This is Faith Lapidus.
this is Richard Rael with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS. Today we begin the first of two programs
about the discovery of gold. Huge
amounts of gold. Enough gold to make a
person extremely rich. Our story begins
in an area called the Klondike in the Yukon Territory of western Canada. The discovery took place on a warm August day
in eighteen ninety-six.
Carmack and his two Indian friends, Skookum Jim Mason and Dawson Charlie, were
working near the edge of a small river in western Canada's Yukon Territory. The
area was just across the border from Alaska, which was owned by the United
States. The men were using large steel
pans to search for gold. They placed
dirt and rocks in a pan and then filled it about half way with water. Slowly, they moved the water around in the
pan until most of the dirt and water washed away. This left only very small rocks.
method was a very good way to find small amounts of gold. The three men had often worked like this in
an effort to find gold. But they had
never been very successful.
three men moved along the small river as they worked. History does not say which of the three found
gold first. But it does say that all
three began to find large amounts.
In eighteen ninety-six, gold was selling for about
sixteen dollars for twenty-eight grams.
The three men knew they were rich after just a few days. They also knew they must go to the government
office and claim the land. They had to keep their discovery a secret until they
had a legal claim to the land where they had found the gold.
George Carmack, Skookum Jim Mason and Dawson Charlie
were the first men to discover a great amount of gold in the Klondike. Before that August day, others had found
gold, but never in huge amounts.
The three men had found one of the largest amounts of
gold ever discovered lying on the surface of the Earth. The news of this discovery could not be kept
secret very long. Other people quickly
traveled to the area of the great Klondike River where the three had made the
discovery. Some also found huge amounts
of gold, enough to make them extremely rich.
July sixteenth, eighteen ninety-seven, the ship Excelsior came into the
American port of San Francisco, California.
It carried the first men who had found gold in the Klondike. The next
day, the ship Portland landed in Seattle, Washington. It too carried men who had found gold in the
Clarence Berry was one of these men. He was a fruit farmer from California. He came off the ship Excelsior in San
Francisco with one hundred thirty thousand dollars worth of gold. Niles Anderson came off the ship Portland
with one hundred twelve thousand dollars in gold. They were only two men among more than one hundred
who left the ships with huge amounts of money.
taken when the ships landed show thousands of people meeting the two
ships. Newspapers printed long stories
about the discovery of gold and the rich men who had just returned from the
Yukon. The news quickly traveled around
the world that gold had been discovered.
To understand the excitement it caused, you must
understand the value of that much money at the time. In eighteen ninety-seven, a man with a good job working in New
York City was paid about ten dollars each week.
To earn the one hundred thirty thousand dollars that Clarence Berry took
off the ship, that man would have had to work for two hundred fifty years!
all over the world became excited about the possibility of finding gold. Newspaper stories said it was easy to find
the gold. It was just lying on the
ground. All you had to do was go to
Alaska, and then to the Klondike area of the Yukon Territory of Canada and
collect your gold.
possibility of finding gold caused thousands of people to make plans to travel
to Alaska and then to the Klondike area of the Yukon. American and Canadian experts say between
twenty and thirty thousand people may have traveled to the gold fields.
These people were called "stampeders." The word "stampede" means a mass movement of
frightened animals. In eighteen
ninety-seven, the word came to mean the huge groups of people running or
stampeding to Alaska and the Klondike.
people wanted a chance to become rich. The United States was suffering a great
economic depression. It had begun in the
southern United States as early as eighteen ninety.
By eighteen ninety-seven, thousands of people were out
of work. Men who had no jobs decided to
use all the money they had left to go to Alaska. Many believed that it would be worth taking
a chance to become extremely rich.
and magazines began writing stories about traveling to Alaska. Books told what a person would need to be
successful at finding gold. Other books
explained sure methods of finding gold.
of these books told people what they wanted to hear -- that finding gold in the
Yukon was easy. Most of the people who
wrote the books had no idea at all where the Canadian Yukon Territory was. Many
did not know anything about the American territory of Alaska. The people who wrote the books had no idea
what was involved. They were only
interested in selling books.
Many of the people who would travel to the gold fields
had no idea what they would face. They
did not know about the extremely cold weather that could kill. Most did not know they would face extremely hard work and terrible living
This was not true of the Canadian government. The
Canadian government knew how hard it was to live in the western part of the
country. The Canadian government quickly
approved a law that said each person must bring enough supplies to last for one
year. This was about nine hundred kilograms of supplies.
Each person would have to bring food, tools,
clothing, and everything else they needed for one year. The reason for this was very simple. There were no stores in the Yukon. There was no place to buy food. The nearest port was more than one thousand
kilometers away from where the gold discovery had been made.
were no railroads. At first, there were no roads that would permit a horse and
wagon. The stampeders would have to walk
all the way, and transport the supplies by themselves. The price of these supplies quickly
eighteen ninety-seven, a travel company in the middle western American city of
Chicago, Illinois listed the prices of what it cost to travel to Alaska. A ticket to ride the train from Chicago to
Seattle, Washington was fifty-one dollars and fifty cents. The company said a ticket on a ship from
Seattle to Skagway, Alaska was thirty-five dollars.
across the United States offered to sell all the supplies a gold seeker would
need to take to the Klondike. Newspapers and magazines printed long lists of
the supplies a stampeder would need. The
price for these goods was often extremely high.
The trains and the ships would carry these supplies for an additional
young man who had the money to buy the supplies and the necessary tickets to
travel to Alaska usually landed at the little port of Skagway. The first shipload of several hundred gold
seekers landed at Skagway on July twenty-sixth, eighteen ninety-seven. Many
ships quickly followed.
little town of Skagway soon had thousands of people looking for a place to
live, food to eat and directions to where they could find gold. The stampeders were in a hurry. They wanted
to quickly travel to the area where they could find gold.
Many wanted to buy the rest of the supplies
they would need before they began the trip into Canada. These supplies became extremely
valuable. Prices increased even
more. Violence and a lack of a police
department soon caused problems. People
fought over supplies.
gold seekers quickly learned that life in Alaska would be extremely
difficult. And they soon learned they
still had more than one thousand kilometers to travel. They learned they would have to carry their
supplies over high mountains. Then they
would need to build a boat to travel on the Yukon River. They learned the last part of their trip
would be the hardest of all. That trip and
what the thousands of gold seekers found will be our story next week.
program was written by Paul Thompson and produced by Mario Ritter. This is Faith Lapidus.
this is Richard Rael. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program
in Special English on the Voice of America.