It Was Grand: Inside Passage

Two photos of two different Inside Passage steam ships docked in the Skagway harbor
Inside Passage steam ships.

National Park Service, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, George & Edna Rapuzzi Collection, KLGO 00464 . Gift of the Rasmuson Foundation.

Somewhere, March 9, 1898

I don’t know exactly where we are. Last night just after dark we passed through Deception Pass, a narrow channel twisting in through the hills, through which the tide runs like a mill race, and came out in the Gulf of Georgia, I think. Then I went to bed and woke up this morning to find myself apparently going up a great river, only it is not. It is narrow all the way up now, save in two or three places where we get out into the open seas. We are hemmed in by mountains, and golly how the wind blows. The snow shows closer and closer to salt water as we go up. We lay over five hours in Victoria yesterday, and I got my license while there, $10. When 60 or 70 miles from them, a person can better realize the height and grandeur of the Cascade and Olympic ranges. Carl Strong says he has been through Colorado and that Pike’s Peak and those noted mountains do not seem more than half as high, though of course they are. But the surrounding country is so high above sea level. From where we were last night these seem to run up from the very water’s edge (the coast line was below the horizon) from 1 ½ to 2 ½ miles high We have nearly caught the steamer Oregon which left Victoria 4 to 5 hours before we did. Oh! But it is beautiful up here. It is a favorite trip in the summer time for U.S. senators and other big bugs. I hope to mail this at Fort Wrangle, which we reach probably tomorrow. The pilot must keep pretty sober on board. It is very like the Hudson River here where it goes through the Catskills, and they steer by compass almost entirely. Just so many minutes and seconds one way and just so long the other, and they must allow for wind and tide and all such. In a fog they use the whistle to some extent and tell just where they are by the echo. Our accommodations are much better than I expected, but there is an awful lot of kicking. This morning we had potatoes, steak, oatmeal, hot biscuits, bread and coffee. Of course, it is not served quite as nice as we would serve it at home. Last night we had two kinds of meat, good hash, some elegant beans, bread, coffee, potatoes, and still they kick and call it hog’s feed. Shouldn’t wonder if it was to some extent. Strong brings fruit to me from the first class table. He has been mighty good to me and I am glad to learn he is doing so well in this country. Will close for the present. There has been one or two slight touches of sea sickness but can see no occasion for it as yet.

March 9--Well, I will add a few lines to my letter. It is after supper and getting dark fast. We have just passed through Queen Charlotte Sound. It is really a place of about 30 or 35 miles where there are no islands to run behind, so really it is running out considerable. I was fortunate enough to escape mal de mer, but most of the passengers succumbed. Not all were obliged to pay tribute to old Neptune, but I guess nearly all retired for a time. The dogs were in the worst shape, poor things. How they wailed and vomited at first. Pretty soon they were too sick to wail. There are 50 or 60 on board. We lost one this morning. He got loose and jumped overboard. I think he reached land all right, but I guess it won’t prolong his life much. He might better have drowned. Have been on deck all day, up as high as I could get, way up by the stack, behind which I crawled beside a couple of great St. Bernards in a warm place and took a good comfortable nap. Only when the dogs began to get sick, I went down by the pilot house. When I went down to supper, found they had played a snap game. They called supper an hour earlier than usual, when we were out on the sound, knowing very few would come. A mob gathered about the time I went down you bet they made a hustle and got us something to eat. I did not hear the supper call for steerage anyway as I was up where steerage passengers are not allowed to go. In fact I spend most of my time on deck and in the cabin. Show up below to eat and sleep. Too dark to write more now.

March 10---We reach Fort Wrangle tonight, and as we will probably cross Dixon Strait or Sound or whatever it is this afternoon, when it will probably be too rough to write, I will finish my letter now. We are getting along very nicely. You can write me as often as you please. Would suggest that you get a sheet of carbon paper and duplicate the letters. Send one to Dawson City, N.W. Ty. And other to circle City, Alaska. The cost will be two cents. It will probably be a long time before I get them, but they will go through. Address the envelopes very large and plain. Dixon crossings is a very bad place, so if you get this all right, you may know I am all right as far as the sea voyage goes. I think my freight will be up on the next boat, so I will not be delayed much. Am in the Northeast (Pa.) party and I think we will join forces with a Bavaria (N.Y>) party, making 13 in all. A plan has been broached to split up into small parties and if while out prospecting, we find ourselves near another tent, can go there and feed or sleep, thus every man will have five places of shelter instead of one. And then if anyone makes a good strike, he will let the others know first. I wish you would let the boys know the drift of this, as it is hard to write on the boat and I don’t like to write the same thing twice. The railroad this fall will only run from the head of the Stickeen River to Lake Teslin, so I don’t believe you will join me here.

March 10- - Evening—I will close this now as we will be at Fort Wrangle tonight probably. Will give this to Carl Strong to mail. We are past Dixon’s entrance and now in U.S. waters again, having passed through the U.S. customs hours at Mary’s Island. We had a small sized storm in Dixon’s entrance, struck us when we were out about five miles and lasted until nearly across, buts it’s find now. Gee whiz, how it blew. We were in the trough of the waves, too. You see this is a river boat and not very good rough weather. I was sitting in the galley in the cabin when it struck and in five minutes the cabin was empty almost, and you should have heard the groans and wretchings. Then I went on deck and stuck it out and you bet I hung on. But it was worth going out to see. It was grand. The coast was right on our lee and it was a rocky one, about two miles away I should think, and when the waves would strike well, I won’t try to guess how high they went, but they hid the trees near the shore and they must have set high, too.

The captain took command in person and at one time thought of anchoring and trying to ride it out. Three dogs had their chains broken and were pitched overboard. So you see it was some rough. When it first began, thought I’d die watching people get to their rooms. Just as liable to fetch up in a heap 20 feet beyond, as to hit his door. One man got to the stairway landing when he was gently tossed up the rest of the way as neat as you please. None of our party was sick, though all but one besides myself retired early to be ready for emergencies. Oh, but it was fine though. I am just chuck full of it.

Good bye for a few days, Fred.

Last updated: September 28, 2017