William Healey Dall.

The Yukon Territory : the narrative of W.H. Dall, leader of the expeditions to Alaska in 1866-1868 : the narrative of an exploration made in 1887 in the Yukon district by George M. Dawson : extracts from the report of an exploration made in 1896-1897, by Wm. Ogilvie online

. (page 1 of 41)
Online LibraryWilliam Healey DallThe Yukon Territory : the narrative of W.H. Dall, leader of the expeditions to Alaska in 1866-1868 : the narrative of an exploration made in 1887 in the Yukon district by George M. Dawson : extracts from the report of an exploration made in 1896-1897, by Wm. Ogilvie → online text (page 1 of 41)
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MADE IN 1896— 1897 BY Wm. OGILVIE, D.L.S., F.R.G.S.




DOWNEY ^ CO. Limited




[The publishers thankfully acknowledge the permission granted by the High
Commissioner for the Dominion of Canada to print Parts II. and
III. of this volume.']


/"^ REAT public interest during the past six months has
^-^ been directed to that remote territory in the North-West
corner of the continent of North America which may be geo-
graphically described under "the comprehensive term of the
Yukon Territory. And in the succeeding pages will be found
all the information of economic and scientific value that so
far has been gathered on the spot, and prepared for publica-
tion by trained and responsible observers acting in an official

In San Francisco last spring the present writer had the
advantage of meeting a number of times with practical men —
miners and prospectors — from the Yukon, who had come South
for the winter season and were then returning northwards.
Some of them were men known previously to the writer in
Colorado and in other Western mining districts, but who
since then had drifted off towards the arctic circle, in the roving
manner characteristic of Western miners.

Comparing the accounts of the Yukon country given to me
by these with what is set out in the chapters following here, I
find there is little that can profitably be added.

The gold discoveries that have attracted so much attention
have been made on some of the smaller tributaries of the main
Yukon River. Dawson City settlement is the centre of the
trading and supply point of this district. This place, as the



map shows, is in Canadian territory, and not very far from the
point where the Yukon River is crossed by the international
boundary Hne.

The range from which the gold-bearing side-streams come
down to join the Yukon may be described as the arctic prolonga-
tion of the fundamental range of the continent of America ; a
range dotted at intervals, greater or less, with gold and silver
camps from Klondyke to Cape Horn. The source of the Yukon
gold is a significant point, as the permanent character of the
mineral-bearing lodes of the Rocky Mountains (as the range is
known north of Mexico) has been so long and thoroughly
established wherever they have been uncovered — though as far
as information goes, the fountain head, the mother lode of the
Klondyke placers, remains to be discovered yet.

This mother lode, unless all precedents fail, will be found
somewhere up the mountain sides towards the sources of
these same streams the placers have been formed on, or on
the summits of the range.

The placers in the valleys have been formed by the gathering
through long ages of fragments detached from exposed portions
of permanent reefs ; by weathering or water action — the gold
finding its way slowly to the lowest level.

In this connection it is worth perhaps recalling — as some
persons have seen in these rich Klondyke discoveries a possible
solution of the present deadlock in the commercial ratio
between gold and silver — that the uncovering of placer gold has
sometimes in the Rocky Mountains led to the uncovering of
silver-bearing ores, instead of gold, by prospectors seeking for
the mother lode. A notable instance of this is the great silver
camp at Leadville, originally a gold placer camp ; and other
cases might be cited.

A question asked sometimes, but not often answered, is. How
does gold come in these veins ? how are they formed ?


An answer to this interesting question comes from China^
where philosophers long ago have solved the problem to their
satisfaction by a theory which if it has no other merit has that
at least of novelty. My authority here is a Chinaman, a
trader, and a man of education whom I used to know in Idaho.

Our planet's centre (so Chinese professors hold) is full of
molten gold, and whenever any orographic catastrophe in the
past has occurred of magnitude sufficient to fracture the earth's
crust right down to the seething molten mass below, some of
the gold is squeezed out to the surface through the cracks.

This theory though crude is plausible, and simple.

Since the Klondyke " rush " set in a great deal has been
written descriptive of the difficulties and the hardships to be
encountered, and probably these have not been exaggerated.
But the story of all big " gold rushes,^' and of many small ones,
too, has been of hardships to be faced in the preliminary struggle.
Only in days gone by there was less known to the outside
civilized world of what was happening. In these latter days it
is different, and now an increase of knowledge is apt to be
confounded with an increase of facts.

