30. Bering Lake to Seattle

August 28, 2011

The 1905 US Geological Survey trip to Alaska inspired Hayes with natural beauty and disgusted him with human folly.  By the end of the trip, the generally mild, hard working young man from Oregon finds himself pushed too far by a shirker named Small under the protection of the trip’s leaders Martin and Maddren.  Hayes did not break his hand, and Small couldn’t see through swollen eyes to strike back with the axe he grabbed – but Hayes knows this will be his last USGS trip to Alaska.

The map below won’t appear in an email.  The current chapter appears as the green path down from Alaska, preceded by the blue  up to Alaska, and followed by the short (funny) pink path around Northern Washington State.

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Click here to download chapters 1-30 on Google Earth.  

Here and There Synopsis:

30.1 Wolverines and Colonialists

August 12, 1905

To this far place in Alaska come newspapers from Seattle in which Brooks “somewhat drew a long bow.” Hayes reads with interest about Brooks and Martin exploring the ice fields, climbing mountains, and rowing in swift water and ocean breakers – why, he even describes shooting white water with Martin. “Strange, but I was not mentioned at all. But I do wish the reading public could have seen Messrs. Brooks and martin walking down the bank while I turned the nose of the boat upstream and shot the water all alone… Martin doesn’t mention this article to me.”

Hayes is up Canyon creek cooking for Hill and McDonald who are surveying around the nearby ranges. The rest of the survey team remains camped near Behring Lake. They’ve measured a 47 square mile coal area east of Copper River flats. If these rich fields are to be exploited, a deepwater port must be located; a coast and geodetic survey boat sounds Controller Bay while the survey team works.

Unloading on the immense flats along the coast can be quite dangerous. Once while lining a boat against the rip tide, quicksand sucked Martin in to his waist. Hayes and Hamilton got to him on oars and the false bottom of the boat, literally pulling him out of his boots. (Hopefully not the ones in the picture in segment 28.) “He was covered with mud and slime, and was badly frightened. Martin is always having marvelous adventures.”

In the hills, Hayes encounters a new animal, “a fairly formidable beast called a carcajou, or wolverine.”

Carcajou or Wolverine

Wolverines are the curse of trappers. “One will follow a trap line for miles destroying bait, springing traps, eating any fox or marten in a trap and will rob a cache, spraying a frightful scent over such goods as he may not eat.” A member of the skunk family, “the Indians say they can whip a bear.”

Hayes’ comments on colonialism are contradictory and always fascinating. On this date he writes a long rant beginning, “The Indians are better than white men. They never steal from us, are quiet, mind their own affairs, but are debauched by the renegade whites who have brought drink and disease that is rapidly wiping out the entire people.” Noting that still habitable native houses stand empty near the beaches, he continues, “So it is and always has been before the Anglo-Saxon. He decimates the people aboriginal to the countries he conquers by whiskey, by debauching their womenfolk and by crowding them all off into corners considered worthless, where they lose heart and soon perish.” Then he goes on about how the Spaniards enslaved the Mexicans and South Americans – inadvertently hardening them for survival – and the methods of the Catholic church: conversion followed by execution to prevent backsliding. He ends with, “The Anglo-Saxon is not so concerned about the native’s soul, but does get everything else he has.”

30.2 Naming Berg Lake

August 30,1905

Hayes together with some in the survey party “have crossed the range to Behring Glacier, where there is a log cabin beside the ice field and where we can see away into infinity across the ice. It is the most majestic scene I have ever witnessed.” On days of unusual clarity long comet tails of windblown snow can be seen howling off Mounts St. Elias and Logan more than one hundred miles distant but looking more like ten.

Mt. St. Elias

Mt. Logan

Martin is “chary” of christening the unnamed peaks nearby; he’s afraid “He might offend the powers that be in Washington if he did.” Already such luminaries as Foraker, Dall, and Tillman – all men in positions to give Martin his job – denominate peaks nearby.

Maddren, the fossil collector, not so chary as Martin, names a small lake half a mile below their cabin Berg Lake. “Martin received his subordinate’s decision with shrieks of silence, and it was felt by all assembled here.” Martin’s reaction aside, the name seems apt. Every night gigantic bergs break off the glacier thundering into the lake sometimes roaring for minutes on end when successive bergs break from the main mass of ice.

30.3 Winter Coming

September 6, 1905

Now Hayes and several others are camped, “high above the gorge of Canyon Creek and at the timberline.” In early September this high up, winter approaches. “Daily the snow line creeps down the big range to the north of us, and in a few days will be at the ice fields for the winter.” Returning up the hill from a hike to the main camp for supplies, Hayes saw that wolverine tracks covered his own downward footprints on the entire path.

