in the enforcement of t h«- customs laws you will confer with
such United States customs officers as may be found n the river.
Collector Ivy, within whose district the NunivaJc will cruise, may be
found at St. Michael or vicinity, and yon will extend to him such
courtesies on public service a-* yon can. he to bear his own mess
expenses while on hoard.

t. You will extend such assistance as you can to destitute miners,
seamen, and others.

.">. Should you be called upon to aid the civil or military authorities
in the enforcement of law. you will do so to the full extent of your
power. Should you at any time become cognizant of violations of
law. by evil disposed persons, you will, if possible, arrest the offenders
and turn them over to the nearest civil authorities having jurisdic-
tion. It will he your duty to let it be generally known, in a careful
and judicious manner, among the people on the Yukon River and its
tributaries navigated by the Nuni/oak, that your command is apart of
the national armed force of the Government and must he obeyed
accordingly. In view of the isolation of your command, and the
practical impossibility of communication with the Department, con-
tingencies may arise upon which you can have no instruction, and
must he deferred to your judgment and discretion. In sueh cases you
will exercise great care in forming your conclusions and in taking

»'>. You will, in course of cruising, make such examination of the
main river channels and such hydrographic note- and establish such
astronomical stations as will enable you to prepare a chart of your
cruising on the river and its main or principal tributaries.

7. As opportunity offers, without interfering with your regular
duties, the Department desires that you collect specimens and data
relating to the fauna and flora of Yukon region: also that you collect
reliable statistics relating to traffic and mining operations as far up
the river as the vessel i^ to go; also data in regard to meteorological
condition-: all to he embodied in a report to the Department.

8. At the close of navigation you will select a safe haven for the
winter and place your command in winter quarters.

A- the complement of officers and men of your command will be
compelled to remain at least until the summer of 1900, they should, in
what would otherwise he a season of enforced idleness, he kept busily
employed, not only for the sake of health, hut as well for the mainte-
nance of harmony and good discipline: therefore you will organize a
plan of operation- covering an exploration of the Yukon country adja-
cent to your winter quarters, collecting information and data concern-
ing feature- of the country, habits and customs of the native popula-
tion, their condition as to morality, health, and all feature- of interest,
the whole to 1 mbodied in the form of a report to the Department.


And in tlif same connection to relieve :mjame to be delivered to you at St. Michael, and, in \ic\\ of the
extraordinary services required of the vessel, the cosl of said clothing

will not he charged againsl the officers and men 1 1 1 i -> year.

L3. You are informed that Surgeon Call, of the Bewr, will join you
at St. Michael on the return of that vessel from the Arctic. Should
\ on have a i iot her surgeon on the Nun Ivah at that time you will direct
him to report to the commanding officer of the Bear, relieving l>r.


11. Should officers of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, Fish Com-
mission, Steamboat Inspection Service, or other accredited Govern-
ment officials apph to you for passage on the river or accommodations
on board while you are in winter quarters you will extend the same
to such, but with the distinct understanding that neither yourself uor

the officers >>l' voui - command are to be pul to any personal expense

i>\ reason of their presence on board.

L5. The importance of making ample provision for food supply for
your command to last until at least September, L900, or until fresh
supplies can be sent you. should engage your serious consideration,
and to this end you will consider the kind, quality, quantity, and cost
o\' the food you desire, whether in canned goods or barreled. It is
suggested that an ample supply of canned vegetables, sauerkraut in
barrels, if obtainable, to serve as antiscorbutics, are essential.

You are directed, upon your arrival at Seattle, to immediately
ascertain and wire the Department the quantities of food supply you
will require, not only for yourself, officers, and crew, hut for the
relief of emergent cases that nmv arise, stilting the lowest cost, first
obtaining proposals, which you will forward to the Department by
mail, after the authority to purchase shall have been given.

In submitting to the Department vouchers for the supplies which
you may he hereafter authorized to purchase, you will see that the
same hear date of July 1 next, as the articles are intended for use in
the next fiscal year. You will be careful to see that all vouchers are
properly prepared, certified, and forwarded prior to the departure of
the Nunivdk from Puget Sound.

Respectfully, yours. O. L. Spauuding,

Assistant Secrt tary.

Lieut. J. C. Caxtwele. R. C. S.,

Commanding I . S. *. Xunirok, Son Fvoncixco. Col.

copl of orders of detachment from command of u. s. s. xuxivak.

