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In Fear of Klondike Pirates

Klondike Gold Rush

    Getting the gold that lay in the Klondike was rarely an easy process, and getting it back to other parts of the world presented its own long list of problems. When the Spanish-American War broke out in April 1898 over American backing of revolts aimed at gaining independence for Cuba, a new problem was feared - the chance that Spain might send ships to the Pacific to rob ships carrying the Klondike gold. The following article, copied in its entirety, describes precautions being taken by the trading companies to protect their ships.

The Province (Vancouver, British Columbia) - May 14, 1898

    For fear that some Spanish cruiser may lie in wait in the North Pacific for the fleet that will early in July bring back the returning Klondikers with their millions of yellow stuff, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the vessels will be well armed, if their owners can secure the guns from the navy department. The fleet will probably be composed of the Roanoke, of the North American Transportation and Trading Company, the Portland, for the Alaska Commercial Company, the Brixham, for the Boston and Alaska Transportation Company, and several others. The Brixham is the first to take steps to secure an armament.

Arming Klondike Steamers.

    General Manager Pingree, of the Boston and Alaska Transportation Company, has telegraphed to Washington for six Gatling guns, and expects a favorable answer to-day from the secretary of the navy. It is possible that some other kinds of guns will be secured, but there is little doubt that the Brixham will be armed. She will leave next Monday for a trip to Hooper Bay, with the river steamer Gen. Pingree in tow. She will then return direct to Seattle for her first load of Klondikers for the mouth of the Yukon. It is on this trip that the Brixham expects to have use for the guns that are expected from the navy department. The Boston and Alaska Company believe that they will get to carry a share of the returning Klondiker's wealth, and they don't propose to lose any of it to Spanish or other pirates.

After Northern Nuggets.

    Certain members of the Boston and Alaska Transportation Company at Washington and New York are very close to the leaders of the Cuban republic in this country. The Laurada, which is now on her way round the Horn to join the Company's Alaska fleet, has done a great deal for the Cuban cause. It was through the Cubans that the company's officers got the first indication that, should war be declared, Spain would make the attempt to get away with the Klondike gold, even though it would have to be captured thousands of miles from her coal supply.

There's $20,000,000 in It.

    It is generally conceded that the amount of treasure that will come down in the first few steamers this summer will not be less than $20,000,000. Some think that even more than that will be brought out, if the two commercial companies take their immense wealth to the states. This would be worth Spain's while to try for. She has already offered to sell some of her most valued colonial possessions to a foreign government for $20,000,000. The steamship men urge that she would be capable of making a great effort to get hold of that much cold cash. The United States gunboat Wheeling and the revenue cutter Bear are now the only Government vessels in far northern waters. By the time the gold shipment begins the Bear will be away into the ice pack of Behring sea after the wrecked whalers. The Wheeling may be ordered almost anywhere, as she is to call for her dispatches early in May. Consequently the treasure ships will have to depend on their speed and such guns as can be mounted on their decks.

Treasure Steamers Are Speedy.

    The Roanoke, on her voyage round the Horn, is now at San Francisco, where she arrived last Saturday morning. She will remain there about a month, but will arrive here in ample time to reach St. Michael as soon as the first boat gets down the river. What the North American Transportation and Trading Company will do regarding her armament yet to be decided. Last year they put a Maxim gun on the Portland, with far less excuse than they have this year. The Roanoke is a very fleet steamer and could probably show a clean pair of heels to any sort of vessel the Spanish might send after her. The famous old treasure ship Portland is not fast enough to describe circles around a Spanish man-of-war, but her decks have seen guns before and she has already had one brush with a Spanish vessel.

    Capt. Durie, of the Brixham, says he will take a chance from any Spanish craft afloat, if they only try to overhaul him in a storm. He says that the Brixham can make faster tracks through the trough of the sea then anything that the Spanish can send out. The Brixham would have been in the service of the government by this time had she remained on the other coast. Capt. Durie is also in line for government service. He has already received warning that his services are likely to be needed at any time, and may get a call before he leaves for Hooper bay. For years he has run in and out of the ports of Cuba in fruiters and is acquainted with the waterways of the Island.