National Geographic : 1909 Jul
THE MONARCHS OF ALASKA BY R. H. SARGENT, U. S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY IF "Seward's Folly" were justified in no other way than by the purchase of this territory as a preserve of scenic grandeur, our far-sighted Secre tary of State would be wholly exonerated. After a visit to southeastern Alaska, one author of note has written: "Com bine all that is best in the beauties of the Hudson and the Rhine, of Lakes George and Killarney, of the Yosemite and all of Switzerland, and you have a slight conception of the beauties of this green archipelago." Much of all this grandeur is to be found in Alaska's mountains. Because of the comparative inaccessi bility, except at great cost and much ex penditure of time, the mountain districts have been visited by only a favored few. But the accounts and descriptions of these, fortified by photographs of the regions, are such as to awaken a keen de sire in all lovers of nature to see them for themselves. The steamers running to Juneau and Skagway traverse a course which is yearly pronounced by hundreds who take this trip as the most scenic upon the globe. For a thousand miles the steamer winds its way through tortuous and nar row passages, the waters of which are as smooth as a mill pond, while snow capped peaks, ice fields, waterfalls, and green slopes pass in panoramic view before the eye. The Coast Range of British Columbia and southeastern Alaska is an irregular mass of mountains with no definite crest line. These mountains may be consid ered a general northern extension of the highlands which parallel the Pacific sea board of the United States. Along the entire coast from Seattle to Skag way, the sculpturing and general phys iographic features of these mountains are such as to make them of particular interest. The broad, smooth-sided, ice carved valleys, which subsequently were filled with water, due to the sinking of the entire region, make a very irregular coast-line, marked by numberless fiords, many of which extend far inland. An archipelago of numberless islands, the relief of which is nearly equal to that of the mainland, fringes this entire coast line. The passages between these islands are deep, each being remarkably uniform throughout its entire length. The moun tains of both the islands and main land rise, bold and precipitous, from the water's edge to heights of from 5,000 to 1o,ooo feet. GLACIAL SCULPTURING Many of the side valleys exhibit to a marked degree that physiographic characteristic of glacial sculpturing-the hanging valley. Often is seen, some hundreds of feet above tidewater, the broad, symmetrically carved U-shaped shelf, which, colored by the evergreens, makes a wonderful frame about the pic ture formed in the background by the cold gray mountains, with their snow capped peaks, and in the foreground the stream fed by the melting snow and glaciers of the main range, plunging, roar ing, often cascading down the precipi tous face of the mountains for hundreds of feet. SALMON FISHERIES As the steamer glides past the entrance of a fiord, one catches a glimpse of a group of white buildings nestled at the base of the mountains, where the mirror like waters of the inlet meet the precipi tous evergreen slopes. An exclamation of amazement at the beauty of the pic ture is well nigh irrepressible. These buildings are simply one group of which there are scores along the southern coast, making one of the greatest of Alaska's industries, the canning of salmon. There are approximately 200,000,000 cans of salmon sent from Alaska each season.