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THE BEACH DIGGINGS Prices are high, and will continue to if put up, would not have found a purbe so for many months to come. Last chaser at $100; but less than two years October coal sold quickly at $70 a ton, later an ordinary-sized building lot in one and wood for building purposes was scarce little spot had reached a value of $1,000, at $250 the thousand feet. Articles of and twice that amount if it carried with it clothing such as rubber boots, which are any kind of a wooden shanty. On Anvil absolutely necessary in the work, sell for Street in this new town one rough board many times their value in the States. building, with the ground on which it
Provisions are equally dear. The stood, was sold for $3,500. housekeeper in Nome City pays during Nome is an organized city, with a Mayor the winter season one dollar for a pound and a Council. There is a City Marshal, of sugar. A little marketing at the store but, strange to say, his duties are light. means a long purse, with ordinary fresh Unlike the mining towns of the Western beef worth $1.60 a pound, flour fifty cents States, this Alaskan prototype is decidedly a pound, and small hams $10 and $12 each. orderly. The rigorous climate and the
The boarding-house proprietors, of whom hard labor of gold-mining renders every there are a few, do a thriving business and one too tired for deviltry. The chill, damp manage to make a little money by charg- winds and the pestering mosquitoes of the ing s3 for a rude, home-cooked breakfast summer months keep the streets deserted or dinner. On some of the shanties and at night, and during the winter the almost even tents crudely painted signs testify daily blizzards, aided by a temperature that lodgings can be found within. The fifty degrees below zero, have a like effect. wayfarer, on entering, learns that he can The health record of the town is not have a cot without blankets for $1 a night of the highest. Malarial fevers prevail but if he desires covering he must double because of unsanitary conditions, and on the amount. In the hotel the lowest price several occasions typhoid has made its is $10 for a six-by-nine room. Beer is appearance. This is due to the bad valued at fifty cents a glass, and very state of the water, and to the fact that rank whisky costs eight dollars a bottle. for miles around the land is low and
The value of real estate affords one of marshy. The isolated territory in which the most astonishing comparisons. In the Nome is situated forms one of its greatlatter part of 1897 the whole promontory, est drawbacks. During eight months of
the year it is practically cut off from the will exceed $15,000,000, at a conservative rest of the world.
estimate. The route overland from the Yukon is “ The whole Cape Nome country is a almost impassable except in the middle of gold field. The auriferous deposits in the summer, and the carriage of supplies to Klondike surprised the world in 1897, but any extent must necessarily be left to the Cape Nonie is a greater marvel. No men steamship companies. With freight ai have ever made money faster than the forty dollars a ton, and the steamer ca- Nomers have made it this past year and pacity limited, there are good grounds for will make it in the next few years. No the constant fear that next winter will one knows the extent of the gold-bearing result in famine and great suffering. territory at Cape Nome, because all the
In view of these facts, it is well to state five thousand men there last summer were that only persons of robust health and too busy washing gold from the beach or rugged constitutions should fare to Nome the hills to lose time in prospecting. In City for their fortunes.
all my experience in gold-mining since The testimony of an expert for the 1860 I have never known anything like State Mining Bureau of California, Captain the promise of gold at Cape Nome. The L. B. Butler, who recently visited Cape beach is known as ruby sand. It is Nome, is that nowhere else on earth are extremely heavy, and is dark blue in color. there such rich placer mines.
All the miner has to do is to shovel the “ The district will astonish the world in sand into a rocker, and I have never two years more,” he stated, “and will known a shovelful that did not show some continue to astonish it yearly for a long traces of gold. time. Nome's output of gold for 1898, “How much there is of this gold-bearing its first season of washing, was $900,000, sand no one knows. From Nome north many times greater than that from the to York, a distance of one hundred and Klondike in its first season. In many thirty miles, the beach has been prosrespects the Cape Nome gold field is the pected, and some gold has been found in most wonderful yet sound. Think of men all that distance. But if the area of goldgetting pay dirt a foot below the surface bearing sand was unknown, the area and of sand. The whole beach for seventy richness of the earth in the hills and miles up the shore is staked off in mining gulches back from the beach are even claims, and there are even greater riches more matters of guess. That territory dug by more effort and more enterprising has merely been picked into by the prosmining methods in the gulches and along pectors. It stands to reason that the the brooks that seam the hills back from golden mites which have been washed the shore line. You may well imagine down from the hills and deposited on the what wealth there is in the placers of beach through countless ages must be Cape Nome when California men, who found in larger sizes and greater abunhave been miners for a generation and dance back from the shore, where they know from long experience what rich and have been retarded by geological formapoor diggings are, have paid $50,000 and tions. It will take money and manageeven $80,000 for single claims upon which ment, however, to get the riches from the less than a month's work had been done. back country at Cape Nome, because
The output of gold from this brand water cannot be got to the mines in the new mining region for four months last hills and ravines without the use of
