October 30, 2014 15:10 UTC

World

1890’s Gold Rush!

Read, listen and learn English with this story. Double-click on any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary.

x

Multimedia

Play or download an MP3 of this story
This is Bob Doughty.
 
And this is Phoebe Zimmermann with the VOA Special English program, EXPLORATIONS.  Today we tell the second part of our story about the discovery of gold in the area of Canada called the Yukon.
 
We tell about the thousands of people who traveled to Alaska and on to Canada hoping that they would become rich.
 
Last week, we told how three men discovered huge amounts of gold near the Yukon River in northwestern Canada. Their discovery started a rush of people traveling to the American territory of Alaska and across the border to Canada. History experts believe that between twenty and thirty thousand people traveled to the area. 
 
Newspapers printed stories that said it was easy to become rich. All you had to do was pick up the gold from the ground. Books and magazines told how to travel to the area and the best method of finding gold. However, most of this information was false.   It was not easy to find gold.  It was extremely hard work under very difficult conditions.
 
The first ship carrying the gold seekers arrived in the port town of Skagway, Alaska on July twenty-sixth, eighteen ninety-seven.  These people were very lucky.  It was summer and the weather was warm.  However, they found few places to live in Skagway.  Most people had to make temporary houses out of cloth.
 
Skagway was a very small port town.  It had very few stores.  And everything was very costly.
 
Skagway also had a crime problem.  One of the chief criminals was a man named Jefferson Randolph Smith.  He was better known as “Soapy” Smith.  He did his best to take money from men who were on their way to seek gold.
 
One method he used seems funny, now.  Soapy Smith had signs printed that said a person could send a telegram for five dollars.  Many people paid the money to send telegrams to their families back home to say they had arrived safely in Skagway.
 
But they did not know that the telegraph office wires only went into the nearby forest. It was not a real telegraph office.  It was a lie Soapy Smith used to take money from people who passed through Skagway. 
 
Most of the gold seekers wanted to quickly travel to the area where gold had been discovered.  However, the Canadian government required that each person had to bring enough supplies to last for one year if they wanted to cross the border into Canada.  This was about nine hundred kilograms of supplies.
 
Each person had to bring food, tools, clothing, and everything else needed for one year. There were no stores in the Yukon.  There was no place to buy food. 
 
People who brought their supplies with them on the ship were lucky.  Others had to buy their supplies in Skagway.  They had to pay extremely high prices for everything they needed.
 
When they had gathered all the supplies, the gold seekers then faced the extremely hard trip into Canada.   Their first problem was crossing over a huge mountain.  They could cross the mountain in one of two places -- the White Pass and the Chilkoot Pass.  Each gold seeker began by moving his supplies to the bottom of the mountain.  Their progress to the mountain was painfully slow. 
 
A man named Fred Dewey wrote to friends back home that it took him two weeks just to move his supplies from Skagway to the mountain.  His wrote that his body hurt because of the extremely hard work.
 
Then the gold seekers had to move their supplies up the mountain. 
 
Some men made as many as thirty trips before they had all of their supplies at the top.  But others looked at the mountain and gave up.  They sold their supplies and went back to Skagway.
 
At the top of the mountain was the United States border with Canada.  Canadian officials weighed the supplies of each man.  If the supplies did not weigh enough, the men were sent back.  They were not permitted to cross into Canada.
 
A gold seeker who had successfully traveled up the mountain still faced the most difficult and dangerous part of the trip.  Both trails up the mountain ended near Lake Bennett in British Columbia.  From there it was almost nine hundred kilometers by boat down the Yukon River to the town of Dawson were gold had been discovered.
 
But there was no boat service.  Each person or small group had to build their own boat.  They cut down many trees to build the boats. Within a few months, some forests in the area were gone.
 
The summer quickly passed and winter began.  The gold seekers were still building their boats.  The Yukon River turned to ice.  Winter in this area was extremely cold.  The temperature often dropped to sixty degrees below zero Celsius. The cold could kill an unprotected person in just a few minutes.
 
American writer Jack London was among the gold seekers.  He became famous for writing about his experiences in Alaska and Canada.  He wrote a short story that perhaps best explains the terrible conditions gold seekers faced. It is called “The White Silence.”
 
In the story, Mister London explained how the extreme cold made the world seem dead.  It caused strange thoughts.   He said the cold and silence of this frozen world seemed to increase a man’s fear of death.  This cruel cold could make a man afraid of his own voice. 
 
The story also tells what could happen to a person who had an accident. There were not many doctors in the gold fields.  A seriously injured person could only expect to die.  Jack London’s many stories truthfully explained just how hard it was to be a gold seeker in eighteen ninety-seven.
 
By the end of winter, the area around Lake Bennett was a huge temporary town of more than ten thousand people.  They were all waiting for the ice to melt so they could continue on to the gold fields.  On May twenty-eighth, eighteen ninety-eight, the Yukon River could again hold boats.  The ice was melting.  That day, more than seven thousand boats began the trip to Dawson. 
 
Many of these gold seekers did not survive the trip on the Yukon River.  All of the boats had to pass through an area called the White Horse Rapids.  The water there was fast and dangerous.  Many boats turned over.  Many of the gold seekers died.
 
At last, the remaining gold seekers reached the city of Dawson.  Dawson had been a small village before the discovery of gold. It became a big city within a short time.  Stores and hotels were quickly built.  The price of everything increased.
 
One man named Miller brought a cow to Dawson.  He sold the milk for thirty dollars for a little less than four liters. 
 
