Hans Pederson, My father, joined the 100,000 prospectors on the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. Following the 1893 and 1896 depressions, people were ready to try anything. The majority of prospectors were either recent immigrants to America, or else marking time as clerks or salesmen. In Seattle the mayor 12 policemen, and many streetcar drivers joined the Alaskan stampede.
Historian Pierre Berton, described the Klondike as “just far enough to be romantic and just close enough to be accessible.” Here is how Jack London, chronicler of Arctic tales narrated his journey:
“The man flung a look back along the way he had come. The Yukon river lay a mile wide and hidden under three feet of ice. On top of this ice were as many as three feet of snow. It was all pure white, rolling in gentle undulations where the ice jams of the freeze up had formed, north and south as far as his eye could see it was unbroken white, save for a dark hair-line that turned and twisted from around the spruce-covered island to the south, and that a curved and twisted away into the north, where it disappeared behind another spruce-covered island. This dark hair-line was the trail—the main trail—that led south five hundred miles to the Chilcoot Pass, Dyea,and salt water, and that led north seventy miles to Dawson and still to he north a thousand miles to Nulan and finally to St. Michael on Bering Sea, a thousand miles and half a thousand more.”
The Klondike Gold Rush seemed no more inviting than it does in the above photo.