Nome District

The Great Flying Seal

In 1926, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, American financier Lincoln Ellsworth and Italian aeronautical engineer Umberto Nobile were responsible for one of the most remarkable air flights ever witnessed in the far north. These men with a crew of 13 made a pioneering flight over the North Pole in a semi-rigid dirigible designed by Nobile.

These courageous adventurers made the first crossing of the Arctic in the airship Norge (pronounced Nor-geh). They left Spitzbergen, Norway on May 11, 1926 and landed in Alaska two days later. The average speed of the dirigible was 40 mph. The three previous claims to have arrived at the North Pole – by Frederick Cook in 1908, Robert Peary in 1909, and Richard E. Byrd in 1926 are all disputed, as being either of dubious accuracy or outright fraud. Some of those disputing these earlier claims therefore consider the crew of the Norge to be the first verified explorers to have reached the North Pole.

Fifteen hours after leaving Spitzbergen, the Norge dropped U.S., Italian, and Norwegian flags over the North Pole from a height of 600 feet. Soon heavy freezing fog was creating ice particles that the ship’s propellers were flinging into the hull at great force. Throughout the trip the crew could see vast wastes of rough, frozen ocean. A much-relieved crew finally sighted the dark coastline of Alaska after 45 hours of flying. The Norge’s goal was Nome, but worsening weather and winds forced the ship to head west, and after dodging mountain peaks in fog, the Norge eventually made Teller located 75 miles west of Nome. Amundsen was forced to make a landing on the harbor there. While the crew safely debarked, most of the Norge was wrecked by high winds. The residents of Teller helped to dismantle the huge, ominous looking airship.

The landing of the Norge on Norwegian Independence Day in May 1926 must have been an incredible sight to the people of Teller. The residents called the strange looking vessel, “The Great Flying Seal”. Those who witnessed the landing still have a vivid recollection of the event. Some of the salvage was used by the Eskimos. The rubberized outer skin of the Norge was transformed by diligent mothers into rainproof parkas while some of the small metal parts were used as children’s toys and kitchen utensils.

World War II on Seward Peninsula

On 11 March 1941, the United States Congress passed the Lend-Lease Act in order to assist the Allies in fighting fascist regimes in Europe. This act authorized the country to provide supplies to any countries deemed “vital to the defense of the United States.” The Lend-Lease Act of 1941 permitted the United States to lend or lease supplies to allies fighting aggression. It replaced the cash-and-carry policy. Under the Lend-Lease Act, payment could be in kind, in property, or in any benefit accepted by the United States, and payment could be deferred to a later date. The act intended weapons and supplies to go particularly to Great Britain but allowed shipments to any country whose defense was “vital” to the interests of the United States. After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, that included the Soviet Union.

The United States wanted the Soviet Union to continue to fight Germany on Germany’s Eastern Front, so the United States sent equipment and supplies to our Soviet allies. We were allies by sharing a common enemy. To deliver aircraft to the Soviet Union, the United States constructed the Northwest Staging Route, an air route over the Alaska Highway then also under construction. Montana became the point of departure for aircraft being ferried to Russia via Alaska. WASPS, Women Air Service Pilots, often flew airplanes from aircraft factories to Great Falls. In Great Falls, the 7th Ferrying Group of the Air Transport Command took charge. The Ferrying Group transported the planes to Alaska, to Fairbanks, where Soviet pilots accepted command. The Soviets flew the airplanes over the AlaskaSiberia Air Route, from Fairbanks, to Nome’s Marks Field (now the Nome Airport), across the Bering Sea, over Siberia, to the railhead at Krasnoyarsk. The Soviet pilots experienced a few accidents due to weather, equipment problems, or inexperience — most of the Soviet pilots had only a few hours of training in the U.S. aircraft they were flying west, yet most of the planes made it into combat along the Eastern Front.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration began construction of the Nome airfield in 1941, and the Army soon assumed responsibility for what was called Marks Air Force Base. The intent was to protect the northwest coast of Alaska from attack by the Japanese, and military planes based at Nome provided that protection throughout the war. These planes were based initially at Marks Field and later at the nearby Satellite Field. At different times, B-18 and B-24D bombers and P-39F fighters provided the defense of Nome and the northwest coast. The second field was constructed to separate the defensive aircraft of the 11th Air Force from Air Transport Command and Soviet personnel involved in the Lend-Lease activities at Marks Field. Lend Lease became the main activity at Marks Field, though fog at Marks sent all aircraft to Satellite Field or inland landing strips.

From September 1942 through August 1945, Army's Air Transport Command, specifically the 7th Ferrying Group — based in Great Falls, Montana — delivered nearly 8,000 airplanes to the Soviets in Fairbanks.

Nome: Storm of 1913

Nome, Alaska, Oct.7.-Nome's business district practically swept away; hundred of thousands of dollars in property lost; five hundred homeless; ruin and destruction and desolation everywhere, and the end not in sight, is the condition existing here today, as a result of a storm that broke with tremendous fury early yesterday morning and continues unabated. There have been no lives lost.

One mile of Front Street has been washed away. The Elite baths and hotel, a four story building, crashed to the ground at the mercy of the waves at 3 a.m. yesterday. Huge walls of water rushed swirling and eddying over the wreckage and a din like the roar of cannon (sic) struck terror to the people.

The scenes in Front Street yesterday were indescribable. Jewelry stores, warehouses, dry goods stores, restaurants, saloons-all this section of Front Street, has been swept out. Breakers forty feet high swept over Front Street. All hands were commandeered to aid in securing the effects of the stricken businessmen. Thousands of dollars worth of goods have been swept out to sea and with winter at hand a famine is feared, as the provisions and stores of the city have been practically wiped out.

