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John Muir on Alaska Gold

(Reprinted from the John Muir Newsletter , Vol. 2, No.2, Spring 1992)

[Editor's note: On June 22, 1899, Muir and other forty-seven members of E.H. Harriman's Alaska expedition gathered at a Seattle wharf, preparing to start the trip aboard Harriman's steamer George W. Elder . A reporter caught up with Muir and conducted a ship-side interview just before boarding. The following excerpt is from an unidentified newspaper clipping found in the Muir Family album at the Holt-Atherton Library. It reinforces two themes not usually identified with Muir but found in his earlier Alaska publications: tourism and development.]

While Professor Muir will take much pleasure in educating his brother scientists relative to glaciers, the chief object of his joining the party was to have an opportunity to study certain portions of the Pacific Alaskan coast he had not previously the chance of exploring. "I am going along," he said... "to study a piece of the Alaskan coast I have never visited on any of my many trips to that country. I have seen the Arctic , studied rocks and glaciers to my heart's content, and now I want to take a look at Yakutat, Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet and Kadiak [sic]....

"Ah, Alaska is a great country. I said that twenty years ago, and knew then that it was rich in gold. Think of the wealth of the great Yukon basin. It got there from the Rockies, being simply a continuation of the chain from Mexico on up. Unlike California, we get gold on the Yukon from glacial action, but it's the same stream of gold. On the Yukon it's sealed up; that I learned when I was up in Alaska in '81, hunting for De Long. I was in the Golovin Bay placer camp even at that early date, and knew than that the gold was there."

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