THE SCHEME OF THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY (Historic Information)
The Alaska shore south of Cape Prince of Wales, and the Yukon to Fort Selkirk, were as thoroughly explored and better mapped by the agents of the Western Union Telegraph Company than that part of the shore north of Cape Prince of Wales was by those who sought the Northwest Passage, or the lost expedition of Franklin and Ross.
Standing on the Diomede Islands, one may look over to Asia on one side and America on the other. The strait is narrow and the water is shallow.
The Western Union Telegraph Company conceived the idea to connect the old and new world by wire, and during 1 865-6-7 had large parlies of men surveying and reconnoitring in the wilds of both. On the Siberian side it proposed to start at Irkutsk (to which a line already extended) ; thence along the Amoor, Kamchatka and Anadyr Rivers to Anadyr Gulf, or Penti Gulf. On the American side a line was already established to or near Cariboo, British Columbia, from which it was to extend northward up the Fraser and down the Yukon to Nulato; thence across to Norton Sound and ending at Port Clarence. A cable was to connect the two across Bering Strait.
Many men were employed and much work done. To this day their marks are plainly seen, the knowledge of the country and natives was preserved by the Smithsonian Institute, printed in the papers of the whole world. The books by Wymper and Dall are even now the best early authentic information existing. This knowledge of the country, indirectly, at least, was one of the largest factors inducing Seward and Congress to purchase Alaska.
The company doubted the success of Fields Atlantic Cable, just as many doubted the utility of the wireless a year or two ago, but its success was soon proven, causing the company to abandon its scheme, about the same time Seward purchased Alaska.
Captain Beechey extended his exploration to Port Clarence, 1827. At that time the natives were freely trading with the Chukchis, of Siberia, as they were during the busy days of the telegraph company thirty years later, and as they are now. There can be no question about the near blood relation of the people of the two continents al this point, and it would have been appropo to unite the continents by wire here. Wireless now communicates from boat to boat and with Alaska shore stations throughout the North and will soon spread to Asia. Railroad building is feasible and profitable in Alaska, and may yet extend across the Bering Strait by car ferry and provide an overland route from New York to Paris.