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Alaska Cruise News, June 1891

'The Alaskan' newspaper - Sitka, Alaska Territory, 1891

SITKA, ALASKA TERRITORY,     June 20, 1891

    On the steamer City of Topeka which reached here last Friday, Hon. Edward T. Hatch, the lately appointed Collector of Customs for the District of Alaska, arrived at Sitka. Mr. Hatch is accompanied by him wife and six children, and J. D. Smith, of Baker City, Oregon, who will be his deputy at Sitka, and B. J. Bretherton, of Portland who will assume the duties of deputy at Kodiak. The Deputy Collector of Customs at Juneau will be Frank H. Howard of Astoria. It is understood that Dick Emmons at Unalaska and J. C. Tolman at Wrangell will both be retained, at least for the present. At the request of certain members of the Minnesota Congressional Delegation C. H. Bullard, of that State, will be appointed deputy at the new sub-port established at Sand Point, Shumagin Islands.

    Mr. Hatch is a quiet, unassuming gentleman whose evident intention it is to pour oil upon the troubled waters and endeavour to solve peaceably the vexed problem of an Alaskan Collector's difficult official career. In his efforts to do this he will have the best wishes of every resident of the Territory, whoso wishes are in any way desirable. Mr. Hatch is familiar with political life, being at this writing a Senator, representing Polk County, Oregon, in the Senate of that State. THE ALASKAN wishes him such measure of success as he may deserve in filling the trying position to which he has been appointed. 1-Ic will assume office on July 1st.

    Mr. Bretherton who is to succeed Mr. Edward Chamberlain at Kodiak, is the Secretary and Taxidermist of the Oregon Alpine Club of Portland, which position he has now resigned. He will proceed to his new station on the first steamer of the new mail service leaving here about July 1st. In addition to his regular duties as Deputy Collector, he will during him stay collect zoological specimens illustrative of the resources of the country, and prepare reports, to be submitted to the Oregon Zoological Society, and Oregon Agricultural College. In connection with the State Agricultural College of Oregon, Mr. Bretherton will establish an experimental station at Kodiak; clearing a small plot of land and planting the different cereals and vegetables thereby giving the resources of the Island a fair test. Should those experiments prove satisfactory in all probability the college will send Mr. Bretherton into the interior at the expiration of his term at Kodiak.

    Mr. Israel C. Russell, of the United States Geological Survey, who is now making a second attempt to climb Mt. St. Elias gives the following notes relating to the expedition:

    "This expedition is under the same auspices. Last year we explored the country east of Mt. St. Elias. The Geographic Society was particularly interested in our explorations but the exploration is in a sense incidental, for I am by profession a geologist, and I have been for some years making a special study of glaciers. The country there affords unrivalled opportunities for such work, for the glaciers are a thousand times larger than any in Europe, and you can see their action on a much more tremendous scale.

    "From Icy Bay to Mt. St. Elias it is only about thirty miles. We shall begin our climbing at once, of course going a little slowly until we become hardened.

    The snow line is only 2,500 feet above the sea level, and we shall reach it very quickly. Then we shall spend the summer on the glaciers, and shall attempt the summit of Elias. Last year we spent thirty-five days continuously above the snow line and we may be even longer this year. We also tried three times to reach the top of the peak, but each time we were driven back by heavy storms. In one of them I was cut off from the party and was alone on the ice for six days.

    We shall strike into our old trail the first thing, and then work around the east and south of the mountain. Of course we shall do considerable triangulation during the summer, for a good map is very necessary.

    It will be necessary to pack on foot all our camp supplies, tents, blankets, food and fuel in from the coast, so you see that we have no holiday task. We take tents, and one blanket for every two men. The food is regular rations, oat, meat, bacon, ham, bread, etc., which are sealed in fifty-pound cans. We carry small oil stoves and oil with which to do the cooking.

    "Much of the time we will sleep right on the ice and snow, though, of course, when such a thing is possible we shall get on a dry ledge of rocks. There is no use in denying that such an expedition involves a good deal of hardship, but I must say I enjoy it all. My health was excellent all of last summer, in spite of the exposure; but I find it hard work to keep well when I am in an office.