September 10,1905

A foot of snow has fallen and the college boys “take it good naturedly.” Some of the prospectors are clearing out for the winter, carrying one hundred pound packs down the rugged mountains. Hayes’ main concern is keeping the large outfit fed. He must pack in food from base camp a thousand feet below, “and it keeps me humming to feed them and get food in. They don’t seem to realize it either.”

30.4 Back at Berg Lake

September 26, 1905

Hayes and company return the cabin above Berg Lake for the geologists to mop up work here. “Nightly now the bergs break off the glacier with tremendous roarings, and the grinding after, when the newly born berg grinds among its fellows, is awesome to hear.” New ice an inch thick forms on the lake at night only to be broken to bits every time a new chunk of ice breaks from the main sheet. Hayes speculates that, “It must be this lake that sometimes breaks out down Behring river and floods the entire country.”

Berg Lake breaking down the gorge in 1956

Hayes laughs at the engineers who all carry gold watches they love to show off to the impoverished miners. But when anyone wants to know the correct time, they all ask Hayes who owns a dollar Ingersoll whose timekeeping improved after falling to the floor where it was stepped on by some heavy Alaskan in hob-nailed boot.

30.5 “Too bad one has to have trouble.”

October 5, 1905

The reader will recall a member of the survey party named Small who was hired in the same cook/handyman capacity to the crew as Hayes. For the past several months Small, under the protection of the topographer Maddren, has been shirking his duties and bullying Hayes. Maddren has convinced Martin that Hayes is responsible for shortages of food – when Maddren himself took a good bit from Hayes’ allotment. “Other than these three, Martin, Maddren, and Small, I get on well with the rest of the crowd.”

These very three, Martin, Maddren, and Small, moved together with Hayes, “up river to another camp, where are some miners coming and going, together with their Indian packers.” Feeling covered by Martin and Maddren, Small began berating Hayes before some of the miners packing out. “We came to blows a couple of mornings since, and Small is in bed with both eyes shut, while I have a badly smashed left hand. Small lead with his nose, breaking my thumb, but it was worth it. Martin rushed to the rescue of his protégé, who got an axe, but could not see to use it.”

The “grizzled miners” readily size up the situation and the two men. One asks Small, “What’s the matter with your eye? Limb strike it?” (Hayes’ quote.) Small, in reply: “Yes, Struck me right hin the heye!” (Hayes’ quote.) Then the grim faced Alaskan glancing at his mates: “Gee! Must have give you a hell of a lick!” (Hayes’ quote.) But Martin cannot immediately judge the situation fairly, “He promises to see me out of the country, has already secured the services of a Chilean in case.”

After a couple of days with Hayes doing all the “slop-up jobs” and Small recovering his sight, Martin, Maddren, and the two combatants rejoined the main party at Behring Lake. When the rest of the crew “proclaimed their joy at Small’s take down,” Martin finally realized he’d “backed the wrong horse.” One of the company, Billy Hill went so far as to quote scripture “Behold, he that seeketh earnestly shall find!” (Hayes’ quote.) All but the two bosses had seen Small’s bullying and are glad Hayes evened the score.

30.6 An Apology of Sorts

October 10, 1905

With winter coming in earnest the entire crew waits at Wingham Island for the steamer Excelsior.

Steamer Excelsior

Martin has apologized for his attitude but Hayes sees only a feeble attempt to pick the strongest side: all in the party except Maddren back Hayes, and Martin wants to appear their leader. “Small tried to smirk and make up, but I turned from him.” Hamilton or maybe some of the rodmen from among the college students are all right, but as for the rest, “[I] never want to see any of them again.”

30.7 Sitka

October 14,1905

The survey party barely made the Excelsior, rowing out in a blinding gale. Once aboard Hayes found a cache of apples and pears under the pillow in his four-man cabin. “The steward had swiped these off the ship to sell to passengers, and we scoffed the lot free.”

At a stopover at Yakutat, one of the young survey members, Bill McDonald, “got a crush on an Indian maid named Judith Johnson.” Judith returned his affection and only the ship’s departure cut short a budding romance.

“Sitka is as picturesque as ever.” As when he had been here before, Hayes is favorably impressed with the Indian school. The students from Ketchikan to Nome and Behring Strait, “seem an earnest lot, and surely some good will come out of this school.” Technical training and book work for the boys, domestic science for the girls.

30.8 Adrift in Seattle

October 24, 1905

At Seattle, Hayes parts from the survey crew. “Martin … has been trying to square things. But it is the end, I know that. I would be afraid to go with him again.”