Still, there does remain the severity of the Arctic winters,
which must always be a drawback, though in the end this
drawback will mean nothing more serious perhaps than a slower
development. The climate of the Yukon Basin proper, in its
upper half, that is in the share of it which falls within the
Canadian Dominion, is in marked contrast to the climate of
the seaboard.

This interior country has a comparatively dry and clear
atmosphere, with a limited precipitation, though here the cold
is intense. Along the sea front of the Coast Range, on the
other hand, the conditions are reversed completely as to mois-
ture, and the degree of cold is by comparison quite moderate.

In the lower or Western half of the Yukon Basin a gradual


increase of precipitation marches with the fall of the land
westward towards the river's mouth.

Communication with that section which has made so much
stir, is kept up at present under difficulties.

At its mouth, the Yukon River is navigable for a very short
period — from the beginning of July to the end of September ;
but on its upper part it is navigable from May until the middle
of October. Travellers seeking the easiest route go by steamer
during the open season from one or other of the ports on the
Pacific Coast to St. Michael's on Behring Sea, near the Yukon
mouth, transferring there to river steamers which make the
trip to Dawson City, distant some sixteen hundred miles. The
duration of the river trip depends sorhewhat on the risks and
chances of the river navigation.

The route of which most has been heard since the rush first
started is one by trails across the Coast Range at the Chilcat
and neighbouring passes, starting from tide-water at the head
of the Lynn Canal, as an arm there of the sea is known.

The advantage of this route is its shortness, and once the
Coast Range difficulties have been passed, the head-waters of
streams navigable for boats flowing to the Yukon are quickly
reached. Down these the trip is continued, going with the
stream all the way to Dawson City, and without serious
obstacles other than portages at several points necessitated by
dangerous rapids. The distance, as measured in miles, from
tide-water on the Lynn Canal across these passes to the head of
navigation, is small, but the difficulties to be overcome at the
crossing of the passes make the trip a serious undertaking,
until some very necessary engineering outlay has been made
upon the trails.

But the route said to be the coming main route to the
interior, and one growing already in favour in spite of the
primitive conditions of the trail, is that entering by the


Stikine River ; a very full description of the features along the
course of which river is given in Dr. Dawson's itinerary, starting
from Fort Wrangel at the river's mouth.

Arrangements are reported to have been completed for open-
ing up this route by the building of a railway from the head of
navigation on the Stikine to the head of steam navigation on
the Lewes, this being one of the main Yukon branches, — the
length of the gap to be filled being about two hundred miles.

The Stikine Valley climate contrasts phenomenally with that
of the interior. The mean annual temperature in the Dawson
City region being as low as i6° Fahrenheit, while at Wrangel,
near the Stikine mouth, 47° Fahrenheit is given as the corre-
sponding figure.

So favoured indeed is the Stikine Valley, that, on his trip
through there, Dr. Dawson met with the humming-bird.

F. Mortimer Trimmer.
Febi'uary, 1898.




Travels on the Yukon and in the Yukon Territory in

1866-1868, BY W. H. Dall I


Extracts from the Report on an Exploration made in
1887 IN the Yukon Territory, N.W.T., and adjacent
Northern Portion of British Columbia, by George
M. Dawson, D.S., F.G.S 243


