THE ALASKA PENINSULA AND ALEUTIAN ISLANDS (Historic Information)
There is a wider dissimilarity between these islands and the first division of Alaska than exists between the plains of Kansas and wooded lands of Maine.
In place of the jagged granite islands and mountains of the timbered shores, we find oval topped, beautifully rounded domes, symmetrically curved and robed in dark green grass. In contrast to the daily steamers, one lone monthly boat breaks the silence of this strange northland. The yet ash covered red peaks appear too new for vegetation and are void of mineral. Everything is on a grand scale. The Black or Japanese Current (The Kuro-Shiwo) bathes the shores and fills the air with perpetual spring;
The long sweeping curve of islands extending nearly to the shores of Siberia and Japan;
The wide-spreading blue vault of the heavens; the limitless expanse of the variegated ocean; and the whole days glow and matchless setting of an Arctic-summer sun. There dwells in this land a spirit of almost pitiful, lovely loneliness.
A few small boats are owned among the islands, a cod, halibut or whaler puts in for shelter or water at times, or the smoke of some vessel seen far out at sea, are about the only signs of the busy life of the outside world.
Bristol Bay and Cooks Inlet are almost united by Clark and Iliamna Lakes, and at several other places the peninsula is nearly severed. Some time a waterway will be made, which will shorten the route to Nome and the Arctic almost a thousand miles.
Tri-oh-nek, Toyonak, Kustatan, on Cooks Inlet; Nikhkak, on Lake Clark; Kak-ho-nak, Kas-an-ahk, Illamna, on Lake Illamna; Katmai, Kaguyak, Kami shak, Chignik, and Douglass on Shelikof Strait; Koggiung, Kwichakh, Kiniaak, Naknek, Ugaguk, Nushagak, Igagig and Fort Alexander on Bristol Bay, are all native or Russian villages now or heretofore occupied by the natives or Russisna, or both, on the Alaska Peninsula. Also St. Paul, Orlova. Alsentic. Karluk, Uyak, and Kadiak on Kadiak Island. All of the larger and some of the smaller islands are occupied with from one to one hundred natives. Russians and creoles. Unga, Dutch Harbor. Unalaska, Nikolski are among the most important settlements. The Russian estimate of Aleut population for the peninsula and Island was 10,000; they may number half that many now, and among them 3,000 other bloods and creoles. The Governor, in his last report, estimated the whole Alaska population at 31,000 whites: 35.000 natives, and 7,000 mixed, who work in Alaska in summer and go elsewhere for winter. My own opinion is that a census will give the whole native population at about 30,000. resident whites 35,000 and non-residents who work in Alaska in summer only at 20,000.
Their are no reasons to apprehend an increase of population among the Aleuts in the near future. The mountains and islands are poor in resources. The government reports copper at Kamishak Bay, coal or coal hearing rocks on Port Moller. Stepovak, Chignik and Kalmai Bays and on Kodiak and Trinity Islands, and gold and silver lode on Unalaska, and petroleum seepage at the entrance of Cooks Inlet, hut these are all mere prospects, as a rule not very encouraging.
The heaver, once plentiful, is rarely seen now, likewise the land otter. The Schooner Shallenge, owned by Henry Dirks, of Aaka Island, and used for sea otter hunting, has been sold to the whalers. Mr. Charles Rosenberg and his son patrol thirty miles of sea off Unimak and took three skins last year. The Kodiak bear is the largest known species of that animal. Sportsmen from all quarters of the globe long to add him to their store of trophies, but the native keeps a safe distance. The Aleut takes a few fur seal during the migration of the herd. The walrus, once plentiful, is now almost extinct south of Bering Strait. There is a small catch of land furs. One hundred years ago this country, land and sea. was literally alive with valuable fur. Now it is poor in every resource except fish. For foods the natives (and Russians) love the sea urchin. One old Russian lady with us last year ate them alive and raw, as we do oysters. Mussels are plentiful and palatable, and the octopus, crab and some clams are used. The hair seal and salmon are the main supports.