Immediately following his first survey trip to Alaska in 1903, Hayes: turned down a place at Stanford; learned of his father’s death; sailed fruitlessly to Liverpool and back to Galveston; walked across the Southwestern United States desert; broke rocks in Tacoma, and hopped logs for a winter in Eureka. He calls all that “My last disaster after leaving Alaska.” Fearing a repeat, he’s determined to save what he earned this past summer in Alaska.

He knows what he doesn’t want to do – but, “what to do, what to do, is always the question for a wanderer, and I am one at heart, even if I am not so good at it. I’m 27 now, and have not made much of a splash in the world. Perhaps I never will.”

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21. Washington DC to Katalla River AK

June 19, 2011

Finally, some real adventuring with one of the earliest US Geological Survey teams in Southwest Alaska.

(If no map appears in the email, click on the title above to go to the blog page.)

Click here for links to maps and downloads of more maps.

Here and There Synopsis:

21.1 Passing through Chicago.

June 5, 1903

Six weeks previously Hayes arrived in the US from Liverpool with less than $5 in pocket. Now he’s at a stopover in Chicago with a first class ticket, “on a fast train that will reach Seattle in four days.” George Curtis Martin, (Jean the genealogist says GC is not related to John Martin the author of these synopses) the leader of the Alaska survey, instructed him to find his own Pullman sleeper and dining car, but that was all too rich for Hayes as he still has only about four dollars to make his way to Seattle.

East of Chicago Hayes marvels at the density of the population, “One wonders where all the people come from, how they all live and how so many can find sustenance in one land.”

June 6 1903

West of Chicago he marvels at the desolation and emptiness, “The Bad Lands are very picturesque, earthen hills eroding rapidly, of little use to man.”

21.2 Outfitting in Seattle

June 8,1903

In the five years since Hayes last visited Seattle, the gold boom has settled and the town shows signs of maturing, it “is much larger and is getting paved streets and cement sidewalks instead of the planked streets and wooden footpaths of those days.”

Martin puts Hayes up at the Hotel Seattle in Pioneer Square carelessly instructing him to pay for his own meals “for a couple of days, then he would settle with me later.” Hayes says he can get just enough to eat for 10¢ at a low-ramp Japanese restaurant nearby. In this contradictory moment, Hayes lodges at a fancy hotel, works on outfitting the Alaska expedition on a $6,000 budget, and has only 10¢ a day on which to eat. “Martin is more extravagant than I am, but I am inclined to believe there is a lot of game to be had in the north, and count on that rather than lump round a heavy burden of unneeded grub. Even my hip boots and oil skins are included in the outfit, which is more than one can hope for after these ships of recent years.”

21.3 Running the Seymour Narrows

June 13, 1903

An uncharacteristic joy suffuses Hayes’ description of the Seymour Narrows and his trip up through this watery labyrinth of British Columbia. “There are green islands on every side, large and small. Winding channels that burst suddenly into wide gulfs and into narrower fjords, with snow mountains sometimes near, always in the distance if we are not shut in. Waterfalls leap into the sea, or roaring rapids boil into the bays as if they were anxious to escape the hills.”

The beauty of the natural world sustains Hayes in all his travels. Perhaps a current reader can understand his ceaseless roaming as pursuit of out-of-the-way corners of transcendence like he found at the Seymour Narrows. “They are said to be about 800 yards across, and there is a large rock in the center of the strait. It is a crooked passage; and when the water is high, ships can pass. Deep enough at any time, but the current is tremendous as the water pours through the passage like the creeks pour into the sea all the way. For twenty minutes the water is still. It is then the ships put on all steam ahead and make the short run before the current begins to run in or out of the Gulf of Georgia.”

This far north daylight lingers very late. Hayes will not go below deck as long as light remains to reveal some new beauty round the next bend. “To one who loves nature it is an ideal life.”

21.4 The Beauty of Sitka

June 20, 1903

In a rugged wooden vessel called the Bertha, Hayes and Martin make their way up the southern Alaska coastline through Ketchikan, Petersburg, Juneau, Douglas, and finally to Sitka. Traveling with them are, “scientists, priests, girls seeking moneyed men for husbands or for prey.”

The biggest catch on board would be Colonel William Greene of the Cananea copper mines in Mexico, one of the wealthiest men in the world. Greene travels with a group of mining men from Arizona whose drunken, debauched behavior elicits this comment from Hayes, “If this is all that wealth brings men, I am content to be counted among the humble of earth.”

Colonel William Greene (with hand raised)
addressing striking Cananea copper mine workers
Mexico, 1906

The beauty at Sitka fairly takes Hayes’ breath away: “The gold mines at Juneau and Douglas may be more profitable, but Sitka has the transcendent beauty that one never forgets. It fronts almost on the open sea. Cut off by numberless tiny islets, it wanders about the rugged coast line and back into the forest in bewildering fashion.” Much of the architecture here is Russian and Hayes wonders why they ever gave up this vast territory rich in natural resources.

