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.

Charles D. Lane

Charles D. Lane (November 15, 1840 - 1911) was a US millionaire mine owner,[1] who is recognized as a founder of NomeAlaska. Lane was born in PalmyraMissouri November 15, 1840. His parents were Virginians of Scottish descent.[2] He moved to California with his father in 1852 and almost immediately took up mining. After an unsuccessful attempt to develop a lode mine in Nevada, he achieved his first success on the Snake River in Idaho, followed some years later by a major strike at the Utica Mine at Angels, California. Lane also developed the Fortuna Mine in Arizona.

Lane was a central figure in the industrial phase of mining on the Seward Peninsula, constructing a number of developments in support of the industry, particularly in the Nome and Council areas. An employee of Lane’s, G. W. Price, was present in the Golovin Bay area late in 1898, when the three “lucky Swedes”, Jafet Lindeberg, Erik O. Bloom, and J. J. Brynteson, returned from their discovery of the rich placer deposits on tributaries of the Snake River, near what is now Nome. The three original discoverers formed a second party, including Price and a few others, and returned to the Snake River, organizing the Cape Nome mining district, and staking additional claims.[3]

Lane quickly acquired claims in the Nome area, and in 1899 was listed as co-owner, with Price, of claim. No. 8 Above Discovery on Anvil Creek, which was worked that season.[4] At about this time, Lane joined with capitalists from California and the East Coast to form the Wild Goose Mining & Trading Company.[5] Beginning in 1900, the Wild Goose Company began a series of major developments in support of the early mining industry on the Seward Peninsula. These included construction of the first few miles of railroad connecting Anvil Creek to Nome and a large pumping plant that provided water for mining operations on that Creek.[6] The company acquired large holdings on Ophir Creek in the Council area, and was involved in developments in that district, including building roads, ditches, and another railroad.[7]

As the local representative of the Wild Goose Company, Lane was a primary defendant in the legal proceedings that attempted to invalidate the original claims on Anvil Creek. Despite the machinations of a powerful politician and a corrupt local judge, Lane and the other defendants prevailed.[8]

Lane’s tenure on the Seward Peninsula was brief. In 1905 he sold the bulk of his interests in the Wild Goose Company,[9] and by 1911 he was dead in Palo Alto.[10] His influence extended well beyond his lifetime, however, through the activities of the Wild Goose Company, which continued as a major actor in Seward Peninsula mining until the 1920s.

He died in 1911. He headed the Wild Goose Mining & Trading Co.[11]