If you read my post about Lost Treasures of Alabama, you know I tried to highlight a few of the rumored and legendary treasures that may (or may not) be hidden in Alabama. This post heads to the wilds of Alaska and explores the same topic.
As you can imagine, many lost treasure stories involve gold. Add to the amount of gold mining and the rugged and remote wilderness, lost mines, hidden gold, and tragedy seems inevitable. Along those lines, then, here is the first story!
Frenchman’s Lost Gold Mine in Alaska
As the story goes, a Frenchman showed up in a remote Haida village called Howkan. The miner, who needed supplies, paid for the goods in pure gold. His appearance excited the villagers but was soon forgotten until he showed up again. He once again he purchased supplies, paying pure gold for them. This happened several times and the storekeeper and a few villagers tried to follow the miner to discover where his gold originated. Long Island is part of a chain small islands, and the Frenchman was able to elude his pursuers. The miner sailed away one day, never to return. The best guess is the gold came from Dall Island, but no one has found it or tried to mine the island. Gold may still be out there!
Northwest Airlines Flight 4422
Flight 4422 took off from Merrill Field in Anchorage after refueling and headed toward New York. It ferried twenty-four merchant marines from Shanghai to New York. The plane crashed into Mount Sanford and killing all aboard. Though the wreckage was spotted form the air, and witnesses saw the crash, snowstorms and a mountain glacier covered the plane, and it was lost for fifty years. A tragedy for the families, made worse by the fact that none of the passengers or crews’ remains have been recovered, though a piece of wreckage recovered in 1999 confirmed it was the plane. In addition, one mummified limb identified one of the passengers.
The treasure part of this horrible story is the persistent rumor that the plane carried a secret cargo of gold from China for the purchase of a tanker. Supposedly in the $3 million dollar range, the cargo has spurred attempts over the years to recover it. No record of the gold recovery exists.
Clara Nevada and an Alaska Tragedy
Another rumored treasure is also part of a tragedy. The SS Clara Nevada was originally a survey ship for the US Revenue Service. Near the end of its life, the ship was sold to the McGuire Brothers. The brothers, who purchased the ship at a fraction of its original cost, quickly refurbished it, and put it into service sailing to Alaska from Seattle. Beset with problems on the first voyage, the ship tied up at Skagway, Alaska on February 4, 1898.
On February 5, 1898, the ship headed south with passengers and crew onboard. For reasons unknown, the ship collided with Eldred Rock, and very quickly sank, killing everyone on the vessel. Along with the loss, a rumored $165,000 in raw gold. With the gold price at the time at $18.98 per ounce, that equals about 8700 ounces of gold. In today’s dollars, that’s about $14.3 million. The wreckage lies in less than 40 feet of water, and no one has claimed to find the gold. If it was there, it might still be lying on the bottom, protected by the ghosts of those who perished.
There you have just a very small sampling of the lost treasures in Alaska. I don’t know if any are true, but it is fun to speculate!