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Then, in mid-May 1897, the ice on the Yukon River broke. A few grizzled miners packed their nuggets and gold flakes into battered bags and boxes, headed downriver to St Michael, and from there by steamer to Seattle and San Francisco. Among them were Clarence and Ethel Berry. Clarence had been working as a bartender in Bill McPhee’s Fortymile saloon that momentous evening when Carmack had sauntered in with his gold; the Berrys had rushed to the Klondike and staked a highly lucrative claim; it’s said that when Ethel wanted housekeeping money, she just walked out to the yard, bashed the frozen pile of paydirt with a stick, and helped herself to a couple of nuggets. As she and her husband sailed for civilization they were dressed in rags, but carried gold worth $130,000.The Excelsior docked in San Francisco on 14 July 1897. America was at the time in the grips of depression and when a weary public saw the cargo that her passengers had hauled from the Klondike, its imagination was set ablaze. By the time the Portland, also from St Michael, arrived in Seattle three days later, 5,000 people crowded the docks to gaze – and Klondike fever swept the city.‘GOLD! GOLD! GOLD! GOLD!’ shrieked the headline of the Seattle Post Intelligencer on 17 July 1897. ‘Sixty-Eight Rich Men on the Steamer Portland. Stacks of yellow metal.’‘All that anyone hears at present is “Klondyke,”’ the Seattle Daily Times reported six days later. ‘It is impossible to escape it. It is talked in the morning; it is discussed at lunch; it demands attention at the dinner table; it is all one hears during the interval of his after-dinner smoke; and at night one dreams about mountains of yellow metal with nuggets as big as fire plugs.’Storekeepers closed up shop, clerks resigned their posts, policemen left their beats and teachers abandoned their classrooms. Within weeks, thousands – including a young Jack London – had left home to find their fortunes in the Klondike.