THE YUKON GOLDFIELDS.
EXPERIENCES OF HARRY DE WINDT
[From Our Special Corrf,spondent.]
London, August 7. Bad as things may be in Weatralia and New Zealand, miners will do well to pause and reflect before they set off—as half America is just now doing—for “Golden Alaska.” Setting aside the Yankee pictures of this wild and barren country—which may possibly be prejudiced for interested reasons —one cannot doubt the evidence of tough old travellers like Harry Do Windt and other Englishmen. In Monday’s ‘Standard’ Mr Do Windt gives bis personal experiences of the journey to Yukon. Here arc three passages taken therefrom. He says : THE DANGERS OF THE CHILKOOT PASS. The Chiikoot Pass (4,000 ft high) would in Switzerland be a question of ropes and ice axes. The passage is generally made at night, for the snow is then in firmer condition, and there is no darkness to speak of. A stiff climb of two hours from Sheep Camp brought us to Stone House, the limit of the tree lino, and from here hard work commenced in grim earnest. For the first few hours the way lay over a succession of snowy “plateaus,” which, broken away beneath by numberless watercourses, formed a kind of crust fifteen to twenty feet above the ground. The travelling here was extremely dangerous. There was absolutely no path or trail to guide one, and huge crevasses, where the snow had fallen in upon some foaming torrent, appeared here and there. There are seven or eight of these “plateaus,” which increased in steepness until, midway up the last, we were scrambling painfully up the slippery ice slope on our hands and knees. Here a dense mist overtook us, and we lay shivering (at a very uncomfortable angle) for three hours, until it cleared away and disclosed the rocky precipitous peak of the Chiikoot towering another thousand feet above us. I have roughed it for the past fifteen years in Siberia, Borneo, and Chinese Tartary, but 1 can safely describe that climb over the Chiikoot as the severest physical experience of my life. A difficult descent. A blinding snowstorm barred our way for nearly an hour, and we then descended a steep ice slope of about 500 ft, which brought us to Crater Lake. From here, at 7 a m., began an exhausting tramp through deep snowdrifts, gradually thawing to half-frczeu slush, knee deep, as we gained the lower ground. A rocky ridge of hills and three small streams were then crossed. One of the latter, swollen by recent rains, carried 01 e of our party off his feet, and he was, with some difficulty, rescued. From 10 a.m. till mid-day heavy and incessant rain considerably retarded our progress, but bv 2 pm. we stood, dead beat, bleeding and exhausted (bat safe), on the shores of Luke Lmdemann, the journey having occupied nearly fifteen hours. That we had to wait for ten hours, drenched with rain and pet-spi-at:oD, and sick with hunger, until the Indians came up with provisions, is, for Alaska, a more detail.
J. 0. Hestwood, who spent three years in Alaska, worked for two mouths in his claim, which lies about ten miles from Dawson City, and made £2,000 He told an interviewer on arrival in San Francisco last month;—
Circle City and Forty Mile have suffered the usual fate of mining camps which have petered out. When gold was found in such astonishing quantities in the tributaries of the Klondyke the whole population of these camps moved bodily to the junction of the Klondyke and Yukon Rivers, where Dawson City is established. This district, the richest placer country in the world, was discovered by an old hunter named M'Connick,
who went up in the sprlnfr nf 1896 to the mouth of the Klondyke to fish, as salmon weighing ninety pounds are caught where this stream meets the Yukon. Salmon did not run as usual, and SFC'ortr.iok, hearing from the Indians of rich placers near by, where gold was washed out in a frying pan, started in to prospect. Sixty miles from Dawson City he struck a very rich vein in the. side of a hill. As soon as the news of his discovery spread men from Circle City and Forty Mile rushed in. The richest claims are in Eldorado and Bonanza Creeks, which empty into the Klondyke three miles above Dawson City. There are three claims in the district, each 500 ft long, extending clear across the creek on which they are located. No one can file an additional claim until he has recoiled an abandonment of his old claim. In the adjoining Hunker district there are 200 claims. These two districts have been well prospected, but farther up Klondyke is much territory which has never been even travelled over. To do anything in mining, except as a day laborer, requires from £I,OOO upwards. Dawson City, when I left, was a booming town of about 3,000 inhabitants, and is growing every week. Provisions were scarce and dear last winter, and all supplies are costly. An ordinary pocket knife sold for 15s, and shoes from 30s to £2 a pair. Eggs sold readily at ICs a dozen, and.fiour brought 4s per lb. The gold is not so pure as that found elsewhere in the Yukon country, is brassy in color, and worth about £3 5s an ounce.
