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Skagway to Nome - the Easy Way to the Gold Diggings

Arctic & Northern History

The Daily Morning Alaskan (Skagway, Alaska), Monday, January 1, 1900

 January 1, 1900.

START FOR NOME NOW. Winter Trail In First Class Condition. Roadhouses All the Way, Only Need to Carry an Extra Pair of Socks. January 1, 1900.

    There is no sense in going to a new mining district after all the claims are taken up, There are only two routes to the fabulously rich placer diggings of the Nome district, one of which is the ocean route through Bering Sea, so fraught with peril that any vessel entering it before the 22d of June is liable to forfeit its insurance. The other is the inland route to Skagway, with only thirty miles of open sea, and from this gateway to the Alaska interior down the mighty Yukon direct to Nome.

    This route is now open practically all the year round. The first parties who started for Nome this season set out from here as early as the middle of November, before Lake Bennett was frozen over. They had to travel on the first snow. There are two better ways than that, one of which is to go over the ice with dog teams, and the other to follow the first ice out, in boats, when the river breaks up.

    Those who have started will have a rough trip, and will probably not reach their destination much sooner than those who start early in January. By the latter date the snow will have a crust, the trail be broken and traveling good.

    Two overland cut-offs haves been made between here and Dawson, which reduces the distance to 483 miles. From Dawson to Nome by river is over 2000 miles, but a cut-off has been made overland from Nulato which reduces this part of the journey to 1340 miles; total, 1820 miles from Skagway. Travelers will make, with dog teams, about thirty miles a day, of seven hours; with longer days and light nights sixty miles is not much over the average. Fifty-five days would therefore be a fair estimate for the journey with dog teams.

    From January 1st, to not later than the middle of March, this will be the mode of travel, after th vt it will be necessary to wait for the ice to go out and float down with the current, without either exertion or danger, all the way to Nome beach. The best place to wait and build your boat is at Lower LaBarge. The ice goes out from there about May lst, or two weeks earlier than it does from the waters to the south of that point. From LaBarge to Nome, by way of the river is about 2400 miles. The current of the Yukon averages five miles an hour, and floating night and day, without stops the journey would be accomplished in twenty days. The ice running out is blocked up opposite the mouth of the Yukon by the Bering Sea tides, rendering navigation from the south impossible; but the prevailing wind is from the north, which drives the floating ice of the river to the southward and leaves an expanse of clear water all along the northern shore. No ocean steamer can possibly get up to Nome before the first week in July by the ocean route.

    The saving in time is therefore very plainly evident; the comparative cheapness of this route is also readily ascertainable, Take the steamer rate to Skagway and the railroad fare to Bennett, unless you prefer to walk that forty miles, add provisions and tools for boat building, and there is the total. All the necessary outfit can be bought here in Skagway and freight and wharf charges, and all the worry of shipment and landing saved. There are from twenty to thirty large outfitting stores here, one of them covering a whole block, and several of the others having large warehouses in addition to their large stores, so there is always stocks of fresh goods to choose from.

    There are no further troubles about duties. Goods purchased here can be bonded clear through the British territory, on a cash deposit of the amount of duty only, which is refunded at the first point on American soil, or at Nome, on presentation of the receipt, and without charge.

    And the traveler by this route will have the opportunity of viewing something more Interesting than icebergs and mountainous seas. He will have a surfeit of glorious acenery all the way to this port, and here he will have the chance to spend a day in admiration of the greatest city of its age in America. Its well planned streets; electric lights, waterworks, big hotels and large stores, its new college and its churches, its capacious warehouses and its four warves running far out into the blue waters of the bay, its theatres, halls of amusement and gorgeous saloons, will strike him with astonishment when he learns that in two years time all this has been carvad out of a lonely forest before practically unknown.

    From this on in his journey to Nome he will pass many more new cities and towns and mining camps, some of which bid fair to become as famous as Dawson, and all of them prospering and making history.

Tricks of Nome Steamer Agents - January 1, 1900

    There ought to be some way by which the law could reach out its hand and yank out of the business community the men who advertise for the purpose of obtaining money by false pretense. If there was such a law on the statute books the Seattle Post-Intelligencer would have fewer advertisements for vessels sailing for Nome under the implied promise of landing their passengers on that rich gold bearing beach in April or May. That this is impossible cuts no figure whatever with some thoroughly unscrupulous companies. They get the passenger's money and what the passenger gets in consideration therefore is a matter of indifference; to find that out the passenger has to buy a whole lot of tough and perilous experiences.

    There are a number of steamship companies advertising the first boats to Nome: there is only one company of all those who ply to Skagway that advertises "Over the ice to Cape Nome; via Skagway and Dawson." and this is the Pacific Coast Company. All who have had experience on the Lower Yukon and at St. Michael know that passengers cannot possibly be landed at Nome until July, and, in fact, steamship companies are liable to forfeit the insurance on a vessel that enters Bering sea before July 1st. In view of these circumstances to old timers the advertisement of sailings to Nome from Seattle will no doubt be read with amusement.

    Here is the S. Y. T. Co. for instance, that advertises the steamer Lakme to sail about May 15th ond the steamer Santa Ana on May 20th under a big headline, "Ten days to Cape Nome." The Pacific Clipper Line is to start on May 5th and run a steamer "every five days during May." The Pacific Steam Whaling Co. advertises "first steamers to reach Nome," but having an experience of the northern seas and some honesty, it does not give any date for such sailings. The Alaska & Pacific Company advertises a steamer to sail on May 10th, and the Cape Nome Flyer Line one to start about April 10th, and others every 10 days.

    All the dates of sailings are qualified by the word "about," which in these cases will probably mean "about" one or more months from the date advertised. Should they start thelr vessels the latter part of May even, what will they do with their passengers when they reach Bering sea? Will they land them on the ice a hundred miles from land, and leave them to continue the journey as best they can; or will they keep them on board and continue to feed them for weeks and weeks until the ice breaks and permits the vessel to proceed to her destination? The man so unversed in the ways of a very wicked world as to be induced to purchase passage on one of these early salling vessels will, of course, beleive that the latter will be the course taken.

    "The man first on the ground gets a claim." Men are going in now by way of Skagway. One man just in from Dawson reports that he met on the way over two hundred who were going to Nome, and in a few weeks there will be a continuous procession of them all the wav from Skagway to the Nome gold fields. You can make the journey from here to Dawson with no other provision or anything to carry except an extra pair of socks, walking all the way and resting, eating and sleeping at the numerous roadhouses. Or you can go in a dog sled, or a horse sleigh; or can walt until the ice breaks up and even then reach Nome a month before those who take passage on the steamers advertised to sail "about" such a date.

White Pass & Yukon Route railway ad - January 1, 1900