21.5 Hemmed in at Dundas Bay

June 22, 1903

Poking up the coast to Dundas Bay, the small ship gets hemmed in by thousands of tiny icebergs off Muir Glacier. They’ll have to wait for the winds to scatter them across the bay before leaving the small salmon cannery near which they are blocked.

The cold water makes the teeming fish life here tastier than in warmer climates but the cannery wants only salmon. There are so many, Hayes wonders where they all come from. Any fish not a salmon is discarded for the gulls. “This when Europe is full of starving people who never knew a square meal, yet so vivid in my mind.”

21.6 Yakatut Bay: Real Alaska

June 24, 1903

At Yakutat Bay: “This is real Alaska, with Indian women selling furs, mukluks, beaded moccasins, ditty bags, everything possible they know to make.” The world’s largest glaciers are on every side. Forty miles distant, though seeming only ten in the crystalline air, “is the famed peak discovered by Vitus Behring (sic) in 1741, I think it was.”

Vitus Bering,
Danish Navigator in service to the Russian Navy

One more short hop across the ocean and the expedition will have arrived at their base and begin some inland explorations.

21.7 Wingham Island

June 27,1903

When Hayes and Martin land on Wingham Island, place names mentioned in the Diary become confusing. Hayes refers to places with names used by the locals, while Martin continually renames them. So when Hayes says a scow immediately towed them from Wingham Island across to the mouth of the Chilkat River, a current map shows this as the Bering River – Martin’s names stuck.

On the scow, Hayes picked up another interesting name: “an ex-prize fighter, one Ed Smith, who was famed for defeating Joe Goddard, the Australian Barrier Champion, was working long-shore at the beach.”

”Denver Ed Smith”

Above the high tide line, the men set up a tent to hold back the voracious mosquitoes, “that are the curse of the north.” Hayes and Martin brought a small skiff from Seattle; the plan is to wander up and down the costal inlets, rivers and lakes of this roadless area looking for resources. Already Hayes can see coal-bearing rocks around what is now Bering Lake.

As Hayes frequently notes throughout his travels to the frontiers of European and American expansion, cultural contact usually is not genteel: “The white man has in Alaska crowded the natives out of all best places, has brought to them social diseases, liquor, and dishonesty.”

21.8 Exploring far Inland.

July 10, 1903

Traveling in the skiff and by hiking along bear paths pushed through “the jungle of devil’s club, tag alder and in the spruce forest”, Hayes and Martin explore where, “No maps have ever been made …. We are the first government party.” Hayes marvels at the volume of water cascading from the enormous glaciers: “there are eighty rivers in the thirty miles falling from the ice field between [the mouth of the Bering River] and Yakataga.”

By law no company can take more than sixteen land claims in this territory. But Hayes knows of one company with more than 1,500 claims taken by two men. “Talking to them, they told me they had difficulty in studying up names to put on claims.” If some mineral resource proves good on a claim, the company places a real homesteader there; if not, the claim lapses in a year. “There are four companies grabbing all prospects of coal, oil or anything else that may give evidence of remuneration in this district.”

During their explorations over the moss covered ground, at the edge of glaciers, and across torrential streams (Martin nearly drowned in one) Hayes feeds himself and Martin on ducks, geese, ptarmigan, and the salmon everywhere. Eagles and gulls gorge on the abundance of salmon and other small fish. “There are numerous bears, and the old Scotch foreman at the coal mines has killed eighteen of these splendid animals for so-called sport.”

21.9 Two Men alone in the Bush and Not Companionable

July 15, 1903

Down from the backcountry, Martin and Hayes push west to Catella River which Martin promptly renames the Katalla. The two aren’t getting along well. For Martin, “Everything must be done according to the book, and this goes ill when one must use his head as emergencies arise in the bush. He has almost caused us to lose our lives several times already.”

Part of the trouble stems from Martin’s inability to see Hayes’ expertise. At Katalla a number of frontiersmen gather as in a gold rush looking to get rich quick on coal or oil claims. As these men watch Hayes pilot the small skiff in off the ocean through the breakers at the mouth of the river, all marvel at his skill with a boat – but not the boss of their little two-man expedition: “Martin never realizes any danger, being inexperienced and foolhardy.”

Nevertheless, the money is good and Alaska endlessly fascinating so Hayes will stick it. At Katalla the mineral wealth astounds him: He describes many coal seams six to eight feet in diameter, and one reaching 27 feet. Not to be outdone, Martin reports one 63 feet in diameter near the glacier line. In addition to coal, oil seeps from the ground in a pool covering several acres. Hayes dips up a gallon to be sent to Johns Hopkins for analysis.