Did we get our money's worth when we bought Alaska from the Russians?
It only cost $7.2 million in 1867, but David Barker wonders if the U.S. taxpayers might have been better off without it: Was the Alaska Purchase a Good Deal?
Did we get our money's worth when we bought Alaska from the Russians?
It only cost $7.2 million in 1867, but David Barker wonders if the U.S. taxpayers might have been better off without it: Was the Alaska Purchase a Good Deal?
For many years non-Native sport fishermen have come to the Yup'ik homeland in Western Alaska for the salmon, trout, and grayling fishing. Sport fishermen may catch (and commonly release) ten or twenty fish a day.
The sport fishermen bring cash and, since they are practicing catch-and-release fishing, the resource - which the Yup'ik use for subsistence - isn't being damaged. Why should the Yup'ik care?
Construction of the trans-Atlantic telegraph cable pushed the limits of 19th Century technology. In the 1860s construction was begun on an alternative telegraph line to Europe - across Alaska, under the Bering Strait, and across Russia.
Capt. Daniel B. Libby was in charge of a telegraph construction team that wintered at Port Clarence on the Seward Peninsula in 1867. Libby was 25 or 26 at the time.
In March 1925 a roughly dressed man visited the Juneau law offices of James Wickersham. The man, Libby's son, needed money to get to Copper River where he understood he could find work as a welder. He had a packet of papers - his Dad's papers from the Port Clarence days: letters, records, pictures, and a five by seven inch brown notebook with a diary for 1867. Was Wickersham interested?
Apparently Wickersham was; the diary was in the Wickersham papers for many years, and is in the Alaska State Historical Library today.
On June 20 1867, Libby had taken a trip to King Island. The telegraph construction team that had spent the winter in Port Clarence was beginning to run low on food. The trip to King Island was evidently part of a larger effort to find food:
In the summer of 1900 King Island was hit hard by disease. R. Newton Hawley, surgeon on the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear, visited the island in July and again in August and published a short account in 1901 (The World's Work, search for "Arctic Cliff Dwellers").
The Bear off Cape Romantzoff in early June, 1900. About a month before she reached King Island. Source: U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office.
From the late 1940s until the early 1970s hunting guides in Alaska took their clients in airplanes out over the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea sea ice. When the guides found a bear on the ice, they would try to land and give their clients a chance to hunt. At times the planes were used to herd the bears towards the waiting hunters.
The hunt and some of its economics were described by U.S. delegations to early (1965-1974) international meetings on the status of the polar bear. I think that much of the following material was prepared by Jack Lentfer, a government bear biologist who attended these meetings.
Here is a map for orientation. The hunts originated in six or seven small communities in Northwest Alaska. Little Diomede Island, which you will read about, is right in the Bering Strait.
The aerial sport harvest began sometime in the late 1940s. In the years before that most hunting had been by Alaska Natives for subsistence and income (Polar Bear Management in Alaska; Jack Lentfer, Third International Conference on Bears, 1974):
A few days ago I posted on a visit to King Island by the U.S. Revenue Cutter Corwin in 1881 (A Visit to King Island, July 12, 1881).
The Corwin, under Captain Calvin Hooper, also visited in 1880. Hooper's report was published in 1881: Report of the Cruise of the U.S. Revenue-Steamer Corwin in the Arctic Ocean .
Hooper supplied his own illustrations - here's his picture of King Island from about four miles to the south:
The U.S. bought Alaska in 1867, but it really didn't have much of a presence there, and especially not in more remote areas like the Bering Sea, for many years. The Treasury sent a revenue cutter into the Bering Sea in 1870, and again, nine years later, in 1879.
In 1880, the revenue cutter Thomas A. Corwin entered the Bering Sea under Captain Calvin Hooper. At Hooper's recommendation, regular annual cruises by revenue cutters were began in 1881. Hooper and the Corwin made the 1881 cruise.
In the late 19th Century these patrols were the face of the U.S. government in the Bering Sea. The cutters had a lot of jobs. They tried to interrupt the regional trade in liquor and rifles, investigated vessel disappearances, conducted search and rescue efforts, provided logistical support for the census, moved people around within the region, helped the shipwrecked get home, suppressed fur seal poaching, shipped reindeer from Siberia to the U.S., and carried out geographic and scientific research.
