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RETURNED FROM KLONDYKE.
THE EXPERIENCES OF A SOUTH
KLONDYKE AS IT EEALLY IS.
In the case of Klondyke, as in that of many another mining field, " distance lends enchantment to the view." Hun- dreds of men are said to have gone -from Australia to th* North-West Territory of British North America, allured by the tales of extraordinary wealth alleged, to be awaiting the miner there, but in no single case have we heard of any one of these adventurous spirits returning with that wealth that they were induced to believe was simply awaiting their advent. When an opportunity arises for obtaining reliable information respecting such places as Klondyke it is always advisable to secure it, and accordingly (writes a repre- sentative of the South Australian Register) when I heard that Mr. James Kearnan was in Adelaide, having just returned from Canada's golden city, I lost no time in running him to earth, so to speak, knowing that any information he vouchsafed could be treated as absolutely reliable, 'and that his opinions could be treated as spe- cially valuable, coming as they 'do from a man who has spent ' over 25 years of his life as a practical miner in the Australian colonies. Mr. Kearnan is,well known at Broken Hill, having occupied responsible positions while on the Barrier field at the Globe and Junction North. Like many other Barrientes, Mr. Kear- nan transferred his attentions to the West, and spent three anda half years, during which time he was acting as manager for an English syndicate at Peake's New Find, and was latterly in charge of the Boulder Perseverance. Whilst there Messrs. John Waddington, Z. Lane, and Frank Witte- noom arranged with him to proceed to Klondyke, and in accordance with this ar- rangement he left Perth' for Adelaide cn the 23rd January last. His stay here was of brief duration, for en the 5th of Feb- ruary he left Sydney per Aorangi for Van- couver. There were no less than 160 dig- gers on board, and, to use Mr. Keàrnan's own words, they had a pretty tough time of it, but eventually they reached their destination, and on March 4 the Aorangi dropped anchor in Vancouver.
Starting fob Klondyke.
Mr. Kearnan is an ideal man for the trip that he undertook te accomplish. Tall, well built, with no superfluous flesh, and withal as "hard as nails," he looks just the type of prospector that a competent judge would select for sucha trip. He took no outfit with him, for, as he says, one can- not very well tell what is required till you are, se to speak, on the spot. He, .there- fore, purchased his outfit at VancouUer, and a nice^price he had to pay for every- thing. But, perhaps, it will be as well to let Mr. Kearnan tell his story in his own words. " In the first place," said-Mr. Kear- nan, " I selected a couple of good mates and miners of big experience. Their names were J. Byrnes and S. Lee. The former had held a number of properties near Coe, West Australia, but, having sold out, he deter-
mined to try his luck on the Klondyke. | Lee was an old Queensland prospector, 1 and had latterly been managing a mine on 1 the Murchison ; in fact, he was on that - field from its inception. From Vancouver
we went to Skagway Bay, and on leaving 1 there we set out for Lake Bennett, going 1 by way of the White Pass instead of the Chilcott Pass. This we did on the advice
of a friend of mine, an American I had 1 known" in Australia, and whom I ran
against at Skagway. We had our outfit 1 packed on mules and Alaskan bulls, and it 1 cost us 1,160 dollars for our baggage, or at the rate of 12 cents per pound. We walked ourselves, though we could have secured mules, but we would have been charged at the same rate por pound as the baggage. The distance from Skagway Bay to Lake Bennett is 60 miles. . It was a.
