June 7, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)


Alfred Thompson

Conservative (1867-1942)


I do not think my hon. friend is exactly right. I never heard that Cormaek and his associates discovered gold on Bonanza creek through any previous discovery on that creek by Henderson; but they were drawn to Bonanza by the fact that Henderson had made the discovery at Oold Bottom and it was on their return from Gold Bottom to Dawson that they made this discovery. The credit, however, is still due to Henderson of having made the first discovery of gold, although he did not find it in any such quantities as the Indians and Cormaek did. We would be derelict to our duty if we did not do something to secure in his lifetime that man Henderson in comfort. In the state of California, I [DOT]am told vou will find everywhere monuments to "Marshall who discovered gold
there in 1S49. We are now only at the beginning of the great gold output in the YYikon ; and while the Dominion government has very properly provided for Mr. Henderson by giving him a position there, the Yukon Territory must sooner or later, in some more substantial way, repay him for the great discovery he made In 1896. This territory, which I have the honour to represent, is producing more wealth to-day per head than any other section of the civilized globe. But here and throughout this country, men have formed ideas with regard to the climate there, which are entirely at variance with the facts. So much is this the case that I feel bound to refer briefly to the climate of the Yukon so as to dispel if possible some of these false impressions, and also because I am convinced that we have a country there m which profitable business will be done and gold produced for hundreds of years. My hon. friend1 the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Fisher) very kindly entered into the spirit iD which I spoke to him of the agricultural fertility of that region, and he, sent out this spring some seeds for fodder parti-eularly, as well as some roots, so that we might do a little experimenting this summer and see if we cannot raise some of the fodder and other things which we are now importing at great expense. Hay and oats, when I left the Yukon, were selling at six cents per pound or $120 per ton, and they fetch nearly these same prices throughout tne entire year. To show you that the request I made to the Minister of Agriculture to send seeds to the Yukon was a very reasonable one, I shall briefly refer to the report of Mr John Macoun, assistant director and naturalist of the Geological Survey, who gave evidence before the Select Standing Committee on Agriculture and Colonization in 1903. Mr. Macoun said :
What an official visit to the Yukon revealed.
Last year our acting director, by direction of the Minister of the Interior, suggested that I should go and examine the Yukon country for the government, and I went. I would not go from here until late in June, for the reason 'that I had been in northern countries, and I told our director : I am only going to waste my time by going so early, for nothing can be growing.' I did not leave until the latter part of June, and I reached Dawson on the 10th July last year.
Mr. Macoun had previously said that Dawson is over 20 degrees north of Ottawa.
When I reached there I found red currants, blueberries and strawberries perfectly ripe on the hillsides on the 10th of July. Well, of course I was more than astonished. There is a rose that grows there that we know as rosa acicularis, and on the 3rd of June last year I found it with the first flower expanded at Aylmer, Quebec, nine miles from Ottawa. It happened that Mr. Tyrrell's brother, James Tyrrell, was out on the hillside at Dawson on the 2nd of June, and he found the same species in flower there, one day earlier than it was

here. To me it was an enlightenment. I had gone there with preconceived opinions of what I had heard, and this was a revelation indeed. I want to show you gentlemen what the flowering of that rose here and at Dawson meant. The same amount of heat had to be poured down on both districts to produce like results. "When I reached the country I found the rose hips red and getting ripe when I thought they would be only starting to bloom. That gave me something to think about, and I turned to Mr. Tyrrell and said : ' Mr. Tyrrell, what is
the cause of this flower blooming earlier here than in Ottawa ? ' Here is his answer. He said : ' Mr. Macoun, it is the long day and the great jamo/unt of sunlight.' X said : ' You, Mr. Tyrrell, were up at Chesterfield Inlet, on Hudson bay, and found plants that indicate perpetual frost, and still you were not as far north as here. If it was the sunlight, why does it not at Chesterfield Inlet as it does here ' You see, the matter was simple. I was not going to accept this man's dictum or that man's dictum ; I knew that for every effect there was a cause. Let me go back to the coast now, and we will see what I am talking about. On the coast from below Wrangel, that is down near the border of British Columbia. the great glaciers come down from the mountains to the sea, and as you go up Lynn canal the mountains come down to the sea, and you will see the glaciers starting at the mountain summits and coming down to the sea, and actually flowing into it. If you look at the map you will see that all the coast range from Wrangel northward is very high, and in all the bays and inlets there is much ice, and glaciers of immense size enter the sea. There is a great tract of country there under great glaciers and partly covered with eternal snow. In this region rise Mount Elias, Mount Logan, Mount Fairweather, rising between 16,000 and 20,000 feet above the sea. WelL the people coming up the coast believe the interior is like that, and from the erroneous opinions "which have prevailed, but here is the remarkable fact, that no glacier ever was at Dawson, that Dawson has never been covered with an ice cap as it has been here, that no one of our geologists has ever discovered glacial action at Dawson or within 200 miles, or I may say within 300 miles, of that place.
The wondrous shelter belt that protects Dawson.
1' stood at Dawson and turned south, and I found by the map that this mass of mountains towering 20,000 i'eet into the air covered with glaciers and constant snow lay between Dawson and the sea. Now, we know that the Pacific in that part and northward is almost constantly covered with fog, and the atmosphere is at the point of precipitation, and as that moisture comes into contact with these mountains, it comes down in snow, causing the glaciers. The air passing over the mountains, relieved of its moisture, descends on the plain in the interior, as a dry warm wind. This is the result of two causes, the want of moisture and friction caused by the descent of the air to the plain. So that if you wish to call it so, the conditions at Dawson are those of a perpetual Chinook in the summer time.
That will be a revelation, I am sure, to non. gentlemen. He goes on with a lengthy report with which I shall not trouble the House except to give a couple of extracts : Mr. THOMPSON.
Spring may be said to open towards the end ot April, the last zero temperature of winter occurring about the 5th of April.
That is better than Ottawa.
May with an average temperature of 44 degrees is by no means unpleasant. The 23rd May is the average date of the last frost in the spring.
I- am sure that is a revelation to hou. gentlemen.
Observations of rain and snow have until the close of last summer been very fragmentary, but it is probable that the summer rainfall near Dawson is usually between 7 and 9 inches, and that the total snowfall of autumn and winter is between 50 and 60 inches. Dawson being situated near the river with high hills or mountains on all sides, is well protected from the winds, and a feature of the town, and indeed of the neighbouring country, is the long periods of calm weather which occur.
l'ou see, Sir, Mr. Macoun was sent specifically for this purpose, so that his report is more valuable than any verbal report could possibly be.
I examined the gardens in the valley of the Klondike and the Yukon, early in July, and found everything growing luxuriantly and wonderfully vigorous. On the 5th August I examined the gardens in the Klondike, and I have that noted in my book for future reference. I found cabbage cut then, that on weighing were found to be from 3 to 5 pounds weight ; these were being sold in the city.
Potatoes had also grown ; in fact everything was growing beyond anything I had ever seen here.
Speaking of wheat, he said :
I took a couple of heads and sent them to the experimentalist at the Government farm here who has charge of the seed germinating process, and he sent me the report that he had planted one hundred grains. The whole hundred grains grew and made a remarkably vigorous growth ; in other words there was not a weak seed in the lot, and there "was not a failure, and what was more they vegetated very quickly.

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