the commercial fishing industry is not at its height. In addition to
Ketchikan, Juneau, and Wrangell, Sitka and Petersburg have satis-
factory locations for pulp mills and could supply considerable
Since many of the trees in these virgin forests are either over-
mature or young timber, they could be relied on to supply a large
part of the wood for pulp mills. Other timber could be used as
shingles and piling. The overmature hemlock is 3 to 4 feet in di-
ameter and the spruce, 4 to 6 feet. But stands of nearly matured
young growth timber, varying from a few acres to several square
miles, are found throughout the region. These trees, ranging from
i to 2 feet in diameter, are from 90 to 1 50 feet high.
In the year preceding the United States' entry into the war,
37,972,000 board feet, with a stumpage value of $55,267 were cut
on the two national forests. The yield was tripled in the war years.
The total estimated stand is 84,760,000,000 board feet of timber,
so that the amount cut thus far is infinitesimal.
The national forests in Alaska were set apart from the public
domain and placed under supervision of the Forest Service for
development under methods to insure continuous forest produc-
tivity. The chief administrative officer is the regional forester with
headquarters in Juneau. Subordinate officers are located at Ketchi-
kan, Petersburg, Cordova, and Seward.
Regarding waterpower, a survey of the best known sites in
southeastern Alaska disclosed a potential year-round capacity of
800,000 horsepower. With an aggregate capacity of 28,000 horse-
power, 52 power sites had been developed by the first year of the
war and more than 40 were in use. The largest single power site
of record has a year-long capacity of 32,000 horsepower. In many
places, power from several sites can easily be concentrated at one
manufacturing plant. The regional forester is the Alaska representa-
tive of the Federal Power Commission.
The national forests are governed with the idea of putting every
resource to its best use. The use of large tracts of timber for wood
pulp or lumber should, however, require chief consideration in
the future. The stumpage for saw timber averages $1.50 a thousand
for spruce and $i for hemlock. Development of minor wood-using
l86 ALASKA TODAY
industries to relieve seasonal unemployment in Alaska is progress-
ing. Since the forests have extensive peat beds, many of them close
to shipping, the markets for peat moss have been investigated.
The national forests gave employment to workers who were
deprived of a means of livelihood when, for military reasons, fish-
ing, hunting, and trapping were curtailed in certain areas.
FOREST FIRE CONTROL
Alaska needs more money for adequate protection of its forests
from fire, especially in those areas north of the Panhandle. It would
seem that in lieu of sufficient Federal funds to carry on fire control,
the meager amount received from the sale of logs might be used
for patrols and means of combating forest fires. Frequently in the
past they have raged for long periods, being extinguished only by
unusually heavy rains or by streams wide enough to check the
flames. The Forest Service maintains a fire control setup supposed
to handle all fires within the two national forests, and because of
the heavy rainfall in most of this area, fire menace is at a minimum.
In fact, these timber stands have often been designated as "fire-
proof forests." In the Kenai Peninsula, fires are more of a problem
because the climate is drier. The National Park Service, controlling
the parks such as Mt. McKinley, the Glacier Bay National Park,
and the national monuments, has a certain amount of fire control
equipment, but its small personnel and the scattered areas leave
it inadequately prepared to cope with serious fires.
These are the only agencies in Alaska, other than the Alaskan
Fire Control Service, organized to handle fire control activities.
Some 323,000,000 acres of public domain lands are dependent on
the Alaskan Fire Control Service for safety, although not all of
this huge area is timbered. For years there were sporadic attempts
made to decrease the heavy losses of natural resources from fire,
but the vast size of Alaska, its small population, and its meager
communication and transportation facilities, combined to make
the task one of hardship and high cost. In 1924 the first serious
attempt was made by the General Land Office to establish fire
control in conjunction with the district land offices. Fire patrolmen
were employed for three to four months each season to patrol
This map of southeastern Alaska shows the principal tim-
ber, mineral-deposit, and commercial-fishing areas.
I 88 ALASKA TODAY
highways and lands adjacent to Anchorage, Fairbanks, and the
Alaska Railroad, but with inadequate funds the work was limited.
This type of fire organization was maintained through 1933 when
depression-forced economies wiped the Alaska fire control item
from the General Land Office budget.