Science was important right from the start In 1881, John Muir was the cruise glaciologist. On a shore stop at the western Alaskan port of St. Michael, the Corwin picked up an employee of the U.S. Signal Service, the naturalist and ethnographer, Edward Nelson. The Coast Guard, a successor agency to the Revenue Service, dates its participation in oceanographic work from this trip. Captain Hooper, made several attempts to gather information about currents from the Bering Strait (Oceanography in the Coast Guard).
The Corwin in 1885.
The Corwin had left San Francisco on May4 and arrived at Unalaska in the Aleutians on May 17. Thereafter she performed various missions in the Bering Sea and Arctic, arriving at St. Michael in Norton Sound on July 4. She departed St. Michael on July 9 and sailed north and then west along the south side of the Seward Peninsula. She arrived at King Island on the morning of July 12.
I've pulled various posts dealing with the Arctic and copied them into a new site called Arctic Economics. I'm going to use that weblog to explore the economics of global warming induced Arctic climate change.
Robert McGhee (The Last Imaginary Place. A Human History of the Arctic World) doesn't think the original Arctic peoples were modern Western conservationists:
Lots of explorers entered the Arctic and died there because - among other things - they couldn't find anything to eat. Sir John Franklin led two expeditions to disaster; on the first his followers ended up eating each other for lack of anything better.
That wasn't a problem for the locals. Robert McGhee (The Last Imaginary Place. A Human History of the Arctic World) points out that the Arctic had real productivity advantages for a hunting people:
In March the Arctic ice cap reaches its greatest annual extent. And this year's March ice cover only a little smaller than it's been it the past.
But look at this: red indicates one-year old seasonal ice.
Mason Inman reports on data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center showing that perennial or multi-year ice has dropped by half since the 80s and early 90s: Shrinking Arctic Sea Ice Thinner, More Vulnerable (National Geographic News, March 18, 2008)
That's important because the seasonal ice is thinner and melts faster. The ice cap is smallest in September and last September it was as small as we've ever seen it. We still don't know what will happen this summer, but the ice cap is starting the season with a big strike against it.
Of course Alaska's King Island had a long history before it entered the written record. During the Ice Age, when the land bridge connected Asia and America, the island's cliffs must have risen dramatically from the surrounding plain. Maybe it had a magical significance for the people who lived near it or passed it. Later the sea rose around it, cutting it off from the mainland. Later still, it became a platform from which people could harvest seals, walrus, polar bear, fish, and birds. The people who lived on it, or who traded or raided with it, certainly had an oral history and tradition.
But the written record begins in July 1732.
This Google map of the Bering Straits shows the key places in the story. On the left is Cape Dezhnev on the Russian mainland. The white line is the current U.S.-Russia boundary. There are two islands in the upper part of the picture astride the international boundary. Big Diomede is on the Russian side, Little Diomede is on the U.S. side. The point of mainland on the U.S. side is the end of the Seward Peninsula, culminating in Cape Prince of Wales. South of this Cape is a small island - King Island. To the southeast of King Island, just off the southern shore of Seward Peninsula is another small island - Sledge Island.
US Coast Guard Admiral Brooks may have exaggerated somewhat in his comparison of the Bering Strait and the Strait of Malacca, but he does expect a lot more traffic through the Bering Straits in the next 10 to 20 years: U.S. needs to prepare for Arctic traffic surge (Tom Kizzia, Anchorage Daily News, Feb 14).
That's the tip of Russia's Chukchi Peninsula on the left, and the tip of Alaska's Seward Peninsula on the right. The shortest distance across is about 55 miles. The big island on the Russian side of the international boundary is Big Diomede, and the U.S. island next to it is Little Diomede. You can't see Fairway Rock, a small island to the southeast of the Diomedes. King Island is under the Seward Peninsula south of the straits.
When they were on the island, they lived in the village of Ukivok, which clung - impossibly - to the sheer rocky south side of the island.
But they didn't spend the whole year on the island. In June they migrated to the mainland where they lived in a summer camp at Nome, hunted, fished, gathered, and worked and sold carvings to raise money.
In October, when the weather began to get really cold, of all things, they left the relatively large and modern support network in Nome and migrated back to their barren rock to spend the winter largely isolated from contact with others.
