Page images
[merged small][ocr errors]

Much of Bering Sea's floor is a great level stretch only a few fathoms down, and constantly approaching the water level. Scientists and members of the United States geodetic survey attribute the upheaval beneath the sea to the same subterranean convulsions that blow a fiery breath through the nostrils of so many volcanoes. Assisting this action in making Bering Sea a pond preliminary, perhaps, to obliterating it altogether, are the rivers of Alaska, which bring down annually vast sedimentary deposits of alluvial matter that are scattered far out toward the Siberian shore.

A great earth giant, lying prone beneath both sea and earth, and struggling to arise, might be imagined gasping for breath, kicking his feet in the Alaskan gulf, elevating his forehead in Bering Sea, puffing through the volcanic rim of isles that form his mouth, and protruding his tongue and drawing it back again where the Bogoslofs hysterically bob up and down. Indeed, the natives of all that region believe that demons and supernatural agencies are making themselves felt by these sometimes terrible disturbances that rack the islands and adjacent mainland.

In later times the Russians gave histor


Volcanic Activity May Heave Up The Bed Op Bering Sha
Eventually, And Link North America To Asia.

ical accuracy to data relating to various eruptions, and Admiral Bogoslof, in the service of the Czar, was the first, late in the eighteenth century, to discover the Bogoslof Islands. In still later times— within the last half-dozen years—plenty of support has been given to the theory that a continent is in the labor of birth, and soon may emerge to the light of day. A dozen volcanoes, some apparently dead and others at intervals showing decided signs of life, dot the west shore of Cook Inlet, and the Alaska Peninsula, which separates Bering Sea from the Alaska Gulf. Xo fewer than forty-two volcanoes have been counted on the Aleutians, stretching eastward from the mainland. Some of these are so remote from the lines of travel that they are only seldom seen, while others in the vicinity of the ship-channel through Unimak Pass are within the visual range of almost every voyager into Bering Sea. For five years J. E. Thwaites. purser of the little mail steamer Dora, plying out to the


tremendous volcanic manifestations years ago, and evidence in

** r<*. "mnan"r~TiirmiriT7ri' nnrrrfflBB—B—I—WfiMUD 11 \Utnr. The Indians Were Driven To The Mainland By This Eruption.



westward from Seward, Alaska, has been endeavoring to catch on his camera film direct evidence of this activity, and only lately has he succeeded in presenting pictures of a group of smoking volcanoes such as may be considered unique throughout the world.

Not only were points of vantage difficult for Mr. Thwaites to attain, at times when the volcanoes were executing their best performance, but he had as well to contend with atmospheric conditions that rendered his task all the more difficult and uncertain. Yet he succeeded in obtaining photographs of almost all these

most active mountain chimneys above the subterranean fires. Early in 1911 The Technical World presented remarkable photographs of an eruption at the Bogoslof Islands, when a new island sprang like Venus from the sea. These were obtained from the deck of the United States revenue cutter Tahoma, one of those guardians of the northern seas.

Indians of the Cook Inlet district relate a mythical tale, as picturesque as a fragment of Greek mythology, how the warring gods of fire and water drove them from their ancestral home on Augustine Island, which stands at the en

[merged small][ocr errors]

trance to the Inlet. On the island stands Chernaboro volcano, with half its summit torn away, and still emitting steam and smoke. The island had been chosen as a home by the natives because of the advantages it offered for otter hunting, and they had no fear of the mountain towering above them.

The violent outbreak of Chernaboro, coming almost without warning, destroyed the native village, and drove the surviving Indians in panic to the mainland. They never again dared to go back to live beneath the treacherous mountain. The date of this eruption is placed at about seventy-five years ago. Russian annals, as far as known, make no re-ference to it, but the Muscovite charts of 1825 show a channel between Augustine Island and the Alaska peninsula, where now there is only shallow water.

A new crater was revealed with the battle between the gods of fire and water, and the sulphurous vapor which Chernaboro gives off has rimmed the summit of the mountain with bleaching skeletons of birds that ventured too near its heated cone. Yet even if the volcano should never again evince violent tendencies the natives would not return to the island, for they believe it was their residence upon its shores which angered their elemental deities.

The volcano most commonly seen by voyagers into Bering Sea is Shishaldin, standing on Unimak Island, not far from Dutch Harbor, which is the coaling station of the Aleutians. Coincident with the 1910 upheaval in the Bogoslofs, Shishaldin awakened into eruption, and on previous occasions synchronous activity had been noticed. Shishaldin spread smoke and ash in every direction. Vessels reached Nome with their decks covered with volcanic deposits. One seemingly fabulous story related that the ash assayed showed particles of gold— yet why not? Seven or eight years ago Shishaldin became a great torch of the

[ocr errors]

Shishaldin. Which Bkcamf.. Through Volcanic Eruption, A

Great Torch Of The Arctic.

Fire spouting from its crater was visible one hundred miles away.


Akutan Volcano In Action.

Often at Unalaska can be heard booming this peace disturber of the

Aleutian solitudes.

Arctic; fire spouting from its crater was visible one hundred miles away.