Extracts from the Report of an Exploration made in

1896-1897 by Wm. Ogilvie, D.L.S., F.R.G.S. . . 383

Index 424



Dog Driving near thcVasolia Sopka ...... Frontispiece

St. Michael's Redoubt To face 1 1

Diagram of Innuit Topek . . . . . . . . , -13

Bidarra ..............15

Bidarka .............. 15

Interior of Fort Darabin, from above ........ 46

Nulato and the Yukon from the Bkiflfs ........ 47

Wolasatux barrabora in winter . . . . . . . . '65

The Koyukuk Sopka from above ....... To face 77

Pipes 81

Tohonidola ............. 82

Mount Hohonila from the Melozikakat ........ 84

Looking out of Nowikakat Harbour 87

The Twin Mountains from the Melozikakat Mouth .... To face 93

Young Nuklukahyet tyone .......... 94

Nose Ornament of the Yukon Indians ........ 95

In the Ramparts . 96

Looking back at the Rapids 97

Looking back at the end of the Ramparts ..... To face 100

Fort Yukon in June, 1867 103

Knife of Kutchin manufacture .......... 105

Sakhniti 107

Red Leggins . To face no

Diagram of Innuit casine . . . . . . . . . .127

Kegiktovvruk in the fall To face 128

Toponika and Tolstoi Point from the Sound „ 130

Ingalik grave 132

Lobrets and Earrings 140

Amulets ......•'...••• 141

Bone needle-case 142

Innuit fire drill ' . .142

Pigulka '• 143

Innuit grave 146

Innuit fish-hook and sinkar 148



Innuit sled of Norton Sound .
Hudson Bay sled, loaded
Ingalik sled of the Yukon
Jearny's barrabora ...
Yukon grouse snare
Different kinds of snow shoes .
Snow goggles of the Yukon Indians
Site of Kwikhtana barrabora .
. Lofka's barrabora ...
Klan-ti-lin-ten . . . ,

Kantags and wooden ladle
Anvik Stareek
Indian pottery ' .
Ingalik birch canoe
First PremCrska village .
Ekogmut grave
Ekogmut bow

Village on the Lower Yukon during the fishing
Andreaffsky ....

KuUik . . . .

The Emperor goose . ' - .

Ivory bodkin . * .

Seine needle . * .

Innuit drawings on bone .

On the Upper Felly River, nineteen miles above the Macniillan

Junction of Forty Mile and Yukon Rivers

Tahl-tan Valley, at Trail Crossing .

J. Le Duis House — Sixty Mile post

Dease River above "First Lake," looking west

Lake Lindeman, looking up from Outlet .

White Horse Rapids ....

Miles Canon ......

Junction of Forty'Mile and Yukon Rivers (left-hand view)
Junction of Forty Mile and Yukon Rivers (right-hand view)
The Frozen Yukon, from Dawson City ....

To face
To fac>

To face











Arrival in Norton Sound. — Circumstances of previous visit. — News of the death of
Robert Kennicott. — Change of plans. — Receive my appointment as Director of
the Scientific Corps, and determine to remain in the country. — Landing, organiza-
tion, and departure of the vessels. — Departure of the Wilder for Unalaklik. —
Russian peechka. — St. Michael's Redoubt and Island. — Russian traders. — Ste-
panoff. — Natives and their houses. — Skin boats. — Departure from the Redoubt.

— Journey to Unalaklik. -— Detention at Kegiktowruk. — Seal-hunting. — Innuit
graves. — Bath as enjoyed by the Innuit. — Character of the coast. — Depar-
ture from Kegiktowruk. — Topanika. — Arrival off the mouth of the river. — Ice-
cakes. — Arrival at Unalaklik. — Cockroaches. — Native clothing. — Descrip-
tion of the post and village. — Deficiency of medical supplies. — Departure for
Nulato via Ulukuk. — Iktigalik and its inhabitants. — Telegraph stew. — Escape
of dogs and return to Unalaklik. — Russian baths. — Disagreeable trip to Iktigalik.

— All gone on my arrival. — Second return to Unalaklik. — Impromptu theatricals.

— Departure for Ulukuk. — Deserted village. — Arrival at Ulukuk. — Springs. —
Transportation of goods. — Arrival of Mike with the brigade from Nulato. — De-
parture for Nulato. — Parhelia. — Mysterious caterpillar. — First view of the Yu-
kon. — Arrival at Nulato.

ON the 24th of September, 1866, the clipper ship Nightin-
gale came to anchor half a mile southeast of Egg Island,
Norton Sound.

A driving storm from the north and northeast obscured the
atmosphere, and covered the deck with an inch or two of half-
melted snow and hail. The waves were yellow with sediment,
churned up by their own violence, and the very white-caps had
a sullied look which spoke of shallow water. We were drawing
nineteen feet, with a rise and fall of the waves of at least twelve
feet more, and the breeze was freshening. This did not leave
a very large margin under the keel, and the well-known rapidity
with which a north wind will diminish the depth of water in
the Sound, sometimes making a difference of a fathom in the
course of a few hours, added to the anxiety of our ship's officers.
Our indefatigable commander. Captain Scammon, was seriously
ill. Altogether, the circumstances attending our arrival in the
vicinity of Redoubt St. Michael's were not propitious.


