My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Just arrived from Germany through BM.
Thus the great expedition proposed by Vitus Bering staggered to an inconclusive ending. No officer had set foot on Alaska proper; the scientific excursions had been aborted; no useful charting was done; and fifteen men had already been lost. The adventure which Bering had said could be completed for ten thousand rubles would ultimately consume the two million predicted by the accountants, and all that would have been proved which was not already known was that Alaska existed and Terra da Gama did not.
Before Cook, a British warship could leave England with four hundred sailors and expect one hundred and eighty to be dead by the time the voyage was over, and sometimes the toll reached the appealing figure of two hundred and eighty. Cook, unwilling to captain a ship that was little more than a floating coffin, decided in his quiet, efficient way, to change this, and he did so by instituting a few sensible rules, as he explained to his crew at the beginning of their memorable third voyage: ‘We have found that scurvy can be controlled if you will keep your quarters clean. If you wear clean dry clothes whenever you can. If you follow our rule of one watch on, two off so that you get plenty of rest. And if you will each day consume your portion of wort and rob.’
After Pym, with no knowledge or charts to guide him, sailed his Evening Star north from Lapak, he entered a world into no other American had ventured or would soon do so.
In the days that followed, the Americans learned that these men lived a short distance to the north in a village of thirteen subterranean huts containing fifty-seven people, and to the vast relief of the whalers, they found that the villagers were peacefully inclined. They were Eskimos, lineal descendants of those adventurers who had followed Oogruk from Asia fourteen years earlier. Six hundred and sixty generations separated them from Oogruk, and in the course of time they had acquired the skills which enabled them to survive and even prosper north of the Arctic Circle, which lay nearly three hundred miles to the south.
In that memorable year 1789, when France launched the revolution which would bring its people freedom from excessive tyranny, and the former American Colonies ratified their revolution by initiating a new form of government, under a remarkable constitution ensuring freedom, a group of vicious Russian fur traders committed a great atrocity against the Aleuts on Lapak Island.
One day she had guided him toward the shore of the Knik River, and she told Flossie: “I think she wants us to go see the George Lakes,” and with only this shadowy suggestion the old Irishman organized an expedition to one of the treasures of Alaska.
“Way up there a closed-in valley. It ought to flow directly into the Knik, but the wall of the glacier blocks it off, so the backed-up water forms a chain of three beautiful lakes, Upper, Inner and Lower Lake George. And there they stay locked up all through the cold weather, because the frozen glacier serves as a stopper.’
‘You can come to Alaska forty times and travel around all sides to those mountains and never see Denali,’ and Venn said: ‘I know.’ But there it was, in all its frozen glory, not only the highest peak of the continent but also the farthest north by a large margin. When you paid your respects to Denali, you were knocking on the door of the Arctic Circle, which lay less than two hundred and fifty miles to the north.
In 1969 the United States government began paying serious attention to the problem of how ancient land rights of the Alaskian Natives could be honored and protected, and one honest principle motivated all decisions.