During the winter they lived an unexpectedly comfortable life in homes perched on stilts (to level them out on the steep slope). The Bureau of Indian Affairs supported a small school and coop store, and the Catholic church maintained a priest and church.
They exploited a wide range of resources - fishing for fish and crab through the ice right in front of town, harvesting seals, polar bear, and walrus from the ice around the island, and harvesting small plants, birds, and bird eggs from their rock once the spring and early summer had come.
As the Arctic ice sheet shrinks, shipping will begin to move from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific across northern Norway and Russia, and across northern Canada and Alaska. Both routes meet in the Chukchi Sea, merge, and transit the Bering Strait. Oil development, commercial fishing, tourism, scientific research, and military patrols are also going to contribute traffic.
All of this will require infrastructure: ports, bases for sea-going tugs, air facilities, search and rescue bases, prepositioned oil spill response equipment, and aids to navigation.
The U.S. Coast Guard will be setting up its first Arctic Ocean base - probably at Barrow - next Spring: New Coast Guard Task in Arctic’s Warming Seas . It's also begun discussions with the Russians on comtrol of traffic through the Bering Strait (Matthew Wald and Andrew Revkin, New York Times, October 19):
Global warming is going to increase the costs of maintaining Alaska's public infrastucture (roads, bridges, sewage systems, buildings, airports).
Researchers from the University of Alaska Anchorage's Institute for Social and Economic Research look into it: Estimating Future Costs for Alaska Public Infrastructure At Risk From Climate Change:
A warming climate will damage Alaska's infrastucture because it was designed for a cold climate. The damage will be concentrated in places where permafrost thaws, flooding increases, and coastal erosion gets worse. But the extra costs will likely diminish over time, as government agencies increasingly adapt infrastructure to changing conditions.
The Arctic sea ice melt season is over.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that the arctic ice cap "plummeted to the lowest levels since satellite measurements began in 1979.": Arctic Sea Ice Shatters All Previous Record Lows. Diminished summer sea ice leads to opening of the fabled Northwest Passage . (press release, Oct 1).
Figure 1: This image compares the average sea ice extent for September 2007 to September 2005; the magenta line indicates the long-term median from 1979 to 2000. September 2007 sea ice extent was 4.28, compared to 5.57 in September 2005. This image is from the NSIDC Sea Ice Index.
Figure 2: The updated time series plot puts this summer’s sea ice extent in context with other years. 2007, shown in solid blue, is far below the previous record year of 2005, shown as a dashed line; September 2007 was 36% below where we would expect to be in an average year, shown in solid gray.
Figure 3: September ice extent from 1979 to 2007 shows an obvious decline. The September rate of sea ice decline since 1979 is now approximately 10 percent per decade, or 72,000 square kilometers (28,000 square miles) per year.
Tom Kizzia reports on new US Geological Survey research concluding that global warming and sea ice retreat are dooming Alaska's polar bear populations: Alaska polar bears called doomed (Anchorage Daily News, September 8):
Last week the Russians dropped placed a Russian flag on the seabed below the North Pole. This was a stunt - drawing attention to a significant technological capability - but in itself without legal implications.
The world is now aware, however, that a contest is on for territorial and seabed rights in the Arctic. Much of the argument revolves around the underwater Lomonosov Ridge. Here is a map of the ridge from Wikipedia. You can see the long line of the ridge extending across the top of the world from the Russian to the Canadian/Greenland continental shelves:
As the summer Arctic ice cover shrinks, all sorts of natural resources are becoming available (Global warming is reducing the costs of mining in Greenland, July 16; ”We must prove the North Pole is an extension of the Russian continental shelf”, August 1). The ownership, control, and government of these resources are now becoming important issues. This goes for fisheries too.
Alaska Senator Stevens has just introduced a resolution calling for: "the United States to initiate efforts with other nations to negotiate international agreements to better manage migratory and transboundary fish stocks in the Arctic Ocean": Senator Stevens Introduces Resolution to Protect Arctic Fisheries (press release, August 3).
The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council is considering creating a fisheries management plan (FMP) for the Arctic regions under its jurisdiction. Here's an excellent discussion paper: Fishery Management Options for the Alaskan EEZ in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas of the Arctic Ocean – A Revised Discussion Paper (Bill Wilson, North Pacific Council, April 2007).
