North to Alaska – The Rush is On

My passion for prospecting and my enduring love for the wilderness of Alaska were born on the beaches of Nome in 1993. I couldn’t stop whistling, North To Alaska! It was my good fortune to spend seven adventure packed weeks that summer on the crew of a gold camp 15 miles west of Nome. I have returned twice on the same crew, my latest expedition in 2007.

Nome’s weather is dominated by the Bering Sea and can change rapidly. In the summer, highs average in the mid-50s, with lows in the low to mid-40s. The coldest three months are December through February, when the highs average about 13 degrees and the lows average a little below zero.

The beaches are often still covered in ice pack and snow in May. June offers the best combination of clear skies and warm temperatures. As the summer progresses, more rain can be expected. Severe storms are common and the window of opportunity for working the beach sands diminishes as September approaches.

Nome is located on the southern Seward Peninsula coast of Norton Sound in the Bering Sea, approximately 540 air miles northeast of Anchorage. There are no roads connecting Nome to any major city in Alaska. A robust 4,000 folks now inhabit what was once one of the most populous cities in Alaska. Half of the population are Native American Eskimo. Incorporated in 1901, Nome lies within the region of the Bering Straits Native Corporation. The Sitnasuak Village Corporation has its land holdings in and around the city of Nome.

There Is No Place Like Nome

If the prospectors of 1899 had followed Johnny Horton’s lyrical directions to the gold in the movie North to Alaska, they would have found themselves in the frigid, salty waters of the Bering Sea. In the song, Horton places the golden bonanza beneath that old white mountain, just a little southeast of Nome. That would place the mountain in the ocean. But in the actual story, that is where the gold is, in the water.

History shows that the majority of the Nome gold recovered to date has been gleaned from the beaches of Nome, rather than the creeks and rivers. Thousands of gold seekers tromped over this golden treasure in their quest inland, never realizing that they were grinding beneath their boots the elusive mineral they so avidly sought.

The majority of the credit for the Nome gold rush goes to the triad of John Brynteson, Erik Lindblom and Jafet Lindeberg, who became infamous as those “Three Lucky Swedes,” although Lindeberg was actually from Norway.

In the summer of 1898 John Brynteson was a member of an exploration party from Council City prospecting the Seward Peninsula. Foul weather forced their ship to seek refuge in the mouth of the Snake River, 13 miles west of Cape Nome. The men passed the time waiting for the storms to abate by prospecting the drainages within a four or five mile radius of the ship. They found some color in their gold pans, but not enough to excite them. J. Brynteson, however, had faith and he formed a partnership with the two other Scandinavians, Lindblom and Lindeberg. The men continued to prospect and they eventually worked their way to Anvil Creek where they discovered an impressive amount of coarse gold. After restocking their meager supplies at Golovin, a small trading post 100 miles east, they immediately returned to Anvil Creek, formed the Cape Nome Mining District, and between the three of them, staked out 43 claims. By power of attorney, they also immediately filed on 47 additional claims for backers, relatives and friends.

When word of this leaked out, as it always does, a feverish migration of prospectors descended on the Nome area, unaware that The Lucky Swedes had yet to find anything near a true gold strike. The chaos and confusion that ensued involved rampant claim-jumping, cross filings, lawyers, litigation and myriads of claims filed, by power of attorney, for persons who, in most cases, probably did not even exist. The stampede to Nome by thousands of prospectors from the outside world resulted in disappointment and discouragement for most and death for many.

The lawful resolution of litigations and claim boundaries was impeded by District Judge Arthur H. Noyes, who later turned out to be a flagrant crook who took part in a scheme to use the law to take over the richest gold claims.

In this treeless land, lawlessness prevailed as gangs roamed the streets, setting fires to cover robbery and looting. Troops from Fort St. Michael across Norton Sound were summoned to maintain order.

In those early weeks of the gold rush, the three Lucky Swedes must have felt anything but lucky. The blame for the whole fiasco began to settle squarely on their shoulders. Rumors spread like wildfire, the Lucky Swedes had already filed on all the productive prospects. In reality, little gold had yet been found by anyone. The Swedes’ filings were especially anger-provoking to some of the other prospectors because federal law prohibited foreigners from filing claims unless they could show valid intent to become citizens, the Scandinavians had not.

Finally, in a miners meeting where tempers flared and destinies were forever changed, the Cape Nome Mining District was declared null and void, an illegal enterprise and all their claims were revoked.

The decision was in itself illegal. The miners may have taken the law into their own hands had not a handful of soldiers stepped into the fracas and forcefully disbanded them with fixed bayonnets.

That was a lucky break for the Swedes. They got another break. A few days later they were literally forgotten when one of the soldiers stationed at Nome went to haul water from near the mouth of the Snake River and found gold in the beach sand. It was almost impossible to believe the magnitude of the discovery. Within a matter of days, gold was located stretched along the water line for over 40 miles both east and west of Nome. This time the rush really was on.

