“Yes,” said his father. “There are no splendid forests on the island as there are on the mainland, but the grasses are superb, for the fog and rain here keeps them green as emerald.”
“What a queer canoe that Indian has!” exclaimed Ted. “It isn’t a bit like yours, Kalitan.”
“It is bidarka,” said Kalitan. “Kadiak people make canoe out of walrus hide. They stretch it over frames of driftwood. It holds two people. They sit in small hatch with apron all around their bodies, and the bidarka goes over the roughest sea and floats like a bladder. Big bidarka called an oomiak, and holds whole family.”
“Some one has called the bldarkas the ‘Cossacks of the sea,’” said Mr. Strong. “They skim along like swallows, and are as perfectly built as any vessel I ever saw.”
“What are those huge buildings on the small island?” asked Ted, as the steamer wound through the shallows.
“Ice-houses,” said his father. “Before people learned to manufacture ice, immense cargoes were shipped from here to as far south as San Francisco.”
“It was fun to see them go fishing for ice from the steamer when we came up to Skaguay,” said Ted. “The sailors went out in a boat, slipped a net around a block of ice and towed it to the side of the ship, then it was hitched to a derrick and swung on deck.”
“Huh!” said Kalitan. “What people want ice for stored up? Think they’d store sunshine!”
“If you could invent a way to do that, you could make a fortune, my boy,” said Mr. Strong, laughing. “The next place of any interest is Karluk. It’s around on the other side of the island in Shelikoff Strait, and is famous for its salmon canneries. Nearly half of the entire salmon pack of Alaska comes from Kadiak Island, most of the fish coming from the Karluk River.”
“Very bad for Indians,” said Kalitan. “Used to have plenty fish. Tyee Klake said salmon used to come up this river in shoal sixteen miles long, and now Boston men take them all.”
“It does seem a pity that the Indians don’t even have a chance to earn their living in the canneries,” said Mr. Strong. “The largest cannery in the world is at Karluk. There are thousands of men employed, and in one year over three million salmon were packed, yet with all this work for busy hands to do, the canneries employ Chinese, Greek, Portuguese, and American workmen in preference to the Indians, bringing them by the shipload from San Francisco.”
“What other places do we pass?” asked Ted.
“A lot of very interesting ones, and I wish we could coast along, stopping wherever we felt like it,” said Mr. Strong. “The Shumagin Islands are where Bering, the great discoverer and explorer, landed in 1741 to bury one of his crew. Codfish were found there, and Captain Cook, in his ‘Voyages and Discoveries,’ speaks of the same fish. There is a famous fishery there now called the Davidson Banks, and the codfishing fleet has its headquarters on Popoff Island. Millions of codfish are caught here every year. These islands are also a favourite haunt of the sea otter, Belofsky, at the foot of Mt. Pavloff, is the centre of the trade.”