Praise for Journey
“Stunning . . . Michener at his best.”—Houston Chronicle
“Michener brings sharply into focus the hardships encountered by those who dreamed of striking it rich.”—Associated Press
“Michener has amassed a peerless reputation as the heralded dean of the historical tome. . . . Journey is a book that envelops the reader in an atmosphere of hazardous escapades.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Remarkable . . . superb literature.”—The Pittsburgh Press
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.51(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.56(d)|
About the Author
Date of Birth:February 3, 1907
Date of Death:October 16, 1997
Place of Death:Austin, Texas
Education:B.A. in English and history (summa cum laude), Swarthmore College, 1929; A.M., University of Northern Colorado, 1937.
Read an Excerpt
When on 17 July 1897 the steamship Portland docked at Seattle, bringing belated news and hard evidence that an enormously rich strike of gold had been made the summer before along the Klondike River on the extreme western border of Canada, the world was startled by a felicitous sentence scribbled in haste by an excited reporter who visited the ship. Instead of saying that the miners had reached Seattle with “a huge amount of gold” or “a treasure-trove of gold,” he wrote words that became immortal: “At 3 o’clock this morning the Steamer Portland from St. Michael for Seattle, passed up the Sound with more than a ton of solid gold aboard.
Those sensational words, “a ton of gold,” flashed around the world, evoking wild enthusiasm wherever they appeared. Across the United States and Canada, men who had suffered sore deprivation during the great financial panic of 1893 cried: “Gold to be had for the picking! Fortunes for everyone!” and off they scrambled, with no knowledge at all of mining or metallurgy, and very little sense of how to protect themselves on a frontier. Shifty manipulators, who realized that they would have little chance of finding gold in riverbeds, nevertheless knew that with the proper card game or attractive young woman to lure those who did find nuggets, they might win fortunes by mining the miners. Proper businessmen also smelled opportunities; actors out of work visualized theaters with dancing girls, and a few born explorers of untested regions, like Lord Evelyn Luton and his military cousin Harry Carpenter of London, made immediate preparations to rush to the gold fields for the sheer adventure.
But if the news of the strike could have such electric effect upon so many, why had it taken almost a full year to travel the relatively short distance from the Klondike to Seattle, less than thirteen hundred miles as an eagle would fly? The explanation must be carefully noted, for it explains the tragic events that were about to destroy so many lives.
The Klondike was a pitiful little stream, too small to admit a boat of any serious size and hidden away in one of the most remote areas of the world. It emptied into the great Yukon River, which rose in the high mountains of the northern coastal range and roamed through Canada and Alaska for more than nineteen hundred desolate and uninhabited miles. So if the big river was available, why had not the miners who found the gold taken boats down the Yukon to bring the news to civilization? Unfortunately, the mighty river was frozen almost solid from early in October through to the first weeks in June. The men who had discovered the bonanza and would profit from it had made their strike so late in the summer of 1896 that they could not get down the Yukon until early summer of the next year. For nearly eleven months they had lived with their great wealth and their explosive secret, but now the genie was out of the bottle and chaos was about to ensue.
There were two other awesome facts about the discovery on the Klondike: although the gold fields, and they were unbelievably rich and extensive, lay entirely in Canada, there was no practical way to get from the principal settlements of western Canada to the region; the only feasible route was through Alaska, but anyone who tried that found himself facing one of the most fearsome physical challenges in the world, the dreaded Chilkoot Pass, at places almost straight up and passing through snowfields and mountain defiles. And if he did negotiate Chilkoot or the neighboring and equally formidable White Pass, which many failed to do, he then had to build himself a small boat from felled timber, to negotiate a series of deadly rapids and gorges and make a long, dangerous sail down the Yukon to approach the gold fields from the south. “In from the south, out to the north” was the rule at Dawson City, the Canadian settlement that sprang up near the spot where the little Klondike emptied into the wide Yukon.
