Friday, October 17, 2008

An Alaskan Report by Will

Alfred Hulse Brooks

Alfred Hulse Brooks, 1871-1924. Without exaggeration, it can be said that Brooks nearly single- handedly prepared the original geologic map of Alaska in its broader aspects.”
- Stephan Haycox

Mt. McKinley, standing at 20,327 feet, is the tallest mountain in North America. No it was not named after an ancestor of mine, but there is a mountain in that range that was named Mt. Brooks after an ancestor of mine whom we suspect is my great-great-great uncle. That mountain, though, is only a footnote compared to the mountain range that was named after him in Northern Alaska. The Brooks Range separates the interior of Alaska , from the Arctic Coast. It runs from the Canadian border to the Noatak and Kobuk river drainages into the Bering Sea. For those of you that don’t have a map in front of you, that is a huge area of land. My great-great-great uncle Alfred Hulse Brooks was the explorer that they named this amazing range after. “One of the most popular areas for getting into the (back) country is the Brooks Range.” Stephan Heycox.

Alfred’s first trip into Alaska was in 1898, he was 27 years old. Before he passed away in 1924, he managed to make a total of 24 trips to Alaska . After he graduated from Harvard in 1894 he was assigned to do field work, in geology, with Dr. C. W. Hayes. Dr. Hayes had made a trip to Alaska in 1891, and his recollections of this trip to Alaska are what inspired Brooks. After hearing of Dr. Hayes’s travels Alfred asked to be assigned to work there, but it wasn’t until 1898 when he got the telegram. He received the telegram, which gave him the chance to go to Alaska, while doing work in Paris . Within twelve hours he was on a boat headed to Washington. This act showed his true drive to go to, and study in Alaska. “Everywhere he went Brooks did thorough and meticulous work, and his pace was always exhaustive.”- Stephan Haycox

While he made 24 treks to Alaska, we don’t know the details of every individual trip but we do know what a typical trek would look like. A small party would leave southeast Alaska in the middle of July. They would go over the St. Elis & Wrangle mountain ranges. In 2008 we had the luxury of being able to drive around those snowcapped mountains. We didn’t have to chop our way through the temperate rainforest that is southeast Alaska. After the huge mountain ranges, 500 miles later, they get to the upper Copper River, where they cross the Tanana river drainage. They are now in the Fortymile wilderness. They trek on until they reach the Yukon River basin. This already long journey was made even more strenuous because of the pace set by Brooks. Eight of the fifteen animals died during the trip. The pace was so swift that they covered 600 miles in sixty-six days. You must remember they were making their own trail carrying a lot of their gear, and most of all they were traveling mostly by foot. During these trips they surveyed and mapped the land, you could compare his expedition to the Lewis & Clark expedition. In many ways, he was the Lewis & Clark of Alaska.

Although Alaska was his true love, he did do other work around the world. In 1913 he received two medals: the Peter day gold medal of the American Geographical society, and the Malta-Brun gold medal of the Geographical society of Paris, France. In 1922, while accompanying assistant Secretary Houston of the department of commerce, on an industrial and economic survey around the world Brooks suffered a stroke, while in Japan. The stroke caused Alfred to return home early. His energy finally ran out in 1924, he had just completed a lecture titled “The future of Alaska." He collapsed on his desk, and it was determined he died of a stroke.

Alfred Hulse Brooks was not forgotten though, even today. While in Juneau, Alaska my aunt Ann and I went to the state library to learn more about our relative. While at the library we learned that the University of Alaska Fairbanks had published a book of first hand accounts of his many journeys titled “Blazing Alaska’s Trails.” Later while in Portland, Oregon, we went to Powell’s book store and were fortunate enough to find one copy which I look forward to reading. I look forward to comparing his experiences in Alaska to mine.


“Blazing Alaska ’s Trails” by Alfred Brooks and University of Alaska Fairbanks

“A Warm Past travels in Alaska history” 50 essays by Stephan Haycox

“The Future of Alaska Mining and The Alaskan Mining Industry in1919” by Alfred H. Brooks & G. C. Martin

The State Library, in Juneau , Alaska


Annie said...

Will....Great job!

Anonymous said...

Yes Will i am going to have to give you an A+ also. You guys are so lucky that you dont have to sit all day in a classroom to learn things instead you actuallly get to go out and explore...uggghh I am JELOUS. ANyway miss you all
Seee you soon

Anonymous said...

i think that this book is for fuck ups said jarad billingly

BROOKSY said...

Hi will I came across this whilst searching the net for Alfred Hulse Brooks which I have done with limited success however came across your blog.

Apprently I am a relation my late father being Alfred and my son being Alfie my father being named after him the family having an American historical connection albiet we are Scottish. Would be good to talk as you have more info than I and I have a family story linked to the states.