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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/652

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Michael, above the mouth of the Yukon River, I had easy opportunity to verify for myself the accuracy of the statements that had been sent out, and to cast a geological glance at the situation. My examination of the region was confined to a few of the later days of September and to early October.

The geographical position of the Nome region is the southern face of the peninsular projection of Alaska which separates Kotzebue Sound on the north from Bering Sea on the south, and terminates westward in Cape Prince of Wales the extent of the North American continent. In a direct line of navigation, it lies about twenty-five hundred miles northwest of Seattle and one hundred and seventy miles southeast of Siberia. The nearest settlement of consequence to it prior to 1899 was St. Michael, a hundred miles to the southeast, the starting point of the steamers for the Yukon River; but during the year various aggregations of mining population had built themselves up in closer range, and reduced the isolation from the civilized world by some sixty miles. The Nome district as settled centers about the lower course of the Snake River, an exceedingly tortuous stream in its tundra course, which emerges from a badly degraded line of limestone, slaty, and schistose mountain spurs generally not over seven hundred to twelve hundred feet elevation, but backed by loftier granitic heights, and discharges into the sea at a position thirteen miles west of Cape Nome proper. Three miles east of this mouth is the discharge of Nome River. Both streams have a tidal course of several miles. Nome, or, as it was first called, Anvil City—named from a giant anvil-like protrusion of slate rock near to the summit of the first line of hills—occupies in greater part the tundra and ocean beach of the eastern or left bank of Snake River, but many habitations, mainly of a temporary character, have been placed on the bar beach which has been thrown up by the sea against the mouth of the stream, and deflected its course for some distance parallel with the ocean front. A number of river steamers (one even of considerable size) and dredges have found a suitable anchorage or "harbor" in the barrier-bound waters, and much driftwood passes into them at times of storms and higher waters, when the greatly constricted and shallow mouth is made passable. The entire region is treeless, and the nearest approach to woodland is in the timber tract of Golovnin Bay and its tributaries, about forty miles to the northeast. A fairly dense growth of scrub willow, three to five feet in height, with elms and alders, forms a fringe or delimiting line to parts of the courses of the streams in the tundra, which greatly undulates in the direction of the foothills and incloses tarnlike bodies of fresh and slightly brackish waters. It is covered merely with a