National Geographic : 1949 Oct
Amos Burg Live Steam, Shot Through a Forest of Pipes, Thaws Alaska Ground for Gold Mining Near Fairbanks, shirtless workmen toil in the summer sun to couple hose leading from boilers to upright pipes. After the earth is softened, pipes are removed and a giant dredge (background) moves in to scoop up and wash gold-bearing gravel. Water jets (page 514) are used where "pay dirt" is closer to the surface. Seppala, a short, lithe Norwegian, was drawn by the gold rush to Nome in 1900. During the next 20 years he traveled more miles by dog team and won more races than any other driver, it is said. "My dogs are not Alaskan Malemutes," he said. "They are Siberian dogs, smaller than Malemutes, but less sensitive to cold and much less temperamental." With his Siberians, Seppala won the $10.000 All-Alaska Sweepstakes three times. The Sweepstakes was a gruelling 408-mile run over desolate, wind-swept trails, truly the Kentucky Ierby of the northland. Seppala's last long Alaska race was in 1925, when he and his famous Siberians took part in a highly publicized dog-team relay carrying antitoxin to diphtheria-stricken Nome. Since my visit, Seppala has moved Outside. A branch road off the Steese Highway leads through the heart of the Tanana Valley farm ing area. Like Matanuska Valley and the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska's other agricultural centers, the Tanana is devoted largely to truck farming and some dairying. Truck Farming in Tanana Valley The growing season, averaging 90 days, is supercharged with 16 to 20 hours of sunlight daily during May, June, and July. Most of the farms are operated by pioneers who homesteaded and cleared virgin land. Killing frosts in late spring and early autumn drove some of them back home. And in the early days even a successful crop didn't guarantee a profit, because many Fair banks grocerymen had year-round contracts with Seattle wholesalers to provide 100 per cent of their foodstuffs. But the influx of Army construction workers opened a market for everything that would grow. A farmers' marketing cooperative offers additional assurance of a fair return. Bert Stimple, one of the valley's most suc cessful farmers, arrived on a boat from (ali fornia in 1936 with $300 and a motorcycle.