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Gold Fever


Gold is a noble metal which glows under the rays of the Sun. Since ancient times it has fascinated Humans and therefore it has frequently led them to downfall.

On July 15, 1897 a ship with some foreign passengers reached the port of San Francisco. In their suitcases they carried gold nuggets to be sold in the local market. Quickly word spread around the city that in the North, in the sands of the Klondike River, tributary of the Yukon, a few pleasures of gold of immeasurable wealth had been discovered. Simply digging into the sand, it was possible to find nuggets of gigantic size, which were able to make a miserable miner become a millionaire.

Thousands of citizens went mad and left the city with the clothes they were wearing and precarious footwear, and they headed, using the available ships, to conquer the vast wealth the goddess Fortune fostered them.

To reach their destination, they had to disembark in Skagway, in the coast of Alaska, cross the Coast Mountains through the Chilkoot Pass or the White Pass and descend sailing along the Yukon River to Dawson City. There they could claim ownership of one of the plots in which the site had been divided.


White Pass Trail. 1899.


Whenever a ship arrived to its destination full of adventurers, these adventurers started running in a desperate way towards the mountains to be the first to achieve wealth. The reality differed widely from their dreams. Those steps on huge mountains, which today we visit comfortably seated on a railway, were deadly traps that caught many of them. Those who succeeded in reaching the Yukon River exhausted cut trees to build precarious rafts. Many died in those icy waters.

It is estimated that the Gold Fever of the Klondike captivated more than 100,000 inhabitants of San Francisco and Seattle. Almost all of them died while crossing or because of a merciless winter. It is estimated that only 20,000 people arrived alive to Dawson City.


Chilkoot Pass steps


Once there, they discover which the real difficulties were. The gold-bearing sands were below the permafrost, a perpetually frozen ground that needed to be warmed with abundant wood in order to be able to dig. Later, hundreds of tons of sand had to wash to get a few gold nuggets. Most of them did not have money to finance the adventure and had to be employed to survive.

Fortunately, the North-West Mounted Police soon enforced law and order. They prevented people who did not have supplies and adequate means to survive from entering into Canada. The North-West Mounted Police also fought against bandits and cattle rustlers who took advantage of the turmoil to commit a crime.

Some adventurers became millionaires. Others, about 5,000, were able to find gold.

After a few months, the news stating that in Alaska immense areas of gold-bearing sands had been found arrived to Dawson City. The mass of deprived people left Dawson City, victims of the new fever, and the city became practically abandoned.

Nowadays, Canada is the mining paradise, with extensive metal and diamond exploitations. In the tar sands of Alberta, the largest reserves of oil in the world, much bigger than the Middle East ones, can be found.


Desolate landscapes of the Yukon in spring


These days miner’s life is very different, but it is still really hard. Huge trucks and cranes work at minus 30 degrees by extracting the wealth of the Earth, under the endless Arctic night or during the eternally bright days of summer.

The Government of Canada, extremely environment-friendly, prevents Nature rights and those of the First Nations inhabiting those inhospitable lands from thousands of years ago from being disturbed.