Reading the North

August 24, 2013 

The Moose Jaw: Rings Upon the Water

Mike Delaney (Self-published, $12.99; e-book, 99 cents)

The blurb: In Volume 1 of the Fergus O'Neill series, "Gus" as he is known to his friends, sets out to build a cabin on Moose Jaw Creek in the Alaska Bush. The Native Alaskans have a saying that "a white man too long alone out there will go mad." His encounters with a mysterious woman, a bear that would not die and two brutal brothers who raped and killed with impunity made Gus think perhaps he had gone a little crazy. It takes his two closest friends, a retired State Trooper and a bush pilot/veterinarian to help him discover the strange truth.

Excerpt: I don't know how long the wolves had been following me before I noticed the shadows moving stealthily through the willows ... They must have picked up the scent of my blood. I'd lost a good bit back where I had fallen, and the wound had been bleeding steadily as I moved downstream ... I didn't know how many of them there were, however, and that troubled me.

They would be reluctant to attack a man; at least a living, breathing, walking man. They were just following along to see if I was going to make it. I didn't think they'd bother me as long as I kept moving ..... When, at last, I fell again, I wondered if I would ever find the will to continue. I had stumbled in a deep rut just as I came up out of the water onto a gravel bar. As I lay there, utterly exhausted, the muzzle of a wolf appeared out of the falling snow, very close to my face. They were getting bold. I put every ounce of my remaining strength into rising to my knees. I still had the shotgun with me, and placing the butt on the gravel, I literally pulled myself up to my feet using the barrel for support. That was about all the good the gun would do me. I doubted I could fire it; I only had one serviceable hand, and its fingers were stiff and numb with cold.

Skagway: City of the New Century

Compiled and edited by Jeff Brady (Lynn Canal Publishing, $24.95)

The blurb: Shgagwéi, as it was first called centuries ago by the Tlingit for the "bunched up water" in its bay caused by strong winds, was discovered in 1887 by a father and son with visions of a gateway port to the riches of the Yukon and Alaska. Ten years later, after the discovery of gold in the Klondike, their vision came true with the arrival of prospectors from all over the world. Skaguay and nearby Dyea were rival towns, booming from the rush for gold. Each had multiple newspapers which chronicled the stampede and the competition between the White and Chilkoot passes, but Skagway won the war with the construction of the White Pass & Yukon Route railway and settled on a way to spell its name.

The community has survived smaller booms and busts since, but remains a vital tourism and industrial port as the Gateway to the Klondike. In 1898, editors called Skagway the "City of the New Century." In this book of stories and photographs, the rich history of this area and its people is chronicled through that new century -- and into the next.

Excerpt: Princess Sophia -- Oct. 25, 1918. The Princess Sophia struck the rocks at Sentinel Island near Juneau in 1913 but re-floated with the tide in a couple of hours. In 1918, when it hit nearby Vanderbilt Reef, a charted obstacle smack in the middle of Lynn Canal, the officers again gambled on the tide to set them free.

Veteran Captain Louis P. Locke was in charge of 269 passengers, 74 crew and 50 horses. Eighty-four of the passengers were officers and crew members of the White Pass and Yukon Co. steamboat fleet on the Yukon River ...

As the ship moved south down Lynn Canal, a freak, early winter snow squall came up, and the ship veered off course after passing Eldred Rock. At 3:10 a.m. she struck Vanderbilt Reef.

John Maskell of Dawson wrote the following in his diary, which was found on his body and published in local newspapers four days later:

"We struck a reef in a blinding snowstorm during the night. A number of passengers were thrown out of their berths. Excitement prevails. The boats were made ready to lower. When information was received that the boat was not taking water, the passengers became quiet. Owing to the storm the boats were not lowered this morning. We are surrounded by a number of small boats, but it is too rough to transfer.

"Realizing that we are surrounded by grave danger, I make this my last will."

He then bequeathed money to his father and "wife to be" in England.


Compiled by Kathleen Macknicki, Anchorage Daily News

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