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Journey to St. Michael's and Unalaska, 1892



Northern Ships and Shipping


The Seattle Post-Intelligencer - Wednesday, September 28, 1892


The Yukon Steamer Arrives afely at St. Michael's in Sections, 1892

    Fred W. Hagerdorn, of New York city, has returned from Alaska whither he had gone with the North American Transportation & Trading Company, and has an interesting story to tell concerning the trip and what he saw after he got near the Yukon river.

    The party left here on the Alice Blanchard on July 6. The ship had on board nearly 800 tons of freight, which consisted mainly of provisions that were to be used for trading purposes after the Yukon river had been reached. On the deck of the Alice Blanchard were the parts of a steamboat, which was to be put together after the party had landed at St. Michael's. In addition to the regular crew there were on board P. B. Weare, the president of the company, and his son Fred, fifteen carpenters, one blacksmith and several other mechanics, whose services were to be used in putting the steamboat together. It was the intention of the company to put the new steamer on the Yukon river in order to divide the business which the Alaska Commercial Company is already doing with two small steamboats. Mr. Hogerdorn said:

    We had some very rough weather going up, and in my opinion the northern coast is very treacherous, but we weathered all storms and reached Coal Harbor, where we tried to coal up. There was no coal there, so we had to go on to Unalaska for that purpose, and reached there on July 25. There we saw the United States ship Yorktown and several revenue cutters. From there we went through Bering straits to St. Michael's, a distance of about 800 miles, reaching there July 31.

    St. Michael's is about sixty miles from the mouth of the Yukon river. We stayed at this place for twenty-two days discharging cargo and attending to other matters, and on August 24 started back to Unalaska and thence home, leaving at St. Michael's the Weares and their force of men. At the time of our departure considerable work had been done in the way of getting the parts of the boat together and it was the expectation at that time that by September 15 everything would be in readiness for the first trip of the company up the river, that is, if something does not happen to prevent. I don't believe that the men who were taken up are altogether satistied with the way they have been treated and I don't say there will be, but there may be trouble.

    While the Alice Blanchard was still at St. Michael's two men found their way into the hamlet who had come down from the mining regions up the river. They gave a glowing account of what they had seen, and brought back substantial evidences of the truth of their marvelous stories. They said that mining could only be carried on for the three warmest months of the year, July, August and September, owing to the intense cold at all other times and the heavy snows. The country up the river and along its banks is rough and dangerous, and only the strongest men can stand the rigors of the climate and the battle with the rude soil. At all seasons of the year the atmosphere is foggy and the air is damp. The nights are very short. It is never dark until 10 o'clock in the evening and begins to get daylight again at from 1:30 to 2 o'clock.

    The great river which seems to be the Mecca for all who seek fortune or safety from the law is said to be over 2,000 miles long and at places several miles wide. It teems with salmon and other eatable fish, and along its banks is as fine hunting as can be found anywhere in the world. It is also infested with a number of reckless and dangerous outlaws and is said to afford a refuge to many of the worst criminals of the world.

    Shortly after I arrived at St. Michael's I had the good fortune to see a band of Esquimaux. They came into the place in their canoes. In winter they use snow-sleds pulled by eighteen and twenty dogs, and can make from seventy to eighty miles per day. These dogs are fine, large animals with shaggy coats, and are gentle, affectionate and faithful. I brought down two pups, and intend to see if the breed will live in this climate. The natives are very dark of skin, and I wondered how it was that such dark creatures should live in so cold a climate, but I will let the scientists explain that.

    The Esquimaux are a very kindly people, but it must be confessed they are about as filthy as any I ever saw. They attire themselves in garments made of seal-skins, walrus hides and the guts of other animals well greased with seal oil to keep out the rain and stave off the cold. The very nature of their garments makes them uncleanly and one does not aspire to close contact with these inhabitants of the far northern country. Some of them wear rings in their nose and all insert a piece of glass in the chin as a mark of the tribe to which they belong. The color of the glass indicating the tribe.

    I had some excellent hunting several days and managed to kill a reindeer, moose and elk, some rabbits and any number of quail. The latter are exceedingly plentiful and afforded to the party one of the chief articles of food.

    We bad a smooth trip down, and notwithstanding the new experience which I had, I am glad to be back. I cannot say that Alaska has many temptations for me.

    Mr. Hagerdorn is a New York man and the nephew of a banker there. He has been in most parts of the world and took the trip merely as one of pleasure and observation. He thinks that he will locate permanently in Seattle.


Pair of Aleut Canoes Which Will Float in the Roughest Sea Brought to Seattle, 1892

    Two firemen who were on the steamer Alice Blanchard on a trip to the Yukon river, brought back two novel Aleut canoes. The boats are made of rawhide, supported by horizontal ribs. The only opening is a circular hole in the center, large enouch for a man's body so that he can sit down. A flap of rawhide surrounds the hole and, when the occupant plants himself in the bottom of the crait, he draws this flap up, fastening it tightly around his body under the arms. This makes the boat practically watertight and he can paddle along in the roughest kind of weather without danger of drowning. If his craft rolls over, all he has to do is to paw the water until he gets his head to the surface again and the boat, having stationary ballast, immediately rights herself.

    Some of them are made with two holes to accommodate two passengers. The two brought down are the single pattern. They are about fourteen feet long, thirty inches across, and of a like depth. They are very light and can easily be carried about. The owners are going to keep them at Lake Washington. It is said two men came down from Alaska in one some years ago and had been upset on numerous occasions on the way, but they never suffered more serious injury than getting their shoulders wet.