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Alaska: Little Known Land
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The Spectator
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 by Frank Shortt
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     Alaska is still isolated and primitive in many ways. The Innuit and Sitka are still thriving, selling their handmade wares, depending upon tourism for a meager
sustenance!
     Jack London, American writer and Socialist, accompanied gold rush enthusiasts during 1897-1904, which eventually became known as the Klondike Gold Rush. The first strike in Alaska was in Nome, in west Alaska. London’s short stories of survival are some of the best of the genre. White Fang and Call of the Wild, two novels of animal life are probably the most well-known of London’s works. One short story, dealing with survival and the lack of food called ‘Love of Life’ was one of the most memorable short stories I ever read. This is not to say that ‘To Build a Fire’ is not up there as one of London’s greatest stories! London died of renal colic in 1916
     Rex Beach, another American author and ‘environmentalist before his time’, wrote some very compelling novels of the rape of Alaska. ‘The Spoilers” dealing with corruption following the first Alaska Gold Rush, was a number one best seller in 1906. “The Silver Horde” dealt with how corrupt men used the enormous salmon runs to fatten their bankrolls at a cost of many lives and destruction of their competitors. One of the greatest collection of short stories dealing with how men are drawn closer during a crises was called “Pardners”! Beach went on to write a bevy of novels during his lifetime, and died by his own hand in 1949!
     Rape of Alaska has taken its toll. The landscape is still scarred by the unscrupulous gold seekers of the late 1800’s. One can still take the Chilkoot Pass and cross over into the Yukon where many miners lost their lives and fortunes to the freezing temperatures. Unsportsmanlike hunters have killed off many large animals, even shooting them out of helicopters and aircraft with machine guns and allowing them to lie where they fell. Several large mammals have been placed on endangered lists due to the overkilling by unthinking hunter-murderers! In comparison to Chicago, where killings are a daily thing, are those killers any better than the men who murder animals from afar and allow them to rot? What are civilized men thinking?
     Seward, Soapy Smith, and Captain Smith all were renowned in their own perspective ways. These men, though well-known in their seasons, are hardly mentioned today. Each made their mark carving his niche, it now takes a scholar to tell their differences.
     One thing should be cleared up about transportation in Alaska. We, the uneducated, about things Alaskan, always thought that huskies were used for sled dogs. When my wife and I visited Alaska a few years ago, we were told by expert dog-sledders that mixed-breed mongrels make the best sled dogs. This is because huskies do not have the stamina and sticktuitiveness that mixed-breed dogs seem to have. Live and Learn!
     There are ten, either protected or endangered species of whales in Alaska! The Bowhead, The Sei, the Blue, the Fin, the Beluga(Cook Inlet), the Western North Pacific DPS Gray, the North Pacific Right, Mexico DPS Humpback, the Western North Pacific Humpback, and the Sperm! Many of these were killed simply because of their oil, and by greedy hunters who would like to say they caught a whale!
     Wild Salmon, as found in Alaska, is reputed to be the tastiest salmon of all! Although the runs the past few years have been healthy, there are still dangers to their health. Runs of king (Chinook) to spawn have declined in the past few years. Hatcher salmon may be one of the factors. It is alleged that changes in the ocean environment due to climate change has been a detriment to salmon runs, as has been, ocean acidification. With all the bombs and ammunition being dumped daily, who could wonder?
     As waste laws are passed, sometimes in an emergency mode, I cannot help but think, “too little too late!”