It was this land—of frozen rivers, tempestuous gorges, impossible ascents through snow and ice, long sweeps of river through a thousand miles of wilderness—that in the late summer of 1897 attracted adventurers from all parts of the world, and not one of them, when he left Australia, or Indiana, or Ottawa or London, anticipated the hardships he would have to undergo before he reached Golconda.
In London, a few days after the news from Seattle appeared in national newspapers, a rich uncle and his impecunious nephew, members of the English noble family of Bradcombe, read of the “ton of gold” with considerable excitement. The older man, Lord Evelyn Luton, was the younger son of the redoubtable Marquess of Deal, eighth of that line whose Bradcombe ancestors had helped Queen Elizabeth establish a Protestant foothold in Catholic Ireland. Luton was thirty-one, imperially tall and slim, aloof, soft-spoken, unmarried and a man with a sometimes insufferable patrician manner. He despised familiarity, especially from underlings, and whenever a stranger presumed to approach him uninvited he tended to draw back, lift his nose as if he smelled an unpleasant odor undetected by others, and stare at the intruder. A friend at Oxford had termed this “Evelyn’s silent-sneer,” and when a listener had pointed out that all sneers are silent, the first student had replied: “Look to your dictionary. Anyway, when Evelyn hits you with his silent one, it speaks volumes.”
Another friend had argued: “His critics may be right when they call him insufferable, but we suffer him because he’s so…well…correct,” and the first man had agreed: “He is always right, you know.” But even this concession did not satisfy the first man: “Thing I like about him, when he embarks on any project, he’s loyal to all who accompany him.”
As a result of interminable practice when a boy he had, with only meager athletic skills to begin with, converted himself into one of England’s finest cricketers. When not playing for his county team or representing England against Australia, he was an avid explorer, having penetrated to the upper reaches of the Congo, much of the Amazon, and, of course, the Nile to a point well beyond the great temples at Karnak.
Actually, there was a solid reason for his wanting to leap into the middle of what threatened to become a gold rush, since so many wished to join, but he scarcely admitted this to himself and certainly not to strangers. Having already probed both Africa and South America on daring expeditions, he fancied traveling next to the arctic and later to remote corners of Asia with the purpose ultimately of writing a travel book, perhaps to be called An Englishman in the Far Corners, in which he would exhibit, as he explained to himself, “how an ordinary fellow with a bit of determination could follow in the footsteps of the great explorers.” He patterned himself after notable prototypes who had carried the British flag into the most dangerous parts of the world: Sir Richard Burton, who had written about primitive India and Africa, and Charles Doughty with his incredible Travels in Arabia Deserta.
Of all the intrepid explorations that had fired the imagination of an entire generation of Englishmen it was the expeditions to the high arctic in search of the fabled Northwest Passage that had most excited Luton. While up at Oxford he had read as many accounts as he could procure of the brave men who had led these northern explorations: Sir John Ross; Sir William Edward Parry, who had attempted to reach the North Pole; Sir Robert McClure, the first to discover the passage through the arctic waters. But none of these men’s deeds had affected Luton as much as that of the noblest and most tragic explorer of them all: Sir John Franklin, who had perished with his gallant team in 1847 in his bold effort to discover the elusive passage.
Knowing intimately the travails of such Englishmen, Luton felt himself adequately prepared to face whatever challenges a mere gold rush might present. He would be venturing near the lands these men had discovered, perhaps even treading in the path of Sir John Franklin himself, who had once sailed the Mackenzie River in an early commission to map the coastline of the Arctic Ocean.
Luton had no doubt that he could succeed on his far lesser mission. On several occasions he had demonstrated that he was fearless by performing acts of some valor, but when asked about this he rejected that word: “Fearless? Who told you that? Did they also tell you I was so terrified I wet me britches?” To him the fragmentary word that reached London about the extensive dangers accompanying the gold rush presented an inviting challenge, but he would never have admitted that, for he had cloaked his former adventures as a seeking after scholarship, a thirst for knowledge, and this time he was already explaining to himself and others: “What I’d like, you know, is to give me nephew a spot of help.” He pronounced the word nev-ue.