Stuck’s second book on Alaska, this mainly on the interior of the state based on summer travels, on the Inside Passage, the Yukon, and its tributaries.
p. 3: Even its most enthusiastic admirers, however, must be willing to admit a certain monotony in a continuous thousand miles of scenery all of the same kind. “Always fine, no doubt, but always fine in the same way,” as Conway writes of Smyth Channel. It is therefore well that the Inside Passage possesses other than merely picturesque interest; that it has historic interest; and the traveller is well advised who provides himself with books in which the history of these parts is set forth.
We are on the track of the great navigators of the eighteenth century as we pass through these waters, on the track of the two greatest of them all, Captain James Cook and Captain George Vancouver, and if the voyage be extended to the westward before or after the river journey is made, as is often done now, the track of still another will be crossed—Vitus Bering. It will add immensely to the interest of the trip if the work of these bold seamen be understood and followed. Especially is this the case with George Vancouver. From Puget Sound to the Lynn Canal—that is to say, the whole stretch of the Inside Passage—the whole coast teems with the names that he applied. Cook’s “Voyages” may be had in many editions, but Vancouver’s "Voyages" are long out of print and very expensive.
p. 87, on Circle City, a briefly prosperous gold rush town of thirty hundred, founded in 1894: There must have been some active and intelligent men in that camp. A Miners’ Association was formed with constitution and by-laws, and a gorgeous painted silken banner and a circulating library of several thousand volumes procured, many of which still remain at the place, though most have been scattered since the association lapsed. I was struck when I first examined the library (it was then almost intact) by the wise and comprehensive choice that had been exercised. Some one familiar with many fields of literature had a hand in selecting those books.
p. 152: The struggles of the early explorers with these names and the extraordinary results they print are sometimes amusing, and illustrate the famous Captain Cook’s observation made while he was cruising on the Alaskan coast that he had frequently found “that the same words, written down by two or more persons from the mouth of the same native, differed not a little.” Whymper writes Tozikaket “Towshecargot,” and with Schwatka Nowikaket becomes “Newicargut.” Dall, however, whose ears as well as eyes were by far the best of any of the early Yukon travellers, writes the names almost exactly as they are written now. Dall’s “Alaska and Its Resources” was published in 1870; if Schwatka, whose journey was thirteen years later, had taken the trouble to read it, he would have been spared a great many blunders. I have spoken of Dall’s book before; let me say here that I never turn to it without being struck afresh with the wealth of accurate observation and judicious reflection it contains.
p. 211-12, in chapter on Russian colonial life in Alaska: Master and men alike were grossly addicted to drunkenness whenever the necessary liquor was obtainable. It is rather amusing to read the mutual accusations of the Russian American Company against the Hudson’s Bay Company, and the Hudson’s Bay Company against the Russian American Company, of selling liquor to natives, when neither seems to have had any scruples on that head whatever. And when Dall was finally leaving St. Michael, when the sway of both companies was terminated and the territory of Alaska had been transferred to the government of the United States, he saw a small schooner lying in the bay, and writes as follows: “To the eastward a bidarra was pulling for the canal, and rather seemed to avoid us. Taking the glasses, I made out one white man in it and the round sides of two barrels rose conspicuously above the gun wale. I felt sick as I sat down, knowing the cargo must consist of rum and seeing already the beginning of evils whose future growth none could estimate.
The vessel in the bay was principally loaded with liquor, which had in some mysterious way eluded the vigilance of the United States officials at Sitka.”
p. 262, re the Tanana River: Statistics of our white population are indeed skittish things to handle, and generalisations based upon them are likely to be of only immediate accuracy; it is entirely possible that between the writing and the reading of these words some new sensational gold discovery may shift the centre of gravity of the white population a thousand miles at a stroke, as it was shifted for a while by the Iditarod stampede, but, such a contingency aside, the Tanana River will probably continue to be the most important river of the interior.
p. 277: Although I knew a little of what had been written about glacial action, and had read Tyndall’s “Forms of Water,” as a boy and had even taken some interest in the famous controversy about glacial movement (an interest chiefly due, I am afraid, to the acrimony it aroused), yet my first visit to a glacier had something of the effect upon me that his “first looking into Chap man’s Homer” had upon John Keats. It was a revelation of the mightiness of the ice; mightier than all storms and thunderbolts, mightier than the catastrophes of earthquake and volcano; secretly, almost silently, inch by inch through the long ages, grinding down mountains and carving out valleys; reducing the adamantine primeval granite of thousands of lofty peaks to soluble dust and spreading it as soil over the low places of the earth. Once more it was not the fire, nor the whirlwind, nor the earthquake, that was pregnant of most power, but a still small voice.