...says Mr Chilingarov, “We will be the first to plant a flag there. The Arctic is ours and we should manifest our presence.”
Chilingarov is a Russian Arctic explorer and the deputy speaker of the national parliament: Russia raises stakes over Arctic seabed. (Isabel Gorst , Financial Times, August 1).
Global warming is making much of the Arctic more accessible, and there may be oil and gas under the sea bed:
Global warming is melting Greenland's ice sheet and glaciers, and reducing the costs of mining there: Greenland's Melting Glaciers Spur Mining (Lisa Yuriko Thomas, Wall Street Journal, July 17):
King Island takes up about two to four square miles of the Bering Sea, just south of the Bering Strait. It's about 30-40 miles from the U.S. coast. In the winter it’s surrounded by the Bering Sea ice pack. Until the late 1950s - 1960s it was home to about 150-200 Inupiat Eskimos in the village of Ugiuvak (or Ukivok, also the Inupiat name for the island). Ugiuvak clung to the side of a cliff, on the south side of the island. I’ve posted on King Island before, here, and here.
The picture below shows Ugiuvak in the late 1930's. The large white building at the lower end is a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) school, the large white building towards the upper end of town is a Roman Catholic church. Most of the village lies on the ridge under the church and just to the right of the school. If you click on the photo you can get a more detailed view:
The next picture was taken many years before, but it gives a good idea of the way the houses were built. They weren't built on dirt foundations dug into the slope, but were built on platforms perched on long poles.
Paul Tiulana was born in Ugiuvak in 1921. In the late 1970s he told Vivian Senungetuk about life on King Island in the 30s and 40s. Senungetuk transcribed his account, edited it somewhat, and published it as A Place for Winter. Paul Tiulana's Story. Tiulana is leaning heavily on his spear on the right in the cover photo below (taken in the late 1930s):
Hunting was important for King Islanders in the 20s and 30s - it was a source of food, clothing material, everyday items, building materials, and trade goods. Tiulana says that others in the village began to teach him hunting skills when he was about 10, although he must have picked up a lot before that.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) wants to list the Polar Bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act: U.S. Wants Polar Bears Listed as Threatened (Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin, Dec 26, 2006).
The FWS proposed rule makes it clear that global warming and the shrinking Arctic ice cap plays a big role in this: Polar Bear listing proposed rule (January 9, 2007). Here is the FWS web page on polar bear issues: Polar Bear Conservation Issues.
A couple of days ago I posted on related problems faced by walrus: Bad news for walruses (February 25). That post was based on a story by Dan Joling in the Anchorage Daily News.
Joling had a new article today, on the problems global warming poses for ringed seals - an important polar bear prey: Melting snow lairs put seal pups in peril (Feb 26, 2007)
With respect to global warming:
Charles Clover reports for Seafood.com.news (paid registration required to read news stories) that "Russia building trawlers to exploit Arctic." (November 1):
Russian trawlers are already being built to exploit the Arctic seas opened up as the sea ice shrinks as a result of global warming, scientists warned yesterday.
Yet the international agreements which constrain oil, gas and fisheries activities in the High Arctic are at best rudimentary and at worst defective, a meeting in London heard yesterday.
Much of these fish will be in international waters and a race to exploit them and the oil and gas supplies in Arctic waters is already on. Russia has lodged a claim to the waters as far as the North Pole...
A year ago, I posted on new transportation routes that may be opened by the melting of the ice cap: Over the top (of the world) (Ben Muse, Oct 10, 2005). The future may be bright for Churchill, Manitoba.
Alaska was Russian before it was part of the United States, and the Russian influence is still felt - especially in the Orthodox religion and religious architecture. In 1879-80, the Pribilof Aleuts celebrated the Russian Orthodox Christmas, rather than the Western, December 25th, Christmas.
In 1879, Libby Beaman followed her husband to St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs - remote islands in the middle of the Bering Sea - when he was appointed as a government agent to supervise the local fur seal harvest. Beaman was a remarkable woman - the ship captain who took her thought she was the first western woman to go to the Aleutians and the Pribilofs. She was repeatedly warned off, because of the rigors of life there.