~" A little more than a year before, we had visited this point in
the bark Golden Gate. We left a party to make the prelimi-
nary explorations, previous to deciding on the line on which it
was proposed to build the international telegraph. This party
was under the command of the Director of the Scientific Corps,
Robert Kennicott, whose previous experience in the Hudson Bay
Territory to the westward had fitted him above all others to fill
the arduous post of commander of the explorations in Russian
America. Several members of the Scientific Corps were of his
party, and to their combined labors we looked hopefully for a
solution of the problem of the identity of the Yukon River with
the so-called Kwikhpak of the Russians. This identity was
stoutly upheld by Mr. Kennicott, though persistently denied by
many, who looked upon the so-called Colvile River, flowing into
the Arctic Ocean, as the true mouth of the Yukon, while they
considered the Kwikhpak as a distinct river. The question was
regarded as uncertain by all. Information received from the
Russians, however, soon put the matter beyond a doubt, and
we looked to Mr. Kennicott and his party as the favored few who-
were to pass the terra incognita between the limit of Russian
explorations and the Hudson Bay Territory, and thus complete
the exploration of the Lower Yukon.

Though their equipment was not such as we could have wished,
and though grave doubts prevailed as to the value of a miniature
steamer, of which much had been expected, still we left all of them
in the highest spirits, and with the heartiest wishes for their
success, as we sailed slowly away from Stuart Island, September
17, 1865.

During the year which had passed many changes had taken
place in the organization of the Expedition. No word had been
received from the party even through the Russian mail, which is
carried overland from St. Michael's every winter to Nushergak
and thence by sea to Sitka.

Various detentions kept the vessels of the fleet lying in San
Francisco Bay long after they should have reached the shores of
Bering Sea, and it was only in the month of July that the Expe-
dition finally set sail. We had been lying in Plover Bay several
weeks, during which time a rumor had reached us that an explor-
ing party had been at Grantley Harbor during the winter, and that


one member of the party had been badly frost-bitten. All were
supposed to be alive and well.

Now that we had again come within reach of our friends and
companions, our anxiety may be imagined. The state of the
weather and our distance from St. Michael's, almost twelve miles,
prevented our landing in a body. A boat with two officers was
despatched late in the afternoon, but the distance and the still
increasing storm forbade us to expect their return that night.

My own impatience was so great that I soon abandoned the
attempt to sleep, and accompanied the officer of the deck in his
inclement night-watch, pacing up and down in the rain and
sleet ; and I almost fancied that there was something derisive in
the whistle of the wind through the rigging and insulting in the
masses of slush which the swaying cordage occasionally threw in
our faces.

The next morning the storm continued with little abatement.
About noon we saw the steamer George S. Wright, which we
knew had arrived with the commander of the expedition a day or
two before, getting up steam behind the point of Stuart Island.
About four o'clock in the afternoon she came out and anchored
under the lee of Egg Island near us, and we soon saw a boat put
off from her. Every glass was pointed at her, and every eye was
strained for a glimpse of some familiar face ; but the long hair and
beards, the unfamiliar deer-skin dresses and hoods defied recog-

Pressing forward to the gangway, as the first man came over
the side, my first question was, " Where is Kennicott ? " and the
answer, " Dead, poor fellow, last May," stunned me with its sudden
anguish. I stayed to hear no more, but went to my cabin as
one walks in a dream.

So he was gone, that noble, impetuous, but tender-hearted man,
who had been to me and many others as more than a brother !
During the past two years many had had bitter controversies with
him, but all felt and expressed their grief at his untimely death.
He was one who made enemies as well as friends, but even ene-
mies could not but respect the purity of motive, the open-handed
generosity, the consideration, almost too great, for his subor-
dinates, and the untiring energy and lively spirits which were
the prominent characteristics of the man.


The details of his explorations and death will be found else-
where. His body had been tenderly cared for, brought down the
Yukon from the point where he died, placed in a vault at the
Redoubt, and was to be taken home in charge of Mr. Charles
Pease, who had been his friend from boyhood, and Mr. H. M.
Bannister, both members of the Scientific Corps. This would
leave the Corps without a single representative in the whole of
Russian America north of Sitka.

My own plan had been, to explain the operations of the Corps
during the past year to Mr. Kennicott, and if approved by him
to cross to the Siberian side and obtain such information and col-
lections as opportunity might offer, and especially to determine
by the barometer the height of the different volcanoes for which
Kamchatka is renowned.

