Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

deg. east longitude, may be set down as containing seventy islands, with twenty or thirty rocks lying between. There is no definite data at hand giving the area and population of this group, though it would be safe to set the former at 500 square miles, and the latter at 1,000. . -, - 1

The formation is volcanic, the topography rocky •and precipitous, with deep water close to shore. They have long been a resort for whalers in these regions, for wood and water supplies.

The islands, at one time, in the latter part of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries, were used by the Japanese as penal colonies. Pell, Buckland and Stapleton are the largest and bestknown islands.

Their products are unimportant at present. The group is claimed by Great Britain, being taken possession of by that power in 1826.

ANSON AND AUCKLAND ISLANDS.

There are many island groups, atolls and barren isles, hardly as yet of enough commercial importance to require special or particular description. Under this head is the Anson archipelago, lying west of the Hawaiian group; and although but a chain of small islets, with but few products, it would be hard, in this age of discovery and requirements, to predict their future.

The Auckland Islands, between latitude 50 deg. 24 min. and 51 deg. 4 min. south, and longitude 163 deg. 46 min. and 164 deg. 3 min. east, are of considerable importance. They are about twenty in number, several of them, like the island of Auckland, being fully 30 miles long by 15 miles wide. They are of volcanic origin, with an abundance of water and timber and fertile soil. Guano of a fine quality is said to be in quantity on some of the islets. Discovered in 1806, they remained for many years almost unknown and unoccupied, up to 1849, when they were granted by Great Britain to a corporation, who used them principally as a whaling station, but were finally abandoned in 1852. The northern portion of the group is sometimes known as the Enderby Islands. The whole group may contain an area of 1,000 square miles, with a population of 500.

CHAPTER X.

ISLANDS

An island salt and bare,
The .haunt of seals, and ores, and seamews
clang.

M1lton {Paradise Lost).
ALASKA AND THE ALEUTIAN ISLANDS.

THIS chain of islands, stretching from Alaska in a southeasterly direction to the shores of Kamptchatka, lying between 51 deg. and 56 deg. north latitude, and 163 deg. and 188 deg. west longitude, form almost a connecting link between North America and Asia.

They are about fifty in number, and comprise within their limits nearly 8,000 square miles. They at one time formed a portion of the possessions of Russia in America, and were, with Alaska, deeded to the United States by purchase in 1867.

Unimak and Ounalaska are the principal and largest of the four different groups. From climatic reasons, as well as their long distance from the civilized world, they are very thinly populated and with little or no agricultural cultivation. Water is very scarce, while there is hardly any growth of timber, they present a picture not at all inviting to future population. Some of the valleys are well fitted for grazing purposes, abounding with nutritious grasses, while the surrounding waters of the sea teem with fish. The whale and the seal make these latitudes at one time of the year a favorite resort, and are taken in great numbers. There are about 3,000 inhabitants in the Aleutian group, whose existence must be anything but cheerful.

From their geographical situation, some writers and ethnologists have supposed the Aleutian chain to have formed the bridge between America and Asia, over which the Asiatics crossed, gradually peopling America.

The purchase price paid by the United States to Russia for Alaska and the adjoining islands was $7,200,000. The late important developments being made in that territory in minerals alone, gold, silver, copper and coal, not to mention the immense forests of valuable timber, leaves one with the impression that our Government did a wise thing in its purchase. Its area, something over three and one-half times that of the State of California, for which we paid Mexico $15,000,000, may yet prove it a veritable bonanza. Probably not in an agricultural way, but in fisheries, minerals and timber it may exceed all our past fortunate experiences in territorial acquisitions, like California, Arizona and New Mexico, etc.

ISLANDS OF ST. PAUL AND ST. GEORGE.

Two of the islands, St. Paul and St. George, have been found to be the favorite resorts of the fur seal. This was taken advantage of by a San Francisco corporation, who leased the Islands from the Governmerit at a yearly rental of $55,000, for the purpose of a seal fishery alone. They are restricted to taking but 100,000 a year, on which the United States receives a tax of $2.62^ each, producing in all a revenue to the Government from rental and tax of $317,500 per annum.

The island of St. Paul is located in north laticude 57 deg. 8 min., and west longitude 170 deg. 13 min. St. George lies about forty miles to the south. From the former, 80,000 seals are taken each year; from the latter, 20,000.

SEALS AND SEAL FISHING.

From "Dall's Alaska and its Resources," published in 1870, we learn that the fur seal fishery, formerly less important than that of the sea otter, has of late years far exceeded it in value. A short review of the history of this fishery may not be out of place. At present the fur seal are almost exclusively obtained on the islands of St. Paul and St. George in Behring Sea. A few stragglers only are obtained on the Falkland Islands and the extreme southwest coast of South America. The case was formerly very different. Many thousands were obtained from the South Pacific Islands and the coasts of Chili and South Africa.

The Falkland Island seal {Artophoca Falklandicd) was at one time common in that group and the adjacent seas. The skins, worth fifteen Spanish dollars, according to Sir John Richardson, were from four to five feet long, covered with reddish down, over which stiff gray hair projected. They were hunted especially on the Falkland Islands, Terra del Fuego, New Georgia, South Shetland and the coast of Chili.

« ZurückWeiter »