The Beamans arrived in May 1879, basing themselves in the village of St. Paul on St. Paul Island:
The village of St. Paul... presented a pretty picture. It is built up a steep slope away from the harbor, where small boards of skin called bidarkahs and the bidarrahs are pulled up on the little wharf. Low hills surround the village... Government House... sits high on the central slope overlooking the roofs of the other houses. But it is not Government House that dominates the scene. The vivid blue onion dome of the Orthodox church gives cohesion and charm to the scene and gathers unto itself the neat white frame buildings of the Alaska Commercial Company and the eighty white frame houses of the eighty Aleut Families it serves.
St.Paul Island was uninhabitated when the Russians arrived in Alaska. The Russians introduced the Aleuts to the island in the 1790s to harvest fur seals. When the Beamans arrived in 1879, the Aleuts had been there for almost 90 years, almost 80 of these under the Russians, and just over ten under the Americans.
At this time, the fur seal harvest was conducted by the Alaska Commercial Company. The Company had leased the harvesting rights from the government. Jeanne van Nostrand tells the story of the seal harvest during this period: “The seals are about gone…” (American Heritage, June 1963). van Nostrand is critical of the Company's operations, and of the government agents - implicitly including Beaman's husband - who supervised them.
Here is St. Paul in 1896, about 16 years after the Beamans were there:
This picture was obtained from a University of Washington online collection. Several other 1896 photos of St. Paul Island are available there.
When the Russian Christmas arrived, in early January, 1880, Libby Beaman recorded her impressions:
Apparently the great influenza pandemic of 1918 was caused by a type of avian flu: 1918 Killer Pandemic Was An Avian Flu .
David Brown reports part of the story behind this discovery: Resurrecting 1918 Flu Virus Took Many Turns (Washington Post, October 10, 2005).
Key evidence came from the body of a woman who died in the Eskimo village of Teller Mission, on the Alaskan shore of the Bering Strait. (Teller Mission is now called Brevig Mission). The flu killed 72 persons of the town's population of 80 between November 15 and November 20, 1918.
The impact on Teller Mission is described in a National Academies Press book (Secret Agents: The Menace of Emerging Infections , 2002):
The flu had probably found its way to Brevig Mission (then known as Teller Mission) on the breath of unsuspecting travelers: passengers on a supply ship to Nome, then the men who brought those supplies to the nearby trading post of Teller, then Eskimos from the mission who loaded their dogsleds with supplies there. As the sickness spread, a pall descended on the gloomy outpost, where late-autumn sun lasted only four hours a day. “The sick were constantly moaning and groaning,” wrote one survivor, Clara Fosso, the Lutheran minister’s wife. “Outside, the loose wild dogs howled like wolves.”
A party from Teller traveled 14 miles by dogsled to offer whatever assistance they could. They shot the prowling dogs and searched for signs of life in the igloos. One housed 25 dead bodies. Another contained a pile of human bones—leftovers of a canine meal. The men pierced the seal-gut window of another abode to peer inside at a group of corpses. “Much snow had drifted in,” Fosso wrote. “Luckily, one thought he saw something move in the corner of the igloo. As they shouted down, three frightened children popped from under the deer skins screaming. They virtually had to be captured for they seemed to be in a wild stupor.”
Officials at the U.S. Army base at nearby Fort Davis brought in gold miners from Nome to dig a collective grave. Using steam generators, the miners melted a long rectangular gash in the earth. The victims were each tied with a rope around the chest, dragged across the ice, and laid side by side at an army regulation depth of six feet. Two tall wooden crosses, visible atop the bluff from the sea, marked the grave.
Elizabeth Pinson was six years old in 1918. Her father was a German who ran off to sea to escape recruitment into Bismark's armies, her mother was an Eskimo.
Pinson spent the summer of 1918 in fish camp. In the fall, instead of going with her parents to Teller, she went to spend a few weeks with her grandparents in nearby Teller Mission. The weather was bad in the fall of 1918, and her parents delayed picking her up from her grandparents.
Elizabeth's grandparents lived in a traditional Eskimo igloo. Elizabeth describes it in her new book, Alaska's Daughter: An Eskimo Memoir of the Early Twentieth Century:
Their one-room igloo was atop a forty-foot bluff that sloped steeply to the sea near the waterfall where Papa's whaler and other ships loaded water in drums to take aboard ships. Theirs was a typical Eskimo dwelling. The main floor of the earth igloo was dug about three feet into the ground. The frame was a foundation of split driftwood covered with squared chunks of tundra that eventually sodded over. On the walls hung reindeer hides that kept out the drafts. A skylight and a small window let in some light and the entrance was a low door about five feet high. As you opened the door to enter, you had to step down about two steps to the main floor, which was partly boards and partly earth.
