National Geographic : 1903 Mar
MOUNTAINS ON UNIMAK ISLAND, ALASKA* BY FERDINAND WESTDAHL ASSISTANT, U. S. COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY SHISHALDIN volcano is the high est mountain on the island,t and it vies with Mt St Helens, in Wash ington, in being in outline the most regular cone I know of on the Pacific coast of the United States. It is an active volcano, and the discharges from its crater come in puffs like steam at first and rising probably ioo feet or more above its summit, then turn darker in color and stream off horizontally with the direction of the wind. In calm weather the continuous discharges are seen to rise in a column more than I,ooo feet above it and gradually spread out in a dark cloud. When the wind blows hard over the summit the smoke is beaten down and follows the slope on the lee side of the peak. The snowy mantle of the mountain becomes dark after several days of calm weather, then clouds envelop it, snow falls and the mountain again emerges, clad in pure white. + The snow line reached on September 21, 1901, down to an esti mated height of 2,800 feet above the sea. At about 3,000 feet below the sum mit the regular cone begins to spread out, and at4,ooo feet there is a projecting spur to the westward. Glacier-carved canyons begin at about 4,000 feet or more below the summit, and from them * This article consists of extracts from a report made in February, 1902, by Assistant Westdahl, commanding the Coast Survey Steamer McArthur, while engaged in a survey of that region. The extracts refer to certain interesting geographical features of Unimak Island, Alaska, and are published here, together with the accompanying photographs, by permission of the Superin tendent of the Coast Survey. Unimak is one of the Aleutian Islands, about which very little is known, and therefore the description of the mountains as seen by the writer and recorded by the camera is especially interesting. Excerpts are also given from Mr Westdahl's description of the south shore of the island. t " The island is uninhabited, and has beenin that condition for the greater part of the present century, though it is richer than many other islands of the Aleutian chain in natural means of sustaining life. " Foxes are quite plentiful here and sea otters frequent the reefs and points, but ever since nearly 1oo years ago-almost all the inhabitants of four or five populous villages were massacred by the Russian promyshleneks, a superstitious dread seems to prevent the Aleutian from making a permanent home at Oonimak (Unimak)." Ivan Petroff, p. 77, in "Narratives of Military Ex plorations in Alaska," compiled under the direction of "'TheCommittee on Military Affairs " of the Senate. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1900. $Miners bound for Cape Nome and whalers or sealers on their way to Bering Sea as they sail through Unimak Pass can see Shishaldin in the distance. When the air is clear the moun tain presents a majestic spectacle, which is described by John Burroughs in the following words : " Before nightfall we passed two more notable volcanic peaks, Isanotski and Shishaldin, both of which penetrate the clouds at an altitude of nearly 9,000 feet. These are on Unimak Island at the end of the peninsula. Our first glimpse was of a black cone ending in a point far above a heavy mass of cloud. It seemed buoyed up there by the clouds. There was nothing visible beneath it to indicate the presence of amountain. Then the clouds blotted it out; but presently the veil was brushed aside again, and before long we saw both mountains from base to summit and noted the vast concave lines of Shishaldin that swept down to the sea, and that mark the typical volcanic form. "The long, graceful curves, so attractive to the eye, repeat on this far-off island the profile of Fuji-Yama, the sacred peak of Japan. Those of our party who had seen Shishaldin in previous years described it as snow white from base to summit. But when we saw it the upper part, for several thousand feet, was dark-doubtless the result of heat, for it is smoking this year " (1899). From "Alaska," vol. I, p. 90. "Alaska," the report of the Harriman Alaska Expedition. Edited by Dr C. Hart Merriam. New York : Doubleday, Page & Co., 19o1.