Every building along the beach side of Front Street is in ruins. The Board of Trade saloon and restaurant was among the earlier buildings to suffer destruction.

The life saving station is swept away. Nome spent a night of horror last night. The blackness added to the terror of the scene and the terrific wind and rain continued with greater fury.

At 10 o'clock this morning it is feared the entire business section of Nome will be carried away. The people are working hopefully and with the spirit of the times are facing the situation bravely.

It is estimated that fully five hundred people are homeless.

Every building on the sand spit has been washed away excepting the cold storage plant. This building is weakening and may go any minute. The workers are unable to cope with the water and are confining their efforts to moving goods to places of safety.

The storm first broke Saturday morning. A fifty-mile gale blew but this velocity was soon increased to sixty miles, according to weather observations.

By noon yesterday the calamity was almost at its height. The suddenness with which the storm increased left the city entirely unprepared to receive it. Sunday the storm raged and notice was posted that the steamer Victoria would not sail for Seattle until its abatement. Little alarm was felt in Nome Sunday. By midnight the first signs of approaching destruction were in evidence. The fire bells were rung to summon the people, but before the hastily called meeting had assembled the waved began to pour onto Front Street. Each receding comber carried debris with it.

Daily Alaska Dispatch, Juneau, AK 8 Oct 1913

Nome: Fire of 1905

SEATTLE, Sept. 24.— The steamer Olympia arrived last night from Nome where she left September 15 with news of the fire which wiped out several blocks in the heart of the city on the morning of September 13. The Post Intelligencer's special correspondent at Nome says of the fire:

Fire of 1905.jpg

"The fire started at 3 o'clock in the morning In the Alaska saloon building, owned by Deau & O'Reilly, and was not checked until forty-three business buildings on bath sides of Front street were destroyed. Some twenty or more cabins In the rear of the buildings on the north side of Front street were also destroyed. That the fire was checked in the west was solely due to the prompt action of Scheid & Co., assisted by many willing hands. In the short space of forty-five minutes Scheid & Co. had taken two boilers to the lagoon on River street, made connections with a pump, attached a hose and a stream was playing on the burning buildings. A second boiler was soon in position and another line of hose attached, and then only . did the hundreds of people watching the fire breathe a sigh of relief. „ • ,

When the fire started and during its progress there was little wind. So far as known up to the sailing of the Olympia there were no fatalities. The fire Is supposed to have been caused by the upsetting of a kerosene lamp. An alarm was promptly turned in, but by the time the chemical arrived the flames had gained such headway that little check could be made. »

The inflammable nature of the buildings caused the fire to spread rapidly and this was accelerated by the explosion of gasoline tanks in the buildings on both sides of the street. With each explosion the burning gasoline was scattered far and wide. In the narrow street the heat was so intense that fighting the fire from that quarter became impossible.

The losses are: D. Bianchi, Tacoma grocery, $6000; Monogram saloon, $4000; King & King, grocery; $500; city hall, $5000; Hunter saloon, $8000; Carmen building, $7000; Eagle saloon, $2000: Pioneer building, $3000; bowling alley, $1000; Monte Carlo building, $3000; A. B. C. saloon, $4000; Eldorado building, $4000; Eldorado saloon, $3000; Northern ealoon, $5000; Columbia building, $5000; New York store, $3000; Alaska building, I $10,000; Mather building, $5000; Second Class saloon building, $4000; Secon'l Class saloon, $2500; Royal cafe, $5000; Monopole cigar building, $2000; Royal cafe building, $5000; Gem cigar store, damage $500; Nome cigar store, damage $500; Reception building, $5000; Alaskan Telephone & Telegraph company, $2000; Pacific Cold Storage company, $500; J. V. Bursik clothing store, $8000; Simonsen Brothers, owners of the building. $2000; Dr. Wesley, loss on building, $1500; W. A. Boyce, machine shop, $3000; North Pole bakery, $3500; Lucy J. Campbell, $1300; Butler & Jose building, $2500; H. O. Butler, druggist, $4000; Elite bath house, $6000; J. P. Parker & Co., grocers, $5000; Horseshoe restaurant, $1000; C. J. Junte, barber shop, $2000; North Star restaurant, $3000; Emporium clothing store, $3000; Delmonlco restaurant and building, $3000; The Hub saloon, $20*000; Mrs. S. Carscadden, $1500; Klondike restaurant, $2000.

-Los Angeles Herald, Volume 32, Number 359, 25 September 1905

Wild Goose Railroad

 
 

Although Charles D. Lane was primarily mining man, He took the initiative in developing transpiration infrastructure. In the spring of 1900 construction began on the Wild Goose Railroad. The Narrow gauge railroad was difficult to operate due the squishy tundra that it rest on. Although it reached a speed of 8 MPH, large swaths of time was spend jacking the train carts back on the tracks. C.D. Lane with the financial backing of Dr. J. Dennis Arnold, build the Wild Goose railroad four miles to the anvil claims at a cost of 5,000 per mile.

Ditch Lines

 
 

Hydraulic mining was used for mining the hard permafrost located only a few feet underground. Water became a vital resource for mining though the Seward Peninsula with the development of ditch lines necessary to meet demand. The three largest ditch lines consisted of the Miocene, Pioneer, and Seward Ditch. The Miocene Ditch built by W. L. Leland and J. M. Davidson in 1901 with work continuing through the early 1900s. Miocene being the longest ditch covered a distance of 50 miles running from Dexter at Buffalo Creek to Salomon Lake. Capable of carrying 28,500 gallons of water per minute, the Miocene Ditch was indispensable to early mining operations.