lucky thing we followed my friend's advice,' i
for had we taken the Chilcott Pass route I would not have been here to-day. At the time we would have been in Sheep Camp, in the pass, a snowslide took place, and it is impossible to say how many men
lost their lives. The bodies of 80 men I 1 were subsequently recovered, and as they 1 were taken from under their snow pall 1 the men who recovered them, intent upon
nothing but greed, stripped them of every t article of value as soon as they < were t dragged from the snow. It will never be known how many lost their lives on that occasion, and I don't suppose the bodies of all these unfortunates will ever bo re- covered from their icy tomb. Wovwere held up for three days with snow at the foot of the pass, and here we were unlucky
enough to lose one of our party, a fine fel- 1 low, from New Zealand, named E. S. Sutherland. He fell a victim to a form of
spinal trouble, very prevalent there, and t caused through the pressure of the straps t of his pack on his neck. We sent him y back by sledge to the Skagway Hospital, p but the poor fellow never recovered, and
was buried in the little cemetery at Skag- 1 way. Lake Bennett City is a small can- t vas town, but every -place, even if it is composed of only half a dozen canvas erections, rejoices in the title of 'city.' We
sledded our belongings to Middle Island, 1 16 miles distant, and there we sefto work t and built a couple ef boats. One1 has to be a Jack of all trades on the Yukon, and must carry saws and all necessary'tools with you, for it is impossible to obtain any
en route. When we got to Middle «Island C we found about 4,000 men camped there, t all boat building. There is an abundance y of suitable timber, but some of- the beats
and scows were the most extraordinary t thing3 you can possibly imagine. The, t boats we built were 23ft. and 29ft. respec- I tively in length, so you see we could carry
a fair quantity of baggage. On May 15 t the ice broke, and no less that 1,200 boats t at once made a start for Dawson City. I There were five in our party. With such a crowd of boats I need not say that there were a number of accidents, and I saw several men drowned through their boats being crushed in the ice. It was utterly impossible to save them."
"I suppose it was not all plain sailing, 1 so to speak, even when you had got a fair
"That it was not, but I'will come to
some of our 'hair-breadth 'scapes' in a t minute. The place of any note that we struck was Lake Tagisb. Here you meet an outpost of the Canadian mounted police, who hold you up to see if you have any spirits with you. There were exactly 1,800 boats lying there waiting to be passed by the pehce, and there was only one *vay of getting through, and that was by handing the policeman a couple of dollars. Here one makes the acquaintance of the system
in vogue on the Yukon, of tipping the t police, and without a man does this lia may I just as well turn back. The extortion practised by this body Í3 so abominable
that unless one has been unfortunate j enough to experience it he will hardly
conceive it possible that such a I state of things can exist in a British 1 colony. If you want to get your boat I through you must give the policeman 2 t dollars, and then you are all right. By law no spirits are permitted to enter the north-west territory. I had five gallons of whisky, and as soon as we got there I asked the policeman to pass us. 'No/ he said, 'you must wait your turn the same as the rest.' But I had heard how things were managed there, so calling him on one
sid» I asked bim if he did not think it pos- sible to pass na straight away, at the same tim« handing him 6 lollara. He had no qualms of conscience, but pocketed the in- sult, and saying, 'Oh, well, I'll see what I can do," passed our baggage, whisky, and all, gave us our papers, and wa were free to proceed. Wa next arrived at the head of Mlie's Canyon, three miles from White Horse Rapids. Hore we found about 4,000 boats waiting their turn to go through the rapids. There is an 8ft. fall from the canyon into the rapids. These latter are three quarters of a mile long, and it takes you exactly one minute to shoot them. You can get pilots _to pilot you through, but they charge 20 dollars, so most men prefer to trust to luck. These rapids are about 40ft. wide, 30ft. of which is comparatively clear, and yon require to have plenty of nerve when you shoot them. You steer with a long paddle, about 24ft. long, and having a blade about 8in. wide. Before you essay the passage you divest yourself
of your boots and heavy clothing in case I of accident, though I never heard of anyone who had the misfortune to come to grief ever being recovered. You are
simply smashed to pieces on the rocks, and I we saw several fatal accidents while we | were there. By more good luck that any-
thing else we were lucky enough to get J through, though I thought it was all up j
with the boat that Byrnes was steering. His steering paddle broke, and the bait no longer being controlled, swung round in the eddies and drove her nose right below the water. I thought they were all gone, when she rose to the surface, and they were clear of the rapids. Fortunately,
all the provisions were in watertight j bags, so that nothing was injured. Leaving the rapids you run into Lake Lebarge, a lake 30 miles long. We struck it in a storm,
and scudded before the wind at about 10 | miles au hour. Several boats were capsized through the men sailing them not under-
standing their work; but, though they lost | their packs, I did not hear of any lives j
being lost. Then we entered the Thirty mile River, which is very fast and rocky ;
but, though a good many boats came to ' grief, I am glad to say our good luck stuck to us. Having successfully negotiated the Five Finger Rapids, we reached the Pelley River, where it was stated there was a big gold find, but a policeman on duty near there told us there was no truth ia the rumour. Several hundred men went up the river, but found that the rumour was absolutely without foundation. After that we ran towards Dawson city, but first put in some prospecting work at a creek we christened Lee's Creek. We sank several shafts, but never even got a colour. After this wo prospected the Indian River np and down for fully 60 miles, but again were un- successful in striking anything. After this we went to Dawson City, and subsequently went up the Klondyke River as far as Bonanza Creek, a distance of about 15 miles."
