Alaska, Russia, Vitus Bering discussed on Lore
Alaska is one of those places that most people think they know they have enough familiarity with key pieces of its story to assume they know the whole thing but of all our flaws as humans. Assumption is one of our most embarrassing. Isn't it alaska. Story begins much earlier than the purchase. That added it to a growing united states. In fact a fully understand that territory. We need to go back in time. To an age we know very little about the latter stages of the stone age as early as fifteen thousand years ago but possibly as far back as forty thousand years the first humans to step onto north american soil did so off the coast of alaska. They walked over a low wide. Land bridge that once crossed the north atlantic and from there dispersed. Southward eventually populating much of north and south america. Alaska was the gateway to an entirely new world one full of endless opportunity but while many of the original inhabitants continue their marcel. A good number of people remain behind in the territory that we now call alaska even today all those thousands of years later at least fifteen percent of the population there are native peoples. They are spread across eleven different culture groups and almost as many unique languages and over the centuries they have experienced the worst of humanity in seventeen. Twenty five a full half century before america was birthed as a nation russia's emperor peter the great sent an explorer named vitus bering to see if north america and asia were connected after two wildly expensive and dangerous expeditions. He came home with bad news. They weren't but he left his own name. All over the area there and we can still see today. The bering straits and the bering sea being just two of many examples but what russia did discover was a land rich with resources. Never mind the fact that it was a land already inhabited by the native peoples. I mentioned earlier so more. Russian explorers traveled there as did for trappers and traders but they just like the europeans who landed on the east coast of north america century or so before brought more than goods and supplies. They brought disease and the effects devastating in seventeen ninety nine. Russia made their foothold their official by launching what they call the russian american company to monopolize on the for trade. They built settlements on the coast. Where the weather was more tolerable and then spent decades systematically hunting down just about every animal vacant find in the process. They left the native communities without the resources they had depended on for thousands of years. Some left the area in search of land the russians hadn't discovered yet others were driven to reservations disease and poverty would hold them down like a prison sentence and all the while the russians took everything they could find by the eighteen sixties. The opportunity seemed to be running low. It was expensive to maintain their presence there and the return on their investment was dropping year-by-year so in eighteen sixty seven russia decided to cut their losses and return home selling the territory to the united states for a little over seven million dollars. Roughly one hundred thirty million today for a couple of decades it was viewed by most americans. As an embarrassment. We had spent big money to to buy a used up far off land. That was too cold for most people to live in. They called it. Seward's folly after william seward the secretary of state's who orchestrated the deal but then in the late eighteen ninety s things changed when a new opportunity was discovered gold. They called it the klondike gold rush. Because that's where the yellow metal had been found the klondike region of the yukon far inland to the east so far east in fact that it was actually in canada. But that wasn't going to stop. Gold hungry prospectors looking for the next big break. And they flocked to alaska by the thousands some historians believe that upwards of one hundred thousand people arrived to search for gold the vast majority of them spent their time there in utter poverty and many of them died that way as well to serve that great migration of hopefuls a number of boom towns popped up along the route to the yukon offering. All the services the gold miners would need but it wasn't all glittering goodness. That journey from the coast of alaska to the territory was incredibly dangerous. Many who set out from places like valdez would never make it. And those who did faced horrible conditions along the way so in eighteen ninety nine the us war department sent a captain named william abercrombie to see if there was an easier route. What he discovered was a horrifying sight. Most of the prospectors along the way suffered from things like frostbite in scurvy as well as poor equipment and clothing in some places. Small cabins had been set up to house them overnight but those were packed with a dozen or more sleepers like sardines and a tiny can but in one place known then as twelve mile camp abercrombie encountered stories of something worse than the harsh elements the men. They're all seem to have been overcome with madness because most of them believed in the existence of a monster that roamed the wilderness. Outside of camp a creature they referred to as the bell does demon what they knew of. Its came from a handful of encounters. A one in particular particular was interesting enough to make it into his official report. He wrote that. A pair of strong swedish men a father and son duo had been pushing their sled of supplies north across the valdez glacier. When a dark shape appeared from the snow but when it jumped on the son who was at the front of the sled the father let the battle play out. He knew his son is strong enough to handle it and sure enough. The unknown creature eventually gave up and ran off into the blizzard around them. But after continuing on for a while the thing return this time the son wouldn't win. The father even rushed to his aid trying to pull the demon off but it was no use. The son had been strangled to death and all the father could do was places body on the sled and trudge his way back to twelve mile camp. Once safely there the other men helped him bury his son and then they shared the tail. Some believed the demon was a creature known as the kush daca shape shifter from the stories told by the clinton people but looking back. It's likely that it was nothing more than a gold miner. Who had lost his mind living more like an animal than human which makes a tragic kind of sense for many the opportunity that alaska offered them was little more than a fairytale between the harsh elements the brutal terrain and the tragic loss of life. Their journey didn't make their dreams come true in fact it.