Under the circumstances, however, and considering the infor-
mation in regard to North American natural history and geology
more important than that relating to the other continent, I re-
solved to remain at St. Michael's or in the valley of the Yukon
during the ensuing season. I determined to use my best energies
to complete the scientific exploration of the northwest extremity
of the continent, as it had been planned by Mr. Kennicott, and
which comprised the exploration of, —

First, the region between Fort Yukon, at the junction of the
Yukon and the Porcupine, and Nulato, the most eastern Russian
post on the former river ;

Second, the region between Nulato and the sea, westward across
the portage, and south by way of the Yukon to the sea ; and, —

Lastly, the whole region bordering on Norton Sound and the
sea to the north and south of it.

Toward this considerable collections and many observations
had been made at St. Michael's, but little had been done in
other parts of the country.

Captain Charles S. Bulkley, U. S. A., Engineer-in-chief of
the Expedition, having signified his desire that I should succeed
Mr. Kennicott as Director of the Scientific Corps, and learning
that I desired to remain in the country, ordered me to act as
Surgeon in general charge of the district between Bering Strait
and the Yukon. I submitted my plans for the scientific opera-
tions of the coming year to him, and they met with his entire


Great expedition was necessary in making my preparations.

The continued north wind began to tell on the depth of water
in the Sound, and on Saturday we grounded with every swell.
Luckily the bottom here is an impalpable soft mud, without any
stones, otherwise the old Nightingale would have left her bones
there ; and as it was, every few moments she came thumping
down, with a severity that shook everything, from truck to

The following morning it cleared off, and those who were
to remain took their seats in a large scow loaded with coal, which
was to be towed ashore by the steamer Wilder. The Wilder was
one of two small stern-wheel steamers, built in San Francisco,
and brought up on the deck of the Nightingale, designed for
river navigation. They were shaped much like an old-fashioned
flat-iron, and were just about as valuable for the purposes
required ; being unable to tow anything, or to carry any freight,
while in a breeze of any strength it was no easy matter to steer

Sitting pensively on the larger lumps of coal, we had ample
opportunity of studying the defects of our tug, and it became an
interesting matter as to what we should do if she should break
down before reaching shore, as seemed likely. A cold and
extremely penetrating rain gave us a foretaste of the concom-
itants of exploration, and rendered our departure anything but
romantic. Indeed, I could not help thinking that we bore much
more resemblance to a party of slaves eji route for the galleys, as
Victor Hugo describes them, than to a party of young and ardent
explorers, defying the powers of winter, and only anxious for an
opportunity to exhibit our prowess.

We finally arrived in safety at the landing, near the Russian
trading-post of St. Michael. Having pocketed some biscuit, I
was provisioned, and, picking out a soft plank in a back room,
I rolled myself in a blanket, and after some difficulty got to sleep.
The rain continued ; the Russians were holding an orgie, with
liquor obtained from the vessels ; the dogs howled nearly all
night ; the roof leaked, not water, but fine volcanic gravel, with
which it was covered. If this is a sample of the country, I
thought, it is not prepossessing !

On rising in the morning I found, as might be expected, that


I was likely to feel for some time the effect of my new style of
bed in a way that was anything but agreeable.

On Monday, the ist of October, 1866, the Nightingale sailed
for Plover Bay. All was activity on shore, preparing the Wilder
and all available boats for a trip to Unalaklik, the seaboard
terminus of the portage to the Yukon, at the mouth of the Una-
laklik River. My friend, Mr. Whymper, the genial and excellent
• artist of the expedition, proposed to leave for Unalaklik on the

The work of construction and exploration had been divided.
The larger number of men, and the work to be done in the region
west of the Yukon, had been placed in charge of Mr. W. IT.
Ennis and several assistants. Here the work of exploration had
been mainly finished, and construction, exclusive of putting up
the wires, was to be immediately commenced.

The work of exploration and future construction, to the north
and east of Nulato on the Yukon, was intrusted to Mr. F. E.

Online LibraryWilliam Healey DallThe Yukon Territory : the narrative of W.H. Dall, leader of the expeditions to Alaska in 1866-1868 : the narrative of an exploration made in 1887 in the Yukon district by George M. Dawson : extracts from the report of an exploration made in 1896-1897, by Wm. Ogilvie → online text (page 1 of 41)