This crater of Shishaldin's is 1,000 feet across. In spite of the noxious vapors one may take advantage of the wind, climb to the summit, and stand on the very edge of the crater, looking down into the seething depths. All down the sides of the 10,000-foot mountain are streams of lava; in fact the outpourings of molten rock have made Shishaldin one of the most symmetrical of mountains— a veritable sugar-loaf. Adventurous spirits who make the ascent find its sides punctured with pot-holes or springs that emit boiling sulphur streams.

When the wind goes down Shishaldin's thin stream of black smoke rises to a

[graphic][ocr errors]

U. S. REVENUE CUTTER RUSH. ONE OF THE LITTLE FLEET THAT PATROLS BERING SEA. This photo was taken from the deck of the mail steamer Dora,

height of miles in the air, and produces an impressive spectacle. Occasionally the mountain will belch forth a ball of smoke that hovers for an instant above the snow-covered summit; then rises like a balloon into the air and dissolves at great height.

Not far from this volcano, on Unimak Island, is Pogromno, whose crater has been shattered by the forces of nature. Yet from its summit there curls almost continuously a wisp of smoke, streaming off lazily with the wind.

The "Noise-Maker of the North" is the soubriquet given Akutan volcano, situated forty miles from the settlement of Unalaska, on the island which bears its name. Often at Unalaska can be heard the booming of this peace disturber of the Aleutian solitudes. Sudden and violent are its explosions, like the detonations of huge quantities of explosive far down in the earth. In more ways than one does the action of Akutan resemble the discharge of great cannon. Perhaps in the volcano's heart large volumes of gas come in contact with tremendous heat.

Akutan's guns are fired in pairs ; first a short, sharp bang, and then a louder, longer report. At each explosion a puff of smoke is forced from the crater high

into the air, dissipating itself a few moments later among the clouds of the upper atmosphere. Navigators who have passed Akutan while in action say the spectacle is most entrancing when the mountain is partly hidden by the fog that is so prevalent in Bering Sea. Says Mr. Thwaites:

"With a tremor of the mountain, and then a crash comes the first of the twin explosions, and the puff of smoke shoots up from the crater, tearing a hole in the thick fog blanket that engulfs the summit of the peak. The larger report and puff of smoke follows, spreading the mist even wider, and disclosing for an instant the peak of the noise-making mountain. The fogs then settle slowly, shutting out all sight of the mountain top until the next explosion. These demonstrations occur with precision, and sometimes extend over a period of days, accompanied by earthquake shocks of greater or less duration."

"Pop-off" has come to be the nickname of Pavlof volcano, situated on the lower end of the Alaskan peninsula. The photograph of Pavlof in action shows not only the smoke iss iing from the crater of the mountain, but also the slopes blackened by the volcanic ash. Pavlof's eruption* are usuallv concurrent with those of

[merged small][ocr errors]

Shishaldin, and disturbances in the Bogoslofs. Shumagin Islands, sixty miles away were covered to a depth of half an inch with the Pavlof effluvia, in 1910, and at the period of greatest activity Pavlof sent cannonading thunders through a circle 100 miles across. The ash upon the surface of the sea is whipped into snowballs that finally are heaped upon the beach.

Pay a native fifty dollars a day and he will lead you to the top of Makushin peak, which is plainly visible from Dutch Harbor. Usually Makushin is smoking, but occasionally it gets much more violent in its demonstrations. Those who have braved its dangers assert that near the crater iron rods stuck into the ground will be melted by the intense heat. Hundreds of boiling springs have created snow and ice caves on the mountain side. Near the crater rim are large deposits of sulphurous materials that have been prospected and before long probably will be mined.

But the list so far includes only a few of the better known volcanoes of this disturbed region, some of them marked by the Indian designation, rendered into English spelling as nearly as possible, and others bear the names given them by Russian explorers and geographers years before the United States came into possession of Alaska. Besides those given there is KupreanofF, standing at the head of Stepakof Bay, on the mainland, which is unique in that its crater

lies in the center of a field of glacial ice. Smoke and steam rise through the crevasses in a hundred different places. With these crevasses covering a wide area it has been virtually impossible to explore the exact center of Kupreanoff.

Redoubt Peak and Becharoff are well up the peninsula; both are rather difficult of access, and neither has been thoroughly explored. To the north and east of Becharoff is Iliamna, towering above the 12,000-foot level, and having three distinct craters. Douglas, looking as if a huge octopus gripped its vitals, stands up sheer and bold above Cook Inlet, not far from Chernaboro volcano, on Augustine island. This likeness to an octopus is produced by the chilled streams of lava that streak down from the summit of the peak, vividly suggesting tentacles. Farther inland the Alaskan range has other peaks that occasionally give forth evidences of life, while in addition to the active volcanoes there are hundreds of dead craters in the mountain chain that buries itself in the sea in a seemingly vain endeavor to reach the Asiatic shore.

Alaska is becoming a better-known land every year, and the time will come when all her mountain ranges, her valleys and her plains will be thoroughly explored, but it is no exaggeration to say that the Russians knew as much about her coast line as we have learned in the last half-century. Controller Bay, of recent notoriety, was discovered before Admiral Vancouver found Puget Sound!

« PreviousContinue »