Finally Off for Alaska

Journeys and Journals

This unknown region had long attracted me. With a desire to know more about the country extending from the McKinley range of Mountains to the Southern Coast, we determined to explore the valley of the Great Shushitna and its principal tributaries, which drain thousands of square miles in the very heart of Alaska. - Nellie Martin Wade, “Through Interior Alaska on Horseback and The Scenic Coast Route”

For this digital tools assignment, I chose to explore the manuscript by Nellie Martin Wade that I discussed in my last post. This manuscript includes a highly organized narrative of Wade’s trip to Alaska in 1907, whose goals and motivations are described in the above quote. I was particularly struck by the language and poetic tone of Wade’s writing. I wanted to find a way to capture her descriptions and express them through images by mapping out the journey she describes in her journal. Along this goal, I hoped to contextualize her journey and better understand what external factors might have led Wade to visit Alaska, as well as who else came to Alaska before Wade.

Explore the StoryMap

Project Narrative and Sources

I centered my project around expressing Wade’s personal experience and included direct quotes from her manuscript throughout the StoryMap to allow for her “narration.” I supplemented these quotes with contemporaneous images and documents. I hoped to include some media that could have directly influenced Wade personally, such as the 1897 newspaper article on the Klondike Gold Rush. Alongside this, I used secondary sources on Alaskan history and the experience of women in Alaska, as well as more recent accounts and images of Alaskan life.

I drew from the digital collections of the University of Washington Libraries, the Alaska State Library - Historical Collections, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks for many images. I also referenced National Park Service webpages, the website of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, recent articles, and scholarly sources including Melanie Mayer’s book “Klondike Women : True Tales of the 1897-98 Gold Rush.” A full list of references can be found below.

I chose this variety of sources to expand the understanding of Wade’s experience past her singular perspective. Some sources spoke to the reasons that might have encouraged Wade to travel, such as news of the Klondike Gold Rush, while others revealed the wider range of experiences of women in 1890s Alaska.

Mapping the Journey

When reading the description of each location in writing, it can be difficult to get a sense of the time and distance traveled. When looking at this journey on a map, viewers can better picture the experience of sailing for hundreds of miles, as the distance between locations is clearly represented. Despite the detailed location data shown on the StoryMap, only locations mentioned in chapters 2 and 3 of Wade’s manuscript are represented, and much of her journey remains unexplored. Part of my goal in documenting these points is to emphasize the arduousness of Wade’s journey.

Though Wade’s writing dates to 1907, the content in this project ranges from the 1890s to the 21st century. I chose to highlight the following locations, with the intention of using each location to illuminate a different aspect of the manuscript:

  • Seattle, WA
  • Port Townsend, WA and Victoria, BC
  • Seymour Narrows, BC
  • Dixon’s Entrance, BC
  • Ketchikan, AK
  • Wrangell, AK
  • Juneau, AK
  • Denali, AK

In each location, I examine Wade’s comments and descriptions. Though it is difficult to determine what reasons most strongly compelled Wade to travel, these remarks illuminate what Wade valued in her journey, which may reflect or contrast with the views of other Alaskan explorers and inhabitants. These topics included female prospectors, the role of tourists in Alaska, the indigenous Tlingit people, and American patriotic identity, among others.

To create an engaging visual narrative, I included connections between time periods, tying direct quotes from Wade to more recent aspects of Alaskan history, such as Alaska’s statehood and the experience of the Tlingit people. I also included a video within the “Seymour Narrows” location to more clearly represent Wade’s dynamic journey of traveling by steamer. Though Wade includes elegant descriptions, the addition of visual resources amplifies her words and provides the viewer with a greater ability to appreciate Alaska in the ways Wade intended.


Alaska’s Digital Archives. Accessed March 8, 2021.

Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. “Our History,” n.d.

Jonaitis, Aldona. Discovering Totem Poles. University of Washington Press, 2012.

Luray, Elyse. “EPISODE 9,2004: GOLD SHIP, SOUTH EAST ALASKA.,” 2004.

Mayer, Melanie J. Klondike Women: True Tales of the 1897-98 Gold Rush. Athens, Ohio:, 1989.

Merritt, Steven. “Researchers Identify Famous Gold Rush Steamer.” Alaska. Anchorage: MCC Magazines, LLC d/b/a Alaska Magazine, February 2005. 215849385. ProQuest Central.

National Park Service. “What Was the Klondike Gold Rush?,” n.d.

National Park Service. “Wildlife,” n.d.

National Park Service. “Women Who Went to the Klondike,” n.d.

SFU Digitized Collections. “British Columbia Postcards Collection.” Accessed March 8, 2021.

“University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections.” Accessed March 8, 2021.

Wade, Nellie Martin. “General Manuscripts Miscellaneous Collection (C0140) – Wade, Nellie Martin, ‘Through Interior Alaska on Horseback and the Scenic Coast Route’ Manuscript.” Princeton University Library Finding Aids. Accessed March 8, 2021.