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gold miner might think that gold and its probable discovery would be the one subject for reliable judgment; but the reverse is the case. The prospector who is hardheaded and practical on every other subject will swallow the fishiest yarn where gold is concerned. There is only one way in which you can make it difficult for yourself to spread a rumor about the discovery of gold and that is by talking loudly and freely. Assume secrecy or even the slightest reticence as to where you have been or where you are about to go and rumors of gold "strikes" will grow day by day and spread until some night half a dozen parties set out, each trying to do so without the knowledge of the others and each following some clue to which no any rational person would pay any no attention. to.

The Wrangell Island party had been markedly reticent on the passenger steamer from Seattle, and in consequence the rumor of some sort of gold discovery had already germinated among their fellow passengers before they got to Nome. The outfit they were buying seemed curious and, from the Alaska point of view, certainly inadequate for a party going to any uninhabited region. This gave the theorisers two "facts" to work on. Gold had been discovered, and it must be in the vicinity of some trading post where the party could buy the supplies which they were not taking with them. Few gold miners have been on the north coast of Alaska, but there is current the general knowledge that the arctic coast has a string of fur trading posts. Obviously these were being relied upon by Crawford's party. Possibly some of these remote fur traders might even be in in secret league with us. Accordingly, it became pretty definitely known that their destination was "somewhere east of Point Barrow."

The owner of the schooner Silver Wave was Captain Jack Hamar. When Crawford went to him with a proposal to charter his boat for a voyage to an unnamed destination the skipper quite properly refused to negotiate unless he were let into the secret. Had our party understood better the gold miner's psychology they might perhaps have said that they were going "somewhere east of

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Point Barrow.” But beyond reticence they knew no wiles and so they told the truth. Hamar was to know privately that they were going to Wrangell Island but he must not tell anyone. But that is exactly the formula which according to miner logic is to be interpreted as meaning the opposite of what it says, and when the story spread from Captain Hamar it seems to have been agreed that one destination might now be eliminated. Wherever our party they were going, they were not going to Wrangell Island. Still, the wording of the agreement was that the ship was chartered bargain was made for that voyage. I do not think the boys guessed really suspected Captain Hamar's skepticism about Wrangell and or the theories he held about their plans until on the actual voyage when he began to show more and more surprise that he was not asked to change his course, his instructions remaining that Wrangell was the destination. The party got the distinct impression that it had been the Captain's shrewd design to demand a higher fee for the voyage whenever Crawford came to him and owned up that the destination was really "somewhere east of Point Barrow."

In our discussions before the party left Seattle it had been agreed that, while most of what they spent the money for at Nome was optional, there were two things imperative - hunting appliances gear and Eskimo families. Under the hunting head would come arms and ammunition, fish nets, fish hooks, harpoons and the like. But perhaps most important of all would be an Eskimo skin boat of the type called an umiak. As made in western Alaska an umiak consists of a framework of driftwood or possibly imported lumber, and over it stretched a covering made either of the skins of bearded seals or walrus. Such a boat is very small at twenty-five feet in length and they run up to thirty-five feet or more. A typical boat was one we used on our expedition of 1908-1912. It was thirty-one feet in length. The cover was made of the skins of seven bearded seals. It would carry in smooth water a cargo of between two and three tons and it was so light that two of us could carry it overland at a steady walk.

In the early days of Alaska whaling the whalemen used to use

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exclusively cedar whaleboats made on the Massachusetts coast, and these continued to be employed used in midsummer whaling where there was little danger of striking ice. But at such icy stations as Point Barrow and Point Hope the cedar boat competed only two or three years with the indigenous Eskimo craft and was then discarded forever. The cedar boat is so fragile that if it strikes a piece of ice the size of a bushel basket at six miles an hour it is likely to be stove. At the same speed the umiak can be jammed into an ice cake of any size and will remains uninjured unless there be a rib broken - damage that need not be repaired until the next day. In whaling and walrusing it is frequently necessary to drag a boat over a piece of intervening ice to launch it on the other side. It will take six or eight men to do this for a whaleboat and with the slightest accident it will be stove. Two or three men can drag an a whaling umiak any old way across the roughest ice and dump it again into the water without fear of injury. All these things our men knew quite as well as anyone. But the prices asked for skin boats by the natives at Nome seem to have been higher than they considered equitable and so they decided to stop in at East Cape on their way to Wrangell Island and pick up a skin boat cheaper there.

The support of Eskimos In an undertaking such as that of Wrangell Island, Eskimos are almost as neccesary as boats or weapons. is nearly indispensable. Not that they are wanted for hunting, for almost any white man can soon become as good a hunter as the average Eskimo; neither is their help essential in the building of camps. But their women are needed to sew clothes and keep them in repair. But It is the testimony of many experts who have examined the Eskimos sewing of the Eskimo women that it is unequalled in the world. Those who make The manufacturers of boots for hunters that are sold at our sportsmen’s outfitting stores will make the seam almost any way and then waterproof it by rubbing in grease or some other "preparation." The Eskimo woman alone sews a seam that is in itself waterproof. and A seamstress not used to white men's ways will become angry if she sees the purchaser greasing the seam of a boot that she has made, for she takes it as a charge of incompetence. This super-sewing is needed

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only for skin boats and waterproof sealskin boots. But there is another sewing almost as difficult to acquire and almost as necessary - that of the warm, soft and pliable skin clothes that keep out the winter cold. It is possible to dress in silk, cotton or woolen clothing if one wants to follow such methods as have been used in the Antarctic by Scott and Shackleton. But no one will do that if he has the chance of Eskimo clothing, for it is apparently not possible to be thoroughly comfortable at all in the antarctic clothing and the suits actually used have weighed about double.* The best sort of Eskimo suit, complete with outer and ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ * For a description of the troubles of polar explorers who did not use Eskimo clothes, or who did not understand how clothes can be kept dry in winter, see Nansen, "Farthest North," Vol. II. pp. 142, 145-6, and Shackleton, "Heart of the Antarctic" Vol. I, p. 340. A summary of the difficulties of explorers with their winter clothing and of the modern methods for avoiding them is also found in "The Friendly Arctic-" see index of this book. __________________________________________________________ inner garments from top to toe, will weigh about ten pounds where a corresponding antarctic outfit of wool, silk and Burberry goes to twenty or more pounds.

It is impractical under ordinary circumstances to take Eskimos on expeditions otherwise than in entire families. Almost any Eskimo man might be willing to engage himself for a year’s job in a mining camp or on a whaling ship, relying, perhaps somewhat reluctantly, upon European or American clothes. But for a residence in an island like Wrangell it would be almost impossible to engage an Eskimo man unless he knew that there would be women/along to do suitable sewing.

With these ideas clearly in mind the Wrangell party tried to engage at Nome some Eskimo settlement families, and did so actually. But when the time came to sail there arrived at the boat landing only the Eskimo woman Ada Blackjack, who had been expecting to go along as

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a member of one of the families engaged. When she found that the others had broken their bargain she also wanted to withdraw but was prevailed upon to go by the assurance that the Silver Wave would call in at some Eskimo settlement between Nome and Wrangell to hire families in which Ada could then take her place. The boys party made a last effort to get the people previously hired to stick to their bargain or to engage others, but no

Last edit about 1 month ago by Samara Cary
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