MT. ST. ELIAS (Historic Alaska Information)
In July, 1741, when Behring discovered Alaska, one of the first and most attractive features noticed by him from the sea near Valdez. was what appeared to him. and to every one else for a hundred and fifty years after, the highest peak in North America. He gave it the beautiful name of St. Elias be cause he discovered it on Saint Elias day. Any one who sees it will concede thai it is more appropriately named than most Alaska points.
The Indians look upon it with as much awe as we do, and tell traditionary tales of its eruptions, superhuman powers, etc.
I believe the New York Times Expedition, including Schwalka and Seaton-Karr, made the first attempt to climb it, in 1886. They described the large River Yahtse, which flows for miles under the ice. Schwatka climbed the highest, ascending 7,200 feet; a higher ascent was impossible.
In 1888 the Topham expedition from England tried it. Up to this time it was thought a large crater appeared on the side, and it does now look so from the bottom; but on arriving at that point Topham found it was a separate peak, and no craler at all. Those attempting its ascent have concluded that it was not a volcanic mountain, although Tebenkoff, a Russian, reported it as smoking, in 1839, and its eruption, in 1847; and other reports have been made of volcanic action. Topham named this point Haydens Peak. He reached 11,460 feet altitude.
In June, 1890, the National Geographical Society and the Geological Survey united in their effort to ascend. Prof. I.C. Russell, glacier expert, headed the expedition. He landed on Yakutat Bay, made a long journey across the Malaspina Glacier, named Mt. Logan in Augusta Range, and Owen and Irving in Cook Range, but failed to scale St. Elias. His reports and information were so valuable that he was returned the next year, 1891, and made another attempt to ascend the peak, reaching an elevation of 14,500 feet, and fixed the height of the peak at 18,100 feet. On his return he made a detailed exploration of Disenchantment Bay.
Shortly after, the Italian, Duke of Abruzzi (recently prominenl in the newspapers of the world as fiance of Catherine Elkins), with the courage and system of the general that he is, the assistance of young men like himself, and an early start, succeeded in reaching the apex, and from it beheld one ol the greatest panoramic views ever coming to the eyes of an earthly being. He stood with his whole party on the pinnacle; before them stretched the Malaspina Glacier 80 miles long, and dozens of others, smaller, of course, but still large enough to cover Switzerland, with its world-famous glaciers. Mt. Parouse, Mt. Crillion, Mt. Fairweather and other mighty peaks lay below his feet; whole ranges, patches of forests, rivers like silver threads, and fields of clouds here and there; on the east Canada, north Yukon Basin, west Copper River and Cooks Inlet country, and south the Pacific Ocean. No man can behold such a wonderful sight and not be a bigger, better and nobler being; is it worth the risk, expense, and suffering? Ask God; man is too small to answer it.
At night time and on very cold days black snow worms would appear in the snows that cover the glaciers. Sand stone and lime stone and sea shells of known species of this age are found on the summits of the peaks of this range, indicating that the mountains are not of great age. Ingre Vittorio Novarese, Royal Geologist of Rome, who examined the collection of rocks gathered by the Duke, differs from Prof. Israel C. Russell on some of the intricate questions of age. priority of upheaval and the like, but I believe it will be conceded by all that an intrusive diorite occupies the heart of the primary upheaval, similar to the Coast Range.
For the student or alpinist, much of interest has been written about the Fairweather and St. Elias Ranges and the glacier cap by the members of the expeditions above referred to. particularly Russell. Topham, Seaton-Karr, Abruzzi, and by Dr. Cook and the Harriman Expedition subsequently.