' Mining on the Yukon.
"I suppose we may consider that you had now made a fair Btart at Arctic mining ? "
i " Yes, we gave it a good trial. A lot of gold lias been got around the El Dorado, the Hunker, and Bonanza Creeks, which are tributaries of the Klondyke and Indian Rivers. Some 400 or 600 men are prospect- ing these creeks, and have claims ' located ' there, as they term it, but you can count the good claims on your fingers. It is not mining as we understand it. Having marked out your shaft, you proceed to burn the ice out, and you may have to go down 40ft. before you come to bedrock. Even this ia frozen for 6ft. to 8ft. Having gone through this you may come ou the wash, carrying gold, or you may not. There is no certainty about it, and in nine cases out of ten when you do strike it you get nothing to repay you for your trouble. Timber is rather scarce, and if you have not got it on your claim, and have to buy it, you will have to pay 20 dollars a cord for it. Sinking a shaft in the way I have described is fearfully slow work. Miners' wages are 15 dollars a day when miners are required, but none are required, nor have
any been wanted for the past l8 months, j At the present time a man is only allowed to ' locate * 250 square feet of ground, and the Government reserve every alternate block. They are supposed to be put up for auction, but no sales have taken place up to the present, and when they do they will take place at, Ottawa, thousands of miles away. You have to pay 10 dollars for a miner's right, and a royalty of 10 per cent,
on the first 2,500 dollars worth of gold | raised, and up to 5,000 dollars worth 20 per cont. per week. The result is that those few people who hava real good claims are careful not to take anything like 2,500 dol- lars worth out in a week. I reckon that
if the 10 per cent, royalty were removod , and no fresh discovories were made, that the field would be worked out in less than two years. If you go to * record ' a claim you have to pay 15 dollars as a fee. It is problematical, however, if the Commis- sioner will register it for you. His price is 15 dollars, and if he is tipped to this ex-
tent you can be pretty sure of having the ' claim 'recordod.' D2 not, you are told to call again, and when you do apply you are coolly told that someone else ha3 recorded before you, though you know perfectly well that till you applied no ono had any idea where you were working. The prospector ef Bonanza Creek, Cormack, told me he
had been working on the river there for | about twelve years, whilst the Hudson Bay Company have been getting gold from there through tho Indians for about forty years past. The Indians did not know the value of the gold, and the company used
to buy it from thom in the same way as i they did furs. A heavy rifle would be placed on a scale, and the gold in the
other, and when the gold weighed down j the rifle the latter became the property of the delighted and unsophisticated red man. it was good business for the company."
Life on the Klondyke.
"I should imagine that living is fear- fully expensive on the Klondyke ?"