Late in the season, winter was settling in and the coast was icebound, but gold seekers began descending on the tent town in the spring of 1899. The gold rush spurred permanent, non-indigenous settlement of the booming city with the population exceeding 40,000 by 1900. According to the US Census of 1900, one third of all whites recorded in Alaska were living in Nome. During the peak of the Nome gold rush, hundreds of tents stretched out along twenty miles of the beach west of town.

Nome was a worthy strike. In the summer of 1899 alone, 2,000 miners, both men and women, worked the sand to extract in excess of two million dollars worth of gold from the beaches gravels before freeze up.

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Alaska has laws in place to keep motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists safe from drunk drivers. These laws are known as the DUI laws and can be very complex, especially if you’ve been charged with a DUI offense. If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, it is very important that you contact an Alaska DUI lawyer immediately. If you wait too long to get legal assistance, you may forget information that is important to your case and lose any chance you have of winning. By contacting an Alaska DUI attorney immediately after your arrest, you can give your attorney all of the information necessary to begin building your defense.

Driving Under the Influence

Alaska has two ways in which someone can be prosecuted for DUI. One is if the person is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This means that the person is too impaired to operate their vehicle safely. Someone who is under the influence and too impaired to drive may exhibit odd driving behaviors such as driving too slowly, excessive braking, or swerving when it is not necessary to avoid an obstacle in the road. Someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol may also cause accidents due to their impairment. Impairment can be determined by the way they are driving or by their failure to successfully complete field sobriety tests. The other way a person can be prosecuted for DUI in Alaska is if their blood alcohol content level exceeds the limit of 0.08%. This level can be determined using chemical testing. Contacting an Alaska DUI lawyer as soon as you’ve been arrested for a DUI offense is imperative. These legal professionals know how to review each type of evidence and also have access to expert witnesses that may be able to reduce the impact of this evidence on your case.

Alaska DUI Penalties

Most DUI offenses in Alaska are classified as misdemeanors. The exceptions occur when someone has committed a third offense or greater or when a DUI results in bodily injury. The penalties for DUI in Alaska become more severe with each offense and can include fines, jail time, and community service. Some offenders can be sentenced to electric monitoring instead of jail time. Discussing all of these consequences with an Alaska DUI lawyer can help you to decide the best course of action to take and help you have the best chance for winning your case.

Administrative DUI Penalties

Criminal charges and penalties are not the only problems you will face if you are arrested for DUI. You will also have to deal with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the administrative penalties that they impose when someone is charged with a DUI. This suspension will take effect 7 days after your arrest so it is IMPERATIVE that you contact an Alaska DUI lawyer before that time period expires. A qualified Alaska DUI attorney can help you get a hearing with the DMV to request a temporary license that you can use until your case goes to trial. If your suspension was due to having a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater, a restricted license is only available after the first 30 days of your suspension has passed. This option is not available if you have refused chemical testing to determine your blood alcohol content level. The revocation period lengthens if a person has had prior DUI convictions. For one prior DUI conviction or refusal to submit to chemical testing, the penalty is a license revocation of 1 year. This penalty carries no opportunity for a restricted or temporary license for any reason. For two prior DUI convictions or refusals to submit to chemical testing, the license revocation time period is three years. This penalty gives offenders no opportunity for a restricted work permit. The penalty for three or more offenses is a license revocation period of five years. There is also no opportunity to apply for a restricted work permit during this period. Because of all of these possible penalties, consulting with an Alaska DUI lawyer is one of the best things you can do. Representing yourself may cause you to miss out on important deadlines and miss information that a legal professional would be able to use to strengthen your defense.

DMV License Revocation Hearing

If you are pulled over and charged with a DUI, you will receive a “Notice and Order of Revocation” from the law enforcement officer conducting the traffic stop. The day you are issued this order is the day that the clock starts ticking on the time you have to request a hearing on your revocation. You have 7 calendar days to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles and request a hearing in writing. If you do not meet this requirement, the license revocation will go into effect on the 8th day and you will have missed out on the opportunity to contest the revocation. You can deliver your written request directly to the Department of Motor Vehicles or send it to the DMV via the US Postal Service. If you choose to hand deliver the request, be sure to have someone in the DMV office sign something that shows the request was received. If you choose to use the mail, send the request certified so you can be sure the DMV received your request. In the event that the DMV claims they did not receive a request from you, having a signed certified mail receipt would prove that you did meet the requirement for requesting a hearing in the required time period. Be sure that your request is postmarked before the 7 day expiration date or your request may not arrive at the DMV on time.

Your license revocation hearing is very important to your DUI case. Even if you were not guilty of DUI and end up being not convicted or having the charges dropped, you will lose your license if you do not request a hearing within the 7 day period. Your lawyer may be able to successfully defend you against the revocation depending on what has happened with your case. This hearing also gives your attorney the opportunity to determine what information may come up at your criminal trial. Since the DMV hearing testimony is on the record, it can be very important to you at trial time. If you have been arrested for DUI, contact an Alaska DUI lawyer as soon as possible to help you save your license and defend you against criminal DUI charges.