From 1934 through 1938 by far the greater part of Alaska was
left to risk the ravages of fire. Large conflagrations occurred and
smoke-filled skies hampered air travel. In that period the regional
"The effects of fire far transcend in importance the combined
results of all other agencies which work toward the depletion of
the valuable land resources of the Territory. . . . Not uncom-
monly a fire will rage for many weeks and extend over hundreds
of square miles before being checked by barriers such as rivers or
by the coming of the fall rains. In 1935 a fire in the Kvichak River
section, burning for more than two months in brush, grass, tundra,
and scrub timber, covered an area estimated at 1,000 square miles,
eliminating wildlife of every sort. ..."
These serious losses finally stirred Washington into establishing
an Alaskan Fire Control Service under the General Land Office.
It was organized in July, 1939, with a budget of $37,500. This small
appropriation enabled the service to buy equipment, employ a few
persons, initiate a system of fire detection, and undertake a
limited amount of fire suppression activities. On April i, 1940, the
administration of all Civilian Conservation Corps activities on the
Alaskan public domain was transferred from the Forest Service to
the Alaskan Fire Control Service. The CCC, until its liquidation
in 1942, provided equipment and manpower, not otherwise avail-
able or possible under the limited annual funds which were reduced
to $27,000 in 1941.
In 1942, as a result of the war and Alaska's position in the Pacific
war theater, the Fire Control Service was granted some of the
emergency funds appropriated by Congress for protection of the
forests and strategic facilities of the United States. This additional
fund was continued through June, 1945, amounting to about $125,-
ooo a year. This sum, coupled with the regular appropriation of
$27,000, enabled the Fire Control Service to establish a skeleton
organization of year-long personnel which was supplemented dur-
ing the 6-month fire season with from 25 to 30 fire guards.
THE FOREST PRIMEVAL 189
Federal funds, as appropriated by Congress, are the only monies
available for fire control activities. The territory of Alaska does
not provide funds in any form. "Let her burn," is the attitude of
the Territorial legislature.
No complete records were kept by any organization of the an-
nual burned acreage prior to the 1940 fire season. That it was large
is plainly evident to any air traveler. Since 1940 the total burned
acreages have been: 1940, 4,500,000 acres; 1941, 3,654,774; 1942,
452,510; 1943,666,773; 1944, 110,603; 1945, 1 1 7, 3 1 4. This reduction,
representing millions of dollars of natural resources, demonstrated
what could be done even with comparatively small appropriations,
although the Alaskan Fire Control Service conceded that excep-
tionally wet summers for three years, coupled with co-operation
of all Federal and private agencies in Alaska, aided materially in
suppression of fires.
(Editor's note) Success in the long drive to establish a paper
pulp industry in Alaska finally came in August, 1948, when the
Forest Service announced it had accepted the bid of a west coast
company involving the cutting and processing of i billion 500
million cubic feet of timber from the Tongass National Forest
near Ketchikan. The contract was for fifty years. The bid was
from the Ketchikan Pulp and Paper Company, an affiliate of the
Puget Sound Pulp and Timber Company, Bellingham, Wash.
Under the agreement, a mill costing about 30 million dollars was
to begin at once. At peak production, the mill will have an output
of 500 tons a day and employ 1,200 workers.
CHAPTER I 6
DRAW UP a chair and listen to the oft-told tale of Alaska's
buried treasures, amended a bit to include postwar developments.
Thar's gold in them thar hills more of it known today than in
'98 when fifty thousand cheechakos from afar tried to find it.
The Northland's mineral wealth stirs the imagination of the
white-collar city worker, the Iowa farm boy, and even the old-
timer warming his toes near a radiator in Alaska's Pioneer Home.
He would like another chance! For every capitalist with banks and
movies, for every transportation executive with streamlined buses,
for every governor fighting outside vested interests for a few more
dollars in taxes, for every president of a land grant college strug-
gling to set Alaska on her feet in agriculture for every one of these,
there are a hundred hopefuls planning, prospecting, or digging in
the frozen soil for gold.
If it's not gold they're seeking, it could be titanium, zirconium,
rubidium, cesium, cerium, rhenium, molybdenum, platinum, or just
plain tin and copper. Almost all the elements for which commercial
use was developed during the war years have been found in Alaska.