For the rest of his life he was known as “Cow Miller.”  He did not get rich seeking gold.  But he made a great deal of money selling milk.
 
Many people did the same thing.  They bought supplies in the United States and moved them to Dawson.  Then they sold everything at extremely high prices.
 
The gold seekers quickly learned that most of the valuable areas of land had already been claimed by others.  Many gave up and went home.   Some gold seekers searched in other areas.   Others went to work for people who had found gold.
 
Experts say about four thousand people became rich during the great Klondike gold rush.  Groups of men formed large companies and began buying land in the area.  The large companies used huge machines to dig for gold. One of these companies continued to make a profit digging gold until nineteen sixty-six.  History records say that in only four years the area around Dawson produced more than fifty-one million dollars in gold. This would be worth more than one thousand million dollars today.
 
The great Yukon gold rush was over by the end of eighteen ninety-nine. As many of the gold seekers began to leave, news spread of another huge discovery of gold. Gold had been found in Nome, Alaska. Thousands of people rushed to Nome. Gold was later discovered in another part of Alaska in nineteen-oh-two.
 
Today, people visiting the area of the great Klondike gold rush can still find very small amounts of gold.  The amount of gold is not much.  But it is enough to feel the excitement of those gold seekers more than one hundred years ago.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: randy from: seoul
12/01/2012 4:11 PM
There is no PDF file to download script. plz upload it.


by: Tomás from: Spain
11/22/2012 9:34 AM
I am an english student and can not understand this sentece: "Most people had to make temporary houses out of cloth". Anyone can explain it to me or translate into spanish. Thank you.

In Response

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
11/29/2012 1:03 AM
I suppose it probably means "Most people had to make temporary houses using cloth."


by: otilia from: Aguacalientes, México
11/21/2012 11:45 PM
For me it could be very dificult to live in a place so cold. But a can imagine all the marvelous landscapes.

Learn with The News

  • Orbital Sciences Antares Launch

    Video Questions for NASA after Rocket Explosion

    An unmanned privately-owned rocket bringing supplies to the International Space Station exploded seconds after launch Tuesday night. The accident did not cause any injuries on the ground. However, it has raised questions about efforts by the US space agency NASA to use private companies. More

  • FILE - Zambia's new interim president is Guy Scott.

    Audio Guy Scott Named Interim Leader in Zambia

    Guy Scott is Africa’s first white president since F.W. de Klerk governed South Africa from 1989 to 1994. Chinese former army General has admitted to taking huge bribes. U.S airlines do not know where a passenger began his or her travels for Ebola screening. Free Syrian Army helped Kurds in Kobani. More

  • Vietnam China Sea Disputes

    Audio Vietnam, China Look for Solution to Sea Dispute

    China and Vietnam have agreed to find a solution to a territorial conflict in the South China Sea. The two countries have sought to improve relations since the territorial dispute worsened last May. That was when China deployed oil drilling equipment to waters claimed by each side. More

  • Roberto Hernandez

    Video US Political Parties Hope to Gain Latinos' Vote

    United States citizens of Latin American ancestry could influence the U.S. elections on November 4th. Americans will vote for members of the House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, and state and local positions around the country. In California, Latinos are an important vote for Democrats. More

  • Kidnapped by Islamic State

    Video Youth Kidnapped by Islamic State Tells His Story

    Last June, Islamic State militants kidnapped more than 150 students from the city of Kobani in northern Syria. Many of those kidnapped were ethnic Kurds. The militants released most of the students several months later. But about 20 students remain in captivity. One of those freed is Azad. More

Featured Stories

  • Star House

    Video Home of Last Comanche Chief Close to Ruins

    One of the most interesting people in U.S. history is Quanah Parker, the last chief of the country’s Comanche Indian tribe. Quanah Parker was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Quanah Parker was a fierce fighter. But that ended one day in 1875. More

  • FILE - A veterinarian at the nonprofit Bali Animal Welfare Association gives a rabies shot to a puppy in Kebon Kaja village, Bangli Regency in Bali, Indonesia.

    Audio Mass Vaccination of Dogs Can Eliminate Rabies

    About 70,000 people worldwide die every year of rabies. Rabies is a viral infection that people get mainly through dog bites. Scientists say vaccinating dogs can effectively get rid of rabies outbreaks in dog populations. And this will have a domino effect, fewer humans with rabies. More

  • Methane oxidizing

    Photogallery Small Organisms in Deep Sea Rocks Eat Methane

    The gas methane has been linked to rising temperatures on Earth. But methane does not stay in the atmosphere as long as another “greenhouse gas” -- carbon dioxide. Scientists say both gases trap heat from the sun. They prevent heat from escaping into outer space. More

  • New York Mayor Bill de Blasio meets children at the Brooklyn Chinese American Association Early Childhood Education Center. (AP Photo/Newsday, Linda Rosier, Pool)

    Audio Chinese Americans: Discrimination Still a Problem, but Improving

    Despite their American citizenship, some immigrants to the United States report they still are treated like foreigners. However, members of the Chinese American community say attitudes are starting to change. Helen Zia said, “Whenever US-China relations get chilly, Chinese Americans get pneumonia." More

  • Audio Oscar de la Renta Dressed First Ladies and Movie Stars

    Clothing designer Oscar de la Renta died Monday at his home in the American state of Connecticut. He was 82 years old. His wife said he died of problems related to cancer. Mr. de la Renta dressed American movie stars and first ladies such as Jacqueline Kennedy, Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs