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TO THE KLONDYKE BY WATER.
The Ocean Route-Steamers and Transportation— Food Supplies-Accommodations-When to GoThe Money Required-Points of Interest-The Aleutian Islands--Dutch Harbor-At St. Michaels -Up the "Nile of the North"-Continuous Daylight -Region of the Yukon-Houses at a Yukon Town -Old Fort Yukon-Circle City-Within the Arctic Circle-Fort Selkirk-A Quick Trip-To Those Going.
Of the two routes by which the prospective traveler may reach the Klondyke the one known as the Yukon route is the most in favor. This is invested with the least hardship, but it is only available during the short four-month summer. It is a thirty-five day journey, although by fast boat it can be accomplished in thirty days.
The North American Transportation and Trading Co., with Alaskan headquarters at Circle City, on the Yukon River, has prepared to meet the rush of miners with commendable promptitude; and, considering the unusual difficulties of the journey, the accommodation is all that could be expected. The fare on this company's boats from Seattle to any point on the Yukon River was $150 first class, and $125 second class. This included two hundred pounds of baggage and also meals and berth, with the exception that the second class travelers had to furnish their own bedding. In consequence of the rush to the Klondyke district the fare from Seattle has now been raised to $200.
Hitherto the traffic by water has been solely in the hands of the North American Transportation and Trading Company, a Chicago corporation, in which such men as P. B. Weare and Michael and John
Cudahy are interested. This company owns the boats which are used in the traffic and also the stores along the Yukon. Transportation of passengers and supplies is a profitable feature, but its principal purpose is the sale of provisions and the transaction of a general commercial business. Like all similar enterprises in a new country it has practically a monopoly. The Company will carry a passenger with 150 pounds of baggage from Seattle to the head waters of the Yukon for $165, and give him all he wants to eat on the way, but it will not permit him to carry a store of provisions. for use after he gets there. Food supplies must be procured from the Company's agents. These can be bought on the Yukon or contracted for in advance. In the former instance it will be a matter of getting what is in stock and paying such prices as are made possible by a rush of customers. If a contract is made the traveler pays down the lump sum of $400 and the Company guarantees to feed him for a year.
The great danger that now faces people in the Klondyke is a scarcity of provisions. Everything in the way of supplies that it is possible to get there this year is now on the road. With the stocks now in store 10,000 people can be fed this winter. There are nearly that many now on the ground and the number is increasing right along. With 15,000 mouths to feed it is certain to be a case of short rations at the best, and a swelling of the population to 20,000 means starvation for some of them. An effort is being made to get cattle and sheep into the country by driving them through the mountain passes from Juneau, but the journey is exhausting and dangerous. Such live stock as can be landed in Dawson City in eatable condition will readily bring $1 a pound. The principal food used now is bacon, beans, and flour, with condensed milk and a few canned goods. Fresh milk, butter, and eggs are unknown quantities.
Heretofore all parties seeking points on the Yukon
River had to use the route by way of Juneau and down the river in a small boat. This was a long and tedious trip, and it was necessary to start from Seattle in March to make it possible to reach the mines by the latter part of June. In contrast to this there are now first class passenger steamers going direct to the mines from either Seattle or San Francisco. Miners are thus enabled to reach the mines in ample time for the season's work, while avoiding a long and dangerous trip and at less expense than in the old way. The Alaska Commercial Co., which practically succeeded the old Hudson Bay Co., ran boats originally in the fur trade interest from San Francisco, but the North American Transportation Co. are practically the pioneers in transportation to the gold fields. In selling tickets the companies agree to take the traveler as far as possible on the Yukon River, but cannot agree to go to Dawson City, as, owing to the difficulties of navigation and many other possible obstacles, including the shortness of the season, they may be obliged to tie up for the winter at Circle City or some point below Dawson City. This condition applies mainly to trips that are made late in the season.
WHEN TO GO.
In some quarters it is contended that it is well to go to the Klondyke at the beginning of the season, but there can be no question that the best time to make the trip is at the end of the season, with the prospect of a winter there to look around, get acquainted with the country and do what prospecting is necessary. This will put the miner on the ground when the season opens. The chance to work with running water lasts only about four and a half months, so that every moment is valuable. No one should go there planning to stay less than twelve months. It is largely a question of means. To make the trip at the end of the season with an outfit and provisions for a stay of twelve months necessitates a considerable outlay, but then it is the only way to give the gold fields a fair trial. If one makes the trip at the begin
ning of the season without being prepared to stay over the following winter, it will probably mean disaster, as the most valuable time will be occupied in going and coming.
THE MONEY REQUIRED.
The minimum amount of money required is $600. It would not be safe to start out with less. But it had better be made a thousand, if possible, for with the present rush it is likely that prices will be trebled or even quadrupled. Even the Indians will charge more for their assistance. Still, if a man is stranded on the way he will probably find it easy to make a living almost anywhere in the gold bearing portion of the Yukon basin. He can earn $10 or $15 a day digging the ground for men with good claims. And with the rise in prices these wages may also go up. Bear in mind, however, that the price of living must increase in proportion. These opinions are expressed by Chas. G. Yale, the mining expert.
POINTS OF INTEREST.
From Seattle the ocean steamer leaving Puget Sound sails out to the northwest across the Pacific Ocean to the Aleutian Islands, between which a channel leads into Bering Sea. Safe in these latter waters the steamer is put on a direct northerly course to St. Michaels Island, which lies on the far western coast of Alaska at the mouth of the Yukon River. There a transfer is made to a light-draft river boat and in this the rest of the voyage to Dawson, Circle City, or Fort Cudahy is made. Up to this time there have been two boats in this Yukon River service, each of which makes one round trip during the summer. The first boat up in the spring reaches Circle City toward the end of June, and the last one leaves there early in September on the return trip to St. Michaels Island.
THE ALEUTIAN ISLANDS.
On the Aleutians nearly every foot of the landscape is bright green. The highest peaks are snow-capped, but below that there is no visible thing but moss and
grass. Salmonberry bushes grow everywhere, but they are low and inconspicuous, and offer no contrast to the prevailing color, and there are no trees.
Within the harbor is an island, with a crescent bay that is called Dutch harbor, where the company that owns the sealing privilege of the Pribyloff islands has a supply station. Then back of this island, at the head of the bay, is another curved beach, where is strung out the line of white-painted houses that constitute the port of Unalaska. On the hillside back of the town may be seen a herd of cows, knee-deep in rank grass.
AT ST. MICHAEL'S.
St. Michael's used to be a Russian fortification, and some of the old Russian buildings are still standing, but for many years it has been the transfer and forwarding point for all goods going into or coming out of the interior. Both the commercial companies doing business on the river have warehouses here. During the two or three months of open navigation it is a place of considerable activity. Then communication is cut off, and it goes into the long, uneventful night of winter. The white inhabitants are probably fifty resident employes of the companies, the collector of customs, several missionaries and a few independent traders. Several hundred Eskimos also live on the island. The surface of the country immediately surrounding St. Michael's is gently rolling, and in summer it is covered with a great growth of grass, having more the appearance of Nebraska prairies than of an arctic region. A series of six or seven low, coneshaped hills across the shallow estuary are extinct volcanoes. In all the landscape there is no timber, nor are there trees anywhere near Bering sea.
UP THE YUKON.
The trip to the gold fields by the Yukon River route is pleasant for tourists during the summer months. They leave Seattle on a well appointed steamer, which