There are twenty-seven canneries and salteries on the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands. These furnish the largest part of home employment. Some of the natives are employed in other fisheries and on the cod, halibut and whaling boats away from home; others on Cooks Inlet and Prince Williams Sound.
Garden vegetables, cattle and sheep do well, and inasmuch as grasses grow luxuriantly, it would seem that in time the country should provide a comfortable and profitable home for a large population.
C. H. Fry, the packer, has a large stock farm at Kodiak, where a dozen horses. 200 cattle and 200 sheep thrive, increase and keep fat the year through on native feed, consisting of beach grass, blue top, timothy and willows. A small amount of hay and silage is prepared for feed at such times as the snow may cover the winter pasture. Frost may be expected about September 1 st.
The Government station at Kodiak, and Calinsky Bay near by, have a herd of fifty Galloway cattle, from which it is intended to supply the local
demand for cattle of a hardy breed, and provide a dairy for Kodiak. A good harrowing of the native soil easily prepares the ground for thy or grain feeds, over which a mowing machine can be run. Four or five homesteads have been taken up on Kodiak. The industrial schools and experiment stations will open the way for new resources.
The Government has extensive fish hatcheries at Afognak Island and Karluk River. Bristol Bay and Shelikof Straits afford the best commercial salmon fishing waters of Alaska. Even the Kuskoquim River is producing fish for outside market. While all the large rivers northward from Bristol Bay supply the natives and miners, they will perhaps never produce many fish for the market.
The fish industry of Alaska is enormous, employing 13,337 men, one-half whites, the remainder equally divided between Japs, Chinese and natives, last year. The capital invested exceeds ten million dollars. Over two hundred seventeen million fish were taken out last year, amounting to over eleven millions of dollars. (Nothing but whalebone and walrus ivory from the Arctic.)
There are approximately thirty canneries and forty salteries in Alaska. The catch includes principally salmon, halibut, cod, whale, herring, crabs, clams and sole.
The salmon output last year, given in cases and values, as 69,000 coho or silver, valued at $275,000; 218,000 dog, at $554,000; 664,00 humpback, value $ 1,700,000; 24,000 king, value $100,000; and 1,663,000 red sockeye, value $7,318,000.
These fish were caught generally either with gillnet, seine, or trap. But most excellent sport can be had with a king salmon weighing fifty pounds at the end of a light trout rod and silk line. Use Hendryx Seattle trout bait spoon No. 5. A steelhead salmon puts up a noble fight, likewise the coho. A tenderfoot will find much enjoyment in chasing crabs in four feet of water or less. After the required number have been caught, boil them alive in the sea water. No more palatable morsel could be imagined. All the crabs are cooked this way before being shipped.
In any non-glacial stream, the Dolly Varden (salmon trout) may be hooked in large numbers on the salmon spawning grounds. They weigh on an average two pounds, and will make interesting sport with a light trout rod. The large salmon come up the stream when the tide is about two feet high or more, then the trout disappear up stream, until the salmon have gone to sea again, with the ebbing tide.
Last year 385 persons were engaged in halibut fishing, the catch bringing $174,000; almost as many more in the cod fishing marketed $134,000. These figures are under estimates, as large quantities of fish are taken of which no record has been made.
Halibut and cod boats go up from San Francisco or Puget Sound and fish during the summer in all the coast waters. The larger boats go into Bering Sea, or on the ocean side of the islands. Numerous stations are established on the shores, from which fishermen in "dories" go out and catch the fish hand over hand at the end of hook and line. Some of the boats return to Seattle with from fifty to a hundred and fifty thousand fish. No one has ever claimed that it was sport to catch these big, lazy fish. But many a man. broken in health, has returned from the Alaskan codfish waters, after a summer's outing on the sea with a codfish diet, restored to perfect health.