was between $2,000,000 and Aumes and ditches, and the wood for the $2,300,000. That, too, was all taken out Aumes and dikes must be brought to the by crude gold-miners' rockers and cruder gold fields on steamers. It will take a pans, by about eight hundred men. It is little fortune to get lumber to Cape Nome not saying too much to state that four for Aumes, and you may imagine what times that amount will be washed out by enormous prices must be paid for day the Cape Nome miners next summer; labor to construct ditches in a country and by the summer of 1901, when ma- where every man has a chance to do minchinery and modern appliances for gold- ing on his own account, and make from washing have been introduced into the ten to sixty dollars a day.” Cape Nome region, the annual clean up Up to the present only three methods
of mining have been followed in Nome. water and gravel to escape over the side In the gulches back of the town and along until nothing but the gold, which has fallen the numerous creeks emptying into Snake to the bottom through its own weight, is River, what is known as stripping and left. The gold found in the ruby sand sluicing is carried on, while on the beach and under the tundra at Nome is exceedthe gold is extracted almost exclusively ingly fine and rather difficult to save. by rocking or panning. Here the neces- In prospecting, which, as most know, sary water is generally taken from the means seeking traces of gold over mounocean. In some few cases, however, the tain and hill, through dale and plain, in all sea-water has been raised by steam-power, climes, the elementary method of panning and sluices constructed along the beach. is used to discover the presence of gold in
In the rocker, which is a box-like affair the gravel; but, in the majority of cases, having an upper and lower part, the gold after the claim is staked and systematic is caught on blankets, and, to some extent, work begun, the cradle or rocker is used, on copper plates coated with mercury. or else long sluice-boxes are built of A proof of the extreme scarcity of ma- boards, the miners usually being obliged terial in Nome City is the fact that cases to fell the trees themselves and saw out have been known where the miners were the lumber with whipsaws. compelled to utilize silver dollars nailed The upper part of the gravel is generto the bottom of the rocker, and coated ally barren, the golden dirt lying directly with mercury.
upon the rock beneath, and often very Panning is the original method of min. thin. To get at this pay streak all the ing. It is the least costly, and is per- upper dirt must be shoveled off; and formed with a utensil easily carried and this preliminary work sometimes requires, easily worked. The pan is literally what especially in the cold stretches of Alaska, the term implies—an ordinary metal pan. an entire season. The process is rather tedious, but gold The depth of the gravel in the bottom enough to make the fortune of a Creesus of the gulches varies from a foot up to has been placed in circulation through it. twenty or thirty feet, and when it is deeper
In working the pan the miner first than the latter figure it cannot be worked shovels a small quantity of gold-bearing under present methods. In the winter gravel into it, which he washes by giving fires are built to thaw the gravel. the pan a circular motion, permitting the Prospecting in the interior of Alaska is very difficult, owing to the character of shown by the return of lucky ones from the surface, the general formation being Alaska, many of whom never had experisoft, the hills having been worn smooth ence before, while old and experienced by glacial action, which left a layer over prospectors failed. the whole country to the depth of from It was on August 17, 1896, that George five to fifty feet. This is frozen the whole Cormack, a “squaw man, who was fishyear, with the exception of a few toping for salmon, found a nugget of gold on inches in the summer. There is also a the Klondike, the announcement of which growth of moss, dense in low places, which made millions of hearts beat faster, and in the summer is wet and makes difficult caused the word Klondike to become walking. On the trails it rolls up with famous throughout the world. It is said the mud in balls.
that the discovery of the beach diggings at The method of prospecting under these Cape Nome was due to a miner who, disconditions, which obtain in the hills near appointed in not securing a claim on one of Nome as well as in other parts of Alaska, the creeks, carelessly panned several shovelis to sink a number of holes to the bed- fuls of the ruby sand bordering the ocean. rock across the bottom of the creek, or to It may be of interest to know how cross-cut it by tunnels and test the dirt claims are recognized when the proper every few feet by the panning process, officials are not in position to carry out thus locating the pay streak. The lack of the requirements of the Government. In water proves a great hindrance in many such cases miner's law prevails. In each cases. The seasons are dry except near gulch or creek-bed prospectors are at the coast, and only the glacial drippings liberty to stake out claims not already can be depended upon to wash the gravel. taken, the size of the claims being deter
Chance cuts a large figure in the find- mined by vote of all the miners in each ing of a gold-mine. Although gold is gulch, according to the richness of the found in small quantities all over the gravel. world, it has defied attempt to locate it The usual length of the claim is about with certainty by any ordinary rules of five hundred feet along the stream, and observation. It is found in such varied the total width of the gulch bed, which is companionship that the prosecution of a ordinarily narrow. When a prospector search for it is made almost a matter of has thus staked out his claim, it is recorded chance. When it is found in its native by one of the miners who is elected by state, as in Cape Nome, although in such his fellows in each gulch for that purpose; a tempting form, its plentifulness is quite this secures him sufficient title. as erratic as when it is present in rock Conservative estimates place the rush combined with other metais.
to Cape Nome this summer at twenty-five Prospecting must be followed upon thousand. It is the opinion of some certain generally accepted lines, but the experienced miners that the coming seaminer's best divining-rod in a field like son's output will exceed that of the KlonAlaska must be miner's luck. That is dike many times over.
CAPE NOME BEACH