"It just is. The principal food is beans and bacon, and of course porridge. A dol- lar is the price of a ineil at a so-called restaurant. Just before I left there hap- pened to be a glut of bacon, and it went very cheap. It was capital Chicago bicon, the Rex brand, and it was selling at 30 cents, or about 16d. per pound. This was unusually cheap, foi- it usually costs one dollar per lb. The dog sleddera are always ready to buy bacon to feed their dogs on, and the fatter it is the better they like it. You can sometimes get a little fresh meat in the shape of moose, which fetches a
dollar a pound, while prime cuts are a J
dollar and a half. Some times you eau get venison, or, as they call it, carriboo, and this costs a dollar and a half a pound. Just before I left, they rafted up 50 head of cattle and about 300 sheep. Mutton fetched a dollar and a half per pound, and
plucks a dollar. Plucks were m great de- j maud, as they went very well with the beans and bacon. There are no hotels, but what are called saloons. As I said before, no intoxicating liquor is permitted to be sold, but the police wink at it ; indeed it pays them well, to do so. The saloons are all run by toughs or spielers, and as the police confiscate most of the liquor
that comes up, it is always understood j
where the former get their supplies from. Scotch whisky costs a dollar a nobbler, while Canadian rye, a vile concoction
manufactured on the premises, is retailed J
i- ; at SO cents. Whisky by the bottle is ¿3,
and in one saloon I saw six bottles of cham- pagne which were for sale at 35 dollars the bottle. Very little drinking goes on ; in- deed I only saw one man drunk all the
time I was there. It costs at a restaurant
about ¿2 a day for board-of course, that is at one of the best places-but an ordi- nary meal such as I have before mentioned
costs about a dollar. For amnsement
there is a variety entertainment, which costs five dollars entrance. There are 10
girls running it, and it consists principally of a high-kicking entertainment. After the show a dance takes place, and the patrons can have the honour of dancing with the performers at the moderate charge of a dollar a dance. These women are said to be very rich, and no wonder, at the prices that are paid for their sorry entertainment. There is a very good hospital in Dawson City, conducted by Sisters of Mercy. I think they are French sisters, and if a pationt can afford it he is charged 10 dol- lars a day, but if he is indigent they make no charge."
" Did you meet any of the men who are alleged to have made enormous fortunes ?"
" Yes, I met one or two, but they are very few. Slow Water Jack is a wealthy man, and has a fine claim. He's a decent fellow and a good miner. I met Swift Water Bill, who was stated by the San Francisco papers to have made millions. He's nothing more nor less than a spieler, who got a few thousand dollars together, and then went down to 'Frisco and palmed himself off as a millionaire, and took people down on all sides. Then he cleared back to Dawson city. I saw Paddy Slavin there. He is without money and belongs. to a crowd of toughs who hang round the town. Things were pretty orderly when I left, but we heard afterwards that garrot- ting and robberies had started. A good many men wera shot and robbed at Skag- way by a gang headed by a ruffian re- joicing in the name of Soapy Smith. His career was, however, cut short by a sur- veyor he had .taken down. They met in the street and flrad( point blank at one another. Soapy was shot dead, but his assailant lingered for a week, and died rejoicing that he had ended Soapy*s
" In brief, what is your opinion of the
" Well, around'the creeks I have men- tioned there are a few claims extraor- dinarily rich ; in fact I saw more gold than I ever saw before, or perhaps will ever see again, but outside these there is nothing. Of the 46,000 men who went in when 1 did I never heard of a single man who struck a payable claim. The Ameri- can papers do not fail to show what a fraud the place is, but the Canadian papers suppress anything to the detriment of the field, if you can term it such. Mar- tial law is in force, and the people are just like a parcel of slaves. The Government institutions are corrupt from top to bot- tom, and if you have any doutt in regard to what I am saying here is the local papers to endorse what I am telling you. Aus^ tralians will hardly credit that such a state of things is possible, but I challenge any- one who, has been there to deny the abso- lute truth of my . assertions. When the ice melted the steamers came up from St. Michaels, and I can assure you we were not long in securing our passage, and bidding farewell to the most horrible place
I ever wish to see. I thank heaven I am back with my family at Parkside, and I can assure you that every Australian who went there and has the means to return
will lose no time in doing' so."