    "We shall return in October, I hope, with discoveries of some value."

    The revenue steamer Bear, Captain M. A. Healy, sailed for the Arctic last Sunday morning. Judge and Mrs. Tarpley who spent a pleasant week in Sitka among their many friends, will leave the cutter on her arrival at Unalaska. Rev. Sheldon Jackson, Superintendent of Education of Alaska, is also on board. He goes to look after the schools already established at Unalaska, Cape Prince of Wales, Kotzom and other points. The cutter carries supplies of coal, school furniture and other necessities for their use. Mr. Jackson also has $1,000 worth of goods which have been contributed by private subscription by benevolent people East, for the purchase of reindeer in Siberia, which are to be conveyed to the American side of the Arctic Ocean, and the attempt made to encourage the American Esquimaux to raise and breed them for domestic use, as they do in Siberia. The Esquimaux on the American territory have been accustomed to living on whales, walrus, seals and other products of the ocean. The continual hunting of these animals for commercial purposes has deprived these people of their natural supply, and Dr. Jackson and Captain Healy deserve encouragement for their energy in undertaking to furnish a new source of supply of food and industry. The cutter also takes supplies for the Point Barrow refuge station, which was established on that most northern point of North America a year ago, the house having been built in San Francisco by contract, conveyed to this far-off point and erected by Capt. Healy, Liet. Buhrin and some of the crew of the Bear.

    Any assistance that can be rendered to the extensive whaling fleet in those waters will be part of the duty of the Bear, and any criminal or other matter where justice is to be meted out will also receive attention, Captain Healy having been given a commission as justice of the peace by Governor Knapp.

    The Bear has 400 tons of coal on board and supplies to last until October next, when she will return to San Francisco.

    The schooner C. F. Hill arrived at San Francisco from Kodiak, Alaska. She brings the news that the grippe is creating great havoc among the natives. Hundreds have died at the rate of a dozen per day. There are no doctors on the island, and no medical stores. The natives are also suffering hardships on account of the poor catch of sea otters, on which they depend for a living.

    The North American Commercial Company has a big job on hand in its recently acquired mail contract for Alaska service. Route No. 78,099 is from Sitka via Yakutat, Natchek, Kodiak, Unga, Humbolt Harbor and Belkofsky to Unalaska. The distance is 1250 miles, and the service will be monthly for seven months, between April 1st and October 31st of each year.

    Heretofore mail has been taken to Unalaska by way of San Francisco. Therefore when the Collector of Customs wished to communicate with his deputy at Unalaska he was obliged to send his letter by mail to San Francisco, and from there by supply ship to its destination. This gives a slight idea of the immensity of our northern possessions. -- Tacoma Ledger.

    Private advices received per the S. S. Queen tend to confirm the opinions expressed by Capt. Healy of the U. S. R. steamer Bear to the effect that a closed season for seal killing in the Bering Sea would be adopted by both the English and American governments. That such orders were sent to Bering Sea by the Rush there can be scarcely a doubt, great significance attaching to the fact that the British Admiral at Esquimalt is hastily equipping his lighter vessels for patrol service. The evident intention is for each nation to warn out of the sea the sealing poachers found sailing under its flag. Whether any seizures and forfeitures will follow is however problematic.

    The sealing schooner Sitka, Capt. R. E. Dixon, which arrived last week, brought 110 skins taken during a four weeks' sealing voyage from Yakutat. She left on Tuesday morning with a cargo of general merchandise for W. P. Mills' store at Yakutat. The schoner will return to Sitka as soon as possible.

    On Thursday morning the schooner Leo sailed for the third time on a sealing voyage to the North Pacific. On her two previous trips, as a result of fifteen days' sealing, she secured 181 skins.


These articles have all been reproduced exactly as printed in the June 20, 1891 edition of The Alaskan. See several articles about tourism specifically from that edition here.

The news about Israel C. Russell's Mt. St. Elias expedition had been very sad just a week previously, when 6 men died while landing his party at Icy Bay - see Melancholy Disaster at Icy Bay.

The Steamer Queen in Glacier Bay, 1890
Alaska steamer Queen in Glacier Bay