Typescript account of 32 pages accompanied by 31 black and white photographs gathered in a scrapbook album documenting an unidentified Washington’s man’s hiking, climbing and sight-seeing adventures in Alaska. Written along the top edge of the first page is “Alaska Bound 1946-1947.” Twenty-three of the onion skin paper pages are scotch taped to the album pages and the final nine pages of the typescript are loose and laid into the back of the string-tied album. The black and white photographs measure 4 ½ x 2 ¾” and are affixed to the album pages with black photo corners. The tape affixed to the pages has oxidized, but otherwise overall on very good condition.
The unknown author was a crewman on a cargo ship and wrote that he had made more than 150 prior trips to Southeastern Alaska. On this trip, his ship set out from Seattle to the Aleutian Islands and made a stop at Anchorage to drop off some dogs for the Army. “As part of the cargo which we were carrying, we had on deck sixty-one sled dogs raised in Nebraska,” he wrote. “They were supposed to be mostly huskies, but, in reality, were a mixture of almost everything…It was remarked: ‘They are nothing but a darned bunch of Nebraska coyotes.’”
Beyond Anchorage, the ship’s itinerary included Adak, Attu, Shemya, Whittier and Amchitaka. The narrative covers his experiences on board but is mainly devoted to his shore adventures, oftentimes with other members of his crew, which include mountain climbing, hiking, fishing trips and sight-seeing during his free days while cargo is being off loaded. One of his first adventures was a trip to Wasilla and Palmer. “Back in Palmer once more, we made the acquaintance of one of the old timers who gave us quite a history of Alaskan mining from the early gold rush days up to the present time,” he wrote. “He tried to persuade us to go back into the mountains with him to take pictures of his claims.
On the way to Adak, he spotted “whale birds” and soon whales were also seen. “During the war, whales in these waters were frequently attacked by both bombers and submarines in error,” he wrote. “It was, it seems, difficult to detect the difference between submarines and whales.”
In addition to being an avid and skillful storyteller and photographer, the diarist had a wide-ranging knowledge and interest in the flora and fauna of the region. During a port stop in Attu, he explored Holty (Holtz) Bay and traveled to the summit of Jarmin Pass, where the Japanese once maintained a principal base until it was recaptured by the United States during World War II. “In the foreground and also in the distance some dummy guns and other equipment could be seen scattered about,” he wrote. “I followed along the stream and before long came across a few small willow bushes, less than three feet in height, bravely struggling for existence against the elements. They were located in a thicket of Russian thistles, wild cherry, tanzzy, monk hood, and numerous other kinds of vegetation. That was my first glimpse of anything in the form of wood growing in the Aleutians.”
On this break, he undertook the first of several climbing expeditions – this one of Gilbert Ridge. It was a near catastrophe after the weather turned foggy while he was climbing the jagged peaks, made the wrong decision dead-ending against sheer cliffs and fell while back tracking his route. “In that next instant I found myself bouncing over the wet cozy ground like a toboggan over a snowbank…I started flying through space at what seemed to me a mile a minute. In the next instant there was a big swoosh as I cut a path three feet wide and five feet long through a patch of Indian celery, Russian thistle and Monk’s Hood and landed with a flop in the creek bed below and that was that.” Although he was fortunate to escape with a sore shoulder and sprained thumb, he was soaking wet and faced a long journey back to the ship.
The scrapbook is filled with numerous, descriptive accounts of his adventures during the journey. The photographs complement the text and include various images of his explorations ranging from Whittier Glacier to two men holding a crippled Bald Eagle, a trading store in Wasilla and fishing at Finger Arm. At the end of the trip before returning to Seattle, he and his shipmates went into the woods and cut Christmas trees, which they delivered to families on the treeless, remote Aleutians. Item #74398