Skirting along this ice with the hope of getting around it to the northward of Point Hope, without success, we entered it, and after working through it for several miles with considerable difficulty we finally cleared it and came to anchor off the native village at Point Hope, finding there two whalers who had just preceded us, and obtaining the news that the bark ” Little Ohio ” had been wrecked directly opposite the point where we were then at anchor. Taking on board, the next day, those survivors of this shipwreck who still remained at this place, we left for St. Michaels, near the mouth of the Yukon river, there to transfer the survivors to the steamer of the Alaska Commercial Company, and to send the news of this sad disaster to the Navy Department and to the world. In passing through the ice outside of Point. Hope the first polar bear of the season was sighted, posing upon a high floe of ice. A few shots settled his case and his body was fortunately secured, his skin now forming one of the trophies of the cruise.
On our way back through Bering strait we found the vexatious combination (to be met with again and again in the cruise) of a heavy fog, much drift ice, and an opposing current.
Reaching St. Michaels we found there two steamers of the Alaska Commercial Company at anchor, besides several river-steamers, and a summer rendezvous of natives from the coast, miners from the interior, and traders and missionaries from the Yukon,—all here to meet their annual mails and supplies. In addition there was a party of government surveyors to determine the boundary-line, an account of whose early journey has been given to the Society by Mr. Russell. There were seventy-three tents, by actual count, pitched about St. Michaels at the time of our stay, the abodes of these temporary residents.
St. Michaels is the most northerly settlement and trading post of the Alaska Commercial Company. It is the outlet of the Yukon river trade and also the source of supplies for the country bordering upon the Yukon and its many tributaries, reaching in this way a portion of the Northwest Territory of the Dominion of Canada, west of the Rocky Mountains.
In the winter-time the post consists of the offices and storehouses of the Alaska Commercial Company, with a few residences for their white employees, and a small native village.
Small, light-draught, stern-wheel steamers ascend the Yukon and its tributaries for a distance of 1,700 miles, reaching the mouth of that river in part by an inside channel and in part by sixty miles of outside coasting.
After a short stay at St. Michaels we proceeded to Port Clarence, where a large number of the whaling fleet were met, consisting of seven steam-whalers, six sailing whalers, one trading vessel, and a sailing tender. From the tender these vessels receive coal, provisions, and supplies, sending back to San Francisco the oil and whale-bone of the spring catch.