In the search for strategic and critical minerals, engineers sur-
veyed Alaska's great mineral wealth on a wider scale than ever
before. They went into unexplored regions to seek ores vital to
the war effort, with the result that many new projects were opened
in the three-year period in which gold mining was suspended.
Toward the approach of V-E Day, however, mining for "colors"
was renewed under certain priorities; and on June 30, 1945, the
ban on gold mining was lifted, too late for much progress until
the following year.
In 1944 and 1945, there was some activity in the tin fields on
the Seward Peninsula, but production of this essential mineral was
not as great as demand seemed to warrant. Alaska is the only place
on the North American continent where tin is mined in any
Production of platinum, a highly strategic mineral, especially
for construction of aircraft parts, centers almost entirely in Alaska,
so far as this country is concerned. Platinum was first discovered
in the area of Goodnews Bay in 1927 by a native who excitedly
announced he had found white gold. A sample was sent to the
University of Alaska, where the true identity of the ore was deter-
mined. One company, the Goodnews Bay Mining Company, sit-
uated ten miles from the town of Platinum on Goodnews Bay,
north of Bristol Bay, mines about 90 per cent of the total recovered.
The camp, under the direction of Edward Ohlson, is a hustling
community with 20 miles of roads, modern homes for executives,
and smaller cottages for the miners. Movies and dances are regular
events; a bowling alley is another attraction, together with a library
for the miners' families. Quite different from the old days at Nome
when Tex Rickard, smoking a big black cigar, paced the floor of
his gambling hall with a sharp eye on his roulette dealers. Never-
Dredge of the Goodnews Bay Mining Company near Plati-
num, Alaska, where nearly all the platinum ore in the
United States is mined. (Courtesy Edward Ohlson.)
Investigated mining areas in Alaska Railroad belt: A
Anthracite Ridge; B Fairbanks; C Willow Creek; D Mt.
Eielson; E West Fork of Chulitna River; F Eureka and
vicinity; G Girdwood; H Valdez Creek; I Moose Pass
theless, modern methods pay. The camp has been producing
$1,000,000 in platinum annually. An 8-cubic-foot dredge handles
1,250,000 yards of platinum and gold-bearing ground. The com-
pany holds or leases 1 50 claims.
During the war, the mining of tungsten ore, used chiefly in
making high-grade steel, was also pushed. Mines at the southern
end of Alaska, that formerly were a moderate source of tungsten
ore, were reopened. An increased output of mercury was obtained
from Alaska deposits near Sleitmut in the central part of the
Kuskokwim district on the northern flanks of the Alaska Range
and, in a lesser degree, in other places.
One of the most interesting discoveries of the exploratory work
was the valuable deposit of jade in the Shungnak area of the Arctic.
So far as is known, this is the only place on the North American
continent, except a minor field in Wyoming, where jade, almost
exclusively a product of southern China, is found. Experts in rare
stones who have examined the Alaska product say it is of a good
type, not what is known as jadite. Although jade is marketed
largely as costume jewelry, tests made on the Shungnak deposit
determined it could be used in bearings for airplanes; therefore,
equipment for a complete laboratory to cut and grind the jade
was immediately forwarded to Shungnak.
The Arctic Circle Exploration Company, which discovered the
jade deposits, also found large quantities of tremolite asbestos, used
as a filtering agent for blood plasma. The supply in the United
States was almost exhausted at the time of the discovery. The
company reported that 25 tons were shipped out the first season,
and that the government was calling for full development of the
vein. Shipments were made from Shungnak to Fairbanks by plane
at transportation costs of $500 a ton.
Such enterprises as these show that Alaska has a large field for
development of mining aside from that of gold. It is known that
more than 1 50 commercially important metals exist in Alaska, but
many still lie as untouched resources. Deposits of mineral com-
modities, such as petroleum, marble, varite, graphite, gypsum, and
sulphur, which occur in Alaska, attracted minor attention in the
war years. An excellent bill to aid prospectors was introduced in
the seventeenth legislative session; it was passed by the House but
was killed by the Senate.
194 ALASKA TODAY
Governor Gruening and B. D. Stewart, Alaska's commissioner
of mines, have made strong pleas for funds to stimulate research
for minerals. Mr. Stewart said: "More extensive, better directed,
and better financed exploratory, prospecting, and development
activity is the primary need of the mining industry in Alaska. . . .
Too great a percentage of the efforts and resources of mining op-
erators is being devoted to the task of extracting mineral wealth
from developed sources and far too little to the search for new
"This problem is met in Canada by syndicates organized for
that purpose, and by mining companies. One maintains a corps of
experienced prospectors in widely scattered localities. The pros-
pectors are paid a salary and are assured of liberal cash purchase
prices, plus a share in any productive enterprises resulting from
their discoveries. The company maintains a fleet of airplanes, keep-
ing touch with the prospecting parties, supplying them with pro-
visions and equipment."
Despite such examples as described by Mr. Stewart, neither the
Federal nor Territorial government in Alaska has done enough to
encourage emulation of them.
The two main domestic coal fields are the Healy River mines in
the interior and the field at Matanuska, both served by the Alaska
Railroad. The largest amount of coal, but not the best, comes from
the Healy field on the northern slope of the Alaska Range. This
coal, used chiefly in the Fairbanks region, is a high-grade lignite,
adapted to generating power because it is relatively cheap. A large
interest in the mines is owned by Cap Lathrop, as well as by the
railroad. Healy, north of midway between Anchorage and Fair-
banks, is a growing community, the Alaska Railroad having just
completed a new hotel, cottages, and repair shops at a cost of nearly
The Matanuska fields, with a railroad spur running to the mines,
yield 1,000 tons daily of high-grade bituminous coal. Located less
than 50 miles from Anchorage, the mines are highly profitable
because of the short haul to market. Recently, a vein producing
500 tons daily, and indicating millions of tons, was opened. The
seam is 2 miles long and 1 2 feet deep. Above it is a second vein, 5
feet thick and approximately the same length. The new coal, part
of the Evan Jones property, is 25 per cent higher in heat units than
Alaska Juneau gold mine, one of the largest low-grade gold-
ore mines in the world. Its unique feature is that the shafts
go up instead of down.
that formerly mined, and leaves only 8 per cent ash, compared to
a former 1 6 per cent.
In addition, small properties throughout Alaska are in various
stages of development. One of them is in the Costello Creek region
in the southern foothills of the Alaska Range, west of Broad Pass,
a railroad stop. For years small supplies of coal have been taken in
the Homer area. At Wainwright on the Arctic Coast, coal is mined
by the natives with a pick and wheelbarrow, practically at ground
level. Recently, under direction of Don C. Foster, director of the
Native Service, this mine has been improved by tunneling and by
imported machinery. In the summer of 1945, about 200 Eskimos
were engaged in working the mine with the result that sufficient
coal was obtained not only for the immediate vicinity, but also for
Barrow and other distant native settlements. It was hauled by dog-
team or tractor-drawn sleds.
A small amount of coal is mined in the Yukon Valley. Many
196 ALASKA TODAY
small strip properties were uncovered in the building of the Alaska
Highway. There is also some coal on the Alaska Peninsula. The
situation as a whole is that Alaska not only has enough coal for
present needs in the vicinity of the various coal-mining properties,
but could also produce it in sufficient quantities to ship coal to
southeastern Alaska, where most of the people live. The problem
of inadequate transportation, at present blocking such a move,
could be solved by a good ferry system from Haines now reached
by highway. The Alaska Railroad is not especially active in pro-
ducing a good ferry system.
Among other Alaska mineral products prized in the war effort
was lead. Because it comes as a by-product of ores mined for their
gold, a number of gold mines that otherwise might have been closed
were allowed to continue. Quantities of lead come from the huge
Alaska Juheau mine which, during most of the war era, continued
operating at about one-fifth its capacity. In 1944, however, it dis-
continued work entirely rather than meet a requested wage in-
crease of 14 cents an hour. In the spring of 1946, these differences
between the management and the miners' union (AFL) were ad-
justed and Alaska Juneau got under way again. Normally, it em-
ploys more than i ,000 workers.
Mining in Alaska ranks as the second industry. Eventually, it
may again assume first place over the fishing and canning industry,
for fish to a large degree are governed by nature and mining by
man. Lode and placer mining of gold still hold first place, despite
all the development in other fields. At present, about 7,000 persons
find seasonal employment in mines, compared to approximately
18,000 in fisheries.