Those familiar with the history of gold mining declare that the goldfields of Alaska are among the richest, both in quality and extent, that have ever been known. Here, for instance, is a quotation from the issue of June 30 of the ‘Alaska Mining Record’of Juneau.
oSmT! a , ttz . n ] ines of Alaska in 1896 yielded 2j.foj,Uo6dol, but experts who have come from there say that it is only a fine scratch. There are many veins from 10ft to 30ft in width, and save oue man : The beauty of it all is that these veins grow richer as you work down into them. To sum the whole thing up, I believe that right in the Alaska gold deposits is the mother vein of the gold of North America. The placer deposits in the i nkon country are the washings from those same _ rich sources. Klondyke is the richest district the world has ever known ana will produce millions this year. Gravel is frozen 18ft to 20ft deep to bedrock, but we burn a shaft down and then drift, using fire instead of powder. The gravel runs in gold from odql to luOdol a pan, and the young fellow on a claim above me panned out 40.000d0l in two davs I was ottered 250,000d0l cash for my claim. I still hold the ground, and will be either a millionaire or a pauper in tin Fall. Slen cannot be hired for wages. Every newcomer in the camp is offered big wages as high as 50dol a day, but seldom will anyone work for another. Ihe only phantom that stands in our way to the goal of a millionaire is emb. . , er of t]le claims are now selling at from 15.0CU 10l to CO.tOOdol, The estimate of the district is given as thirteen square miles, with an average ot 300,C00d0l to the claim, while some are valued as high as 1.00U.000d0l each. Claims have been purchased on credit and paid for out of the wesbings before the purchase price became due At Dawson sacks of gold dust arc thrown under the counter in the stores for safekeeping: The Klondyke is undoubtedly the biggest placer discovery ever made in the world. Though other diggings have been found quite as rich in spots no such extent of dirt has been known which prospected and worked so high right through.” A Dunedinite, now resident in San Francisco, writing on August 4, says : The gold fever has struck us badly. In Frisco itself, in the surrounding villages, on our streets in our houses, on the sipn-boards, in the cars* wherever you go in fact, the talk is of Alaska and’ nothing but Alaska. Slany of our merchants are sacrificing their stocks, and are off to the mines. Alaska bids fair to bi the Golconda of modern times. I have seen with my own eyes much of the wealth that has been obtained in those far-off regions, and can verify the statements, almost incredible in themselves, that have found their way into the local papers. In truth, much more than the newspapers know of could be tild by parties who have “struck it rich, but do not wish any notoriety, and, therefore, keep mum” about their sudden accession to wealth. Some, of course, fail but these nre in a decided minority, and are passed oyer without a thought. If I were differently circumstanced I would not hesitate a moment but would pack up my traps and make for a> . A v <-‘J*dy believe this is the chance of a lifetime to make a heavy stake. In two or three days it will be too late to go there this year, but by March next there will be a rush Alaskawards that will be unprecedented in-modern times. All classes and conditions of San Franciscan society are off to Alaska. Nothing like the present gold fever has been known hero since the palmy days of 49.
Permanent link to this item
THE YUKON GOLDFIELDS., Evening Star, Issue 10420, 15 September 1897