Danger in Yakutat, 1880
|a Google Earth shot of|
Laax̱aayík (Yakutat Bay)
More recently, I highlighted some of my favorite facts from the book Land of the Ocean Mists by Francis Caldwell. Now I'd like to share a full story from Land of the Ocean Mists, paraphrased in my own words and with additional information provided. The story concerns a dangerous year spent in the place the Tlingit named Laax̱aayík, a place we now call Yakutat...
|Kalyáan and his wife at|
the Alaska State Museum
(photo by me)
Hollywood built the Gold Hunter in 1877, a ship intended for trading cruises, as well as—obviously—prospecting. The Gold Hunter left Sitka for Laax̱aayík in June of 1880, following rumors of gold, and Hollywood brought his wife, their two daughters, and three men to join him. One of the men drowned in an accident at Lituya Bay, but the others made it to Yakutat and found good prospects for gold there.
After some time, the two other men decided to make another prospecting trip against Mr. and Mrs. Hollywood's advice. Apparently Mrs. Hollywood warned the men that she had overheard there was a plot to kill them for their guns and ammunition. Nevertheless, the two Americans left for the mountains, accompanied by three Tlingit guides.
According to Mrs. Hollywood’s story recounted years later, one of guides killed both American men just hours after the expedition began. He used a shotgun to kill one and wound the other, and then finished him with a rock. After the Hollywoods heard the news, they stayed in their cabin all winter, and Mrs. Hollywood demanded that her husband stay inside at all times for fear he would be killed. She felt more protected outside, perhaps, because she was the daughter of Kalyáan.
After a few months in the cabin, the Tlingit-American family of four escaped, sailing away from Yakutat in early 1881. Their ship wrecked on the Fairweather Coast in a storm, but some Tlingit from the Alsek River area brought them to a Xunaa Káawu hunting party, which then helped them return home to Sitka. Gold fever did not lead anyone back to Yakutat until eight years later, in 1888, and Hollywood never went prospecting again.
|Iʼve never been to Yakutat, but|
Iʼd love to visit (image source)