Treasury Department. Office of the Secretary,

Division of Revenue- Cutter Service,

Washington, 3f/ -L 1902.
Sir: Referring to letters, addressed to you under this date, relative
to the sale of the Nuni/vak, or otherwise laying the vessel up at the
close of the season, you will, in either case, consider yourself detached
and proceed with the least delay and by the most direct route, or by
the one entailing the least necessary expense, to your home in San
Francisco, ( 'ah. announcing your arrival there by wire to the Depart-
ment. You will forward your extra baggage by some one of the ves-
sels of the service; otherwise by freight. Before leaving the Nunivdk,


it* the vessel is not sold, you Mill arrange with the officer left in charge
to have such work done during the winter months as can be done by
the force on board. You will also provide yourself with a complete
memorandum of the needs and requirements of the vessel if retained
to put her in efficient state for service in the waters about St. Michael
next summer, taking all necessary dimensions and making description
for fitments of both hull and machinery. Herewith are transmitted
orders for Lieutenants Camden, Blake, and Wheeler. Assistant
Engineer Lewton, and Dr. White, which you will deliver to those
affected when it shall he determined who is to remain in charge.

(). L. Spaulding,
. Assistant Secrt tary.
First Lieut. -I. C. Cantwell, R. C. S..

Commanding U. s '. S. Nuni/vak. St. Michael. Alaska.



Treasury Department, Office of the Secretary,

Washington, October J. 1901.
Sir: Referring to your telegram reporting your arrival at Sun
Francisco, you are directed to prepare, as soon as practicable, a full
report of the operations of the Nhmivak while under your command,
and transmit the same to the Department.

While iii the performance of this duty you will be allowed commu-
tation for quarters.

Voi i will acknowledge t he receipl hereof and advise t he Department
of your address.

Respect fully. ( ). L. Spai lding,

. Icting S( tary.
Lieut. J. < '. < antw i.i.i.. R. ( !. S..

Gart oj Appraisers ouildtng, San Francisco, Cat.


First Lieut. .1. ( '. Cantwell, R. C. S., commanding.
Second Lieut. I>. II. Camden, R. C. S. , executive officer

Third Lieut. W. .1. Wheeler. R. C. S.

Third Lieut. Eugene Blake, jr., R. < . S.
Assistant Engineer II. N. Wood, R. < '. S.
Assistant Engineer T. . Lew ton. R. ( . -

Surg. J. T. White. R. ( !. S.







First Lieut. .T. C. CANT W ELL, R. C. S.,
( 'ommanding.

S. I )«.(•. L55 2 '■'•


I -■ from the right are First Lieut. .1. •'. Cantwell, Second Lieut. B. H. Camden, Asst. Engineer

T. G. Lewton, Third Lieut. W. J. Wheeler, Third Lieut. Eugene Blake, and Surgeon J. T. White.





Prior to the discovery of the rich deposits of gold along the Klondike
River, Alaska, the entire business traffic of the vast valley of the Yukon
River was conducted by two competing trading companies having sta-
tions situated at convenient places on the river, and the supplies acces-
sary for their maintenance were annually delivered by means of small
steamers which ascended the Yukon from St. Michael, on the coast,
at which place both companies maintained depots for the distribution
of goods received from the outside in ocean-going vessels. The white
population of the Yukon was composed only of the agents and traders
of the companies and a few scattering prospectors who. as a rule,
made their way into the country over the ( nilkat or Chilkoot passes
to the headwaters of the Yukon, remained during the short summer
season searching for gold, and then drifted down the river to take
passage on some ocean-going vessel bound for the States. A tew more
hardy or persistenl gold hunters would remain in the country during
the long winter, if they could secure employment, or their stock of
supplies warranted such a step, hut by far the greater Dumber were
content to enter and leave the country during the summer season.

Although gold had been discovered in Alaska previously to the
Klondike discovery in L897, aotably so in the vicinity of Circle City
and Fortymile River, it was not until that year that the prospects of
rich diggings were sufficiently good to encourage any hut the most
sanguine to undertake the journey into this land of terrible cold and
unknown difficulties and to endure the hardships inseparable from a
life iii this region in the search for the yellow metal. Bui the discov-
ery of the marvelously rich deposits of gold in the gravel beds of the
Klondike and its tributary streams sel the world aflame with excite-
ment. For upward of twenty years the reports of tin- presence of
gold in this region had somewhat prepared the public for the news of
George Carmack's rich strike on the Klondike; hut it is probable thai
no one foresaw the extent of the in jurat ion o f gold seekers into the

territory which followed.

So v. re;,t yvaS the nidi of people to t I H • newly discovered gold fields

that the trading companies found themselves utterly unable ;it lir-t to
move the immense amount of freighl and passengers which accumu-
lated as if by magic at every point on the river and its tributaries

Online LibraryUnited States. Revenue-Cutter ServiceReport of the operations of the U.S. revenue steamer Nunivak on the Yukon River station, Alaska, 1899-1901 → online text (page 1 of 34)