I have often wondered since I grew up, how they could have lived in such conditions...
...Now there are scarcely any sod igloos left such as we lived in when I lived with my grandparents. Those that are left are decaying with time, just hollowed out places in the ground overgrown with tall grass, and the whalebone and driftwood frames have disappeared into splinters.
When the bad weather finally broke, Pinon's father sent her brother Tommy across the ice of the bay separating Teller and Teller Mission to see how things were going. Pinson describes what he found:
Suppose global warming melts the Arctic ice cap - at least in the summer?
Will the Northwest Passage become viable? Will a shipping route across Russia's northern coast compete with the Suez Canal for traffic between Europe and East Asia? Will a lot of shipping pass through the Bering Straits?
(from the procedings of the Arctic Marine Transport Workshop - click on the map to enlarge it)
Clifford Krauss, Steven Lee Myers, Andrew C. Revkin and Simon Romero explored some potential economic impacts of the loss of the Arctic ice cap for the New York Times in As Polar Ice Turns to Water, Dreams of Treasure Abound (Oct 10).
They look at the implications for oil production, fisheries, international relations...
Jonathan Karpoff at the University of Washington has found that private 19th century Arctic and Antarctic exploration was more effective than public exploration. Even though government expeditions were larger and better funded, private expeditions were more productive, and at lower loss of life. Karpoff looked at the records of 92 public and private expeditions.
Last December I posted a short item on the book and musical, King Island Christmas. King Island Christmas is a children's book about events in the Alaskan Inupiat Eskimo community of King Island in the 1950s. Although the village site on King Island was abandoned many years ago, the King Islanders are still a distinct community in Nome, Alaska.
King Island is a remote island in the northern Bering Sea. There used to be an Inupiat Eskimo village on it, Ukivok. Ukivok was perched precariously on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Ukivok was abandoned almost 40 years ago, but this picture from 1978 (some years after the village was abandoned) suggests what it was like:
Rie Munoz and her husband Juan went to King Island as teachers in 1951, apparently spending nine months. She's posted Juan's photos of life on the Island, here: "King Island".
During the winter the 150-200 residents of King Island were cut off from the rest of the world by sea ice. The year that Rie and her husband were on the island the last ship for the winter arrived, but was unable to drop off supplies and the priest for the Christmas celebration, because of the weather. The islanders carried a light boat made of walrus skin (an oomiak - see Juan's pictures) over the center of the island to the more protected side, in order to bring the priest and supplies in. Rie and Juneau author Jean Rogers later wrote and illustrated the story for a childrens' book: King Island Christmas. Subsequently the book was used as the basis for a musical play. The story behind the play may be found here: "How King Island Came to Be".
On Sunday the Juneau Empire carried an Associated Press story by Rachel D'Oro on an Oregon State University project to do archeological work on the island, and to collect oral history from people who used to live there: "Research team to study one of Alaska's ghost villages". How did people live on this island? Why did they leave? D'Oro says,
"The island was named in 1778 by British explorer Capt. James Cook for James King, a member of his party. But it's unclear how long Inupiats lived there.
A century ago, about 200 people dwelled in walrus-skin homes tacked to the face of the cliffs. They hunted walrus, seal and seabirds and collected berries and plants. Every summer, they traveled by kayak and skin boat to the mainland 40 miles to the east, camping near Nome, where they sold ivory carvings.
Starting in the 1950s, fewer people returned to King Island. The 1960 U.S. Census counted only 49 residents. The 1970 census found none. King Island is among 16 federally recognized Native villages that were deserted or used as seasonal camps.
Today, many former King Island residents and their descendants live in Nome.
Kingston said several factors contributed to the demise of King Island. Pregnant women were choosing to stay in Nome, where there were doctors. Many of the men were drafted into the military during World War II. In the late 1940s and 1950s, tuberculosis killed some people and hospitalized others. And ultimately, as with other Alaska villages vacated in modern times, paying jobs were available in more accessible towns."
A nice story with details of life on the island that I haven't copied over here.
There are more King Island posts here: King Island.