Picturing Alaska

On a 1947 trip up north with his son, Ansel Adams took a remarkable photograph that brought Alaska's grandeur to the American public on a large scale for the first time

In the summer of 1947, Ansel Adams and his 14-year-old son, Michael, undertook a six-week journey through Alaska that would have notable consequences for the history of conservation. Adams was already close to a household name for his masterful landscape photography, particularly the powerful shots of Yosemite Valley. A 1941 visit to Glacier National Park had sparked his interest in the north country.Read more »

Empire Of The Winds

In the Aleutian Islands you can explore a landscape of violent beauty, discover the traces of an all-but-forgotten war, and (just possibly) catch a $100,000 fish

 

One summer 30 years ago I found myself on a DC-3 bound for Unalaska, my string bass strapped into the seat next to me. I anchored the rhythm section of a high school band in Anchorage, and we were going to show students in this remote village on the Aleutian chain how much fun it could be to play a musical instrument.

 
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Get Rich Slow

In the Yukon with G. C. Hazelet

February 17, 1898. Left home this day for Alaska 4:35 P.M.” Thus did a thirty-four-year-old Nebraskan named George Cheever Hazelet note in his diary his departure for the Klondike. Gold had been discovered along the Yukon River two years earlier, and thousands of prospectors were spilling into the immense, empty reaches of Alaska to get some. Hazelet thought it beat teaching high school.Read more »

Mr. Harriman Requests The Pleasure Of Your Company

Was it science, sport, or the prospect of a round-the-world railroad that sent the tycoon off on his costly Alaskan excursion?

The railroad tycoon Edward Harriman was a man of large vision and mysterious ways. When, on a day in March of 1899, he strode into the Washington office of Dr. C. Hart Merriam, chief of the U.S. Biological Survey, and proposed sponsoring a grand scientific exploring expedition to Alaska, Merriam thought he was just another lunatic. He put his strange visitor off until the next day while he checked him out. To his surprise Merriam found the man to be exactly what he said he was—president of the Union Pacific Railroad.Read more »

Katmai

Sixty-eight years before Mount St. Helens blew, Alaska’s Mount Katmai erupted—and nearly brought on a second ice age

On August 26, 1883, Krakatoa, a small island between Java and Sumatra in western Indonesia, erupted with a violence perhaps unprecedented in geological history. Nearly five cubic miles of material were blown into the atmosphere. A 120-foot tidal wave swept the coasts of nearby islands, destroying 295 villages and drowning 36,000 people.Read more »

Freezing Time

The Klondike Photographs of Clarke and Clarence Kinsey

In the words of historian William Bronson, it was “the last grand adventure,” and there is no denying the dimensions of the event: in 1897 and 1898, at least one hundred thousand people took passage to the scruffy little towns of Dyea and Skagway in the Alaskan Panhandle, inched over the mountains through Chilkoot or White passes, then floated, walked, and dogsledded the remaining five hundred miles to a new Golconda called Dawson in the heart of the Klondike gold fields. Read more »

Arctic Twilight: The Paintings Of Kivetoruk Moses

Kivetoruk Moses spent his youth and middle years zestfully hunting seal, reindeer, and polar bear through the Alaskan snows. He became rich trading in furs and sled dogs in Siberia and his native Cape Espenberg on the Seward Peninsula. In 1954, when injuries from an airplane crash ended his hunting days, Moses started a new career by teaching himself to paint—as a means of keeping green his memories of those best of times.Read more »

Our Last Great Wilderness

America’s greed for oil has drastically upset the ecological balance of Alaska’s North Slope, and the end is not in sight

On August 16, 1826, after long weeks of frustrating and perilous travel along the north coast of Alaska, the British explorer Sir John Franklin decided to abandon his bold ambition—completing the exploration of the North American coastline. The cluster of gravel banks where a conspiracy of storm, fog, drifting ice, and approaching winter forced him to turn back—still shown on maps as the Return Islands— lay off an indentation that he named Prudhoe Bay.

 
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American Heritage Book Selection: Off To The Klondike!

How a bunch of the boys—and some of the girls, too—slogged up to the gold diggings in the Yukon; and how Hegg the photographer joined in the scramble, leaving a record of one of the most rugged adventures of modern times.

One hundred years ago, Alaska became part of the United States when Secretary of Slate William Henry Seward bought the vast territory from the Russians. For years the whole negotiation was labelled “Seward’s Folly,” and it was not until gold runs discovered nearby in the Yukon that Americans paid much attention to their new acquisition.Read more »

Billy Mitchell In Alaska

Early in his military career, the apostle of air power blazed a trail through the wilderness, forging the last link in a telegraph line to the edge of the Bering Sea

Few figures in American history have been surrounded by more controversy than General William Mitchell. He is a man chiefly remembered for his outspoken advocacy of air power in an age when most military minds were still firmly rooted in the earth, and for a visionary’s indifference to the feelings of his more conservative superiors, which led to a sensational court-martial.