While hundreds of Alaska's residents engage in mining on their
own and thousands of others obtain seasonal employment, a large
percentage of the gold mining is in the hands of big companies
controlled by nonresidents. There is, however, considerable local
capital in the Alaska Juneau mine, the largest quartz mine in Alaska
as well as one of the largest low-grade gold ore mines in the world.
Its stock on the New York exchange has been selling at about $9
a share. The mine is unusual because its shafts go up from the base
into the mountain, instead of down.
In the Fairbanks area, several local companies operate dredges
and draglines for placer gold mining where large-scale operations
This old sourdough is panning the precious yellow metal
in the swift current of a mountain stream in the Yukon
country. While this form of gold mining is comparatively
rare, it is not entirely obsolete in the Northland. (Courtesy
Canadian Pacific Railway.)
198 ALASKA TODAY
are carried on by the Fairbanks Exploration Company, a subsidiary
of the United States Smelting, Refining and Alining Company. The
latter has little Alaska capital involved. It has, however, plenty of
influence in Alaska's legislature and does not hesitate to use it.
Stripped of most of the glamor of gold-rush days, mining for
"colors" in Alaska recently has been chiefly an organized business.
But there is nothing to prevent individuals or small groups from
going out after gold on their own if they want to. There is still
some of the old-time color in remote camps; sensational strikes,
however, are rare. The picturesque Alaska prospector, panning
gold in the creeks, has been missing for years. Now huge dredges
are used for digging creek and river beds. Bulldozers slash away
the topsoil; steam drills push down to bedrock so that pipes can
be easily driven to flush the subsoil with water for thawing. Hy-
draulic pressure streams play on the big gravel banks in strip mining,
washing out low-grade muck that yields gold and by-products.
Labor troubles have been few since 1941, when there was a
strike of United States Smelting employees. The CIO, under the
leadership of W. A. Rasmussen, became firmly intrenched and
extracted favorable terms for its workers. Living conditions of
the miners have been greatly improved. Many men who pros-
pected and mined for themselves are now willing to work in estab-
lished mines for good w r ages and at fixed hours. In normal times
it is not too difficult to get help, but early in 1946 employers were
struggling to line up men for the rush that was expected after the
long suspension of gold mining.
Now there are no stampedes or marathon "runs" to stake a
claim; no fabulous Wilson Mizner's staging prize fights and barroom
shows for spendthrift miners; no dollar-a-dance girls; no $6 a
dozen eggs. But since the days of the Klondike and Nome gold
rushes, forty-odd years ago, the -working of known gold deposits
and the search for new ones have gone on continuously. While
Alaska does not yield its yellow metal so spectacularly 'as before,
it surrenders the gold in almost as great a quantity as during the
hell-raising days; and, of course, gold brings a much higher price
an ounce than it did in 1898.
The total value of minerals from Alaska mines in the year before
the war was $26,791,000. Gold accounted for 91 per cent. But in
the war years, shipments of gold and silver ores amounted only
Thawing the frozen gravel beds by means of cold-water
pipes driven into the ground for many feet. This process
permits the big dredge to go to work.
to about $2,000,000 annually. Other minerals used in the war were
not listed in the foreign trade figures. Since 1880, the start of
official records, approximately $860,000,000 has been taken out
of Alaska in minerals. Including the minerals used for war pur-
poses, the value to date has been $ i ,000,000,000.
Alaska gold comes from two types of deposits placer and lode.
In placer mining, gold is recovered from gravel or other uncon-
solidated deposits; in lodes, it occurs in the solid rock or vein
matter. Placer mining, widely scattered, formerly supplied twice
as much gold as was obtained from lode mines. The greater part
of the lode gold comes from southeastern Alaska, near Junsau and
on Chichagof Island, with the Willow Creek district, fifty miles
northwest of Anchorage, next in yield.
Development of Willow Creek and other areas along the line
was promoted by the Alaska Railroad to increase tonnage. Congress
voted $250,000 for reconnaissance in these and other sections near
the railroad, the grant being made to the geological survey with
Dr. Philip S. Smith as its representative. Ten selected projects in-
volved the examination of two localities valuable for coal: Anthra-
200 ALASKA TODAY