Photo: Chichagof Gold Mine, one of the old mine sites featured in Glaciers, Bears and Totems
Last week at the Puget Sound Cruising Club, my friend Lee came up to me and said, "I know where you got Glaciers, Bears and Totems; Hal Roth had a chapter in one of his books called 'Glaciers, Totems and Bears'." My immediate response was, "Well, he got it wrong then." But I was shaken. I didn't know about the Hal Roth chapter. Then I remembered that you can't copyright a title. In fact after I published Voyages to Windward
I discovered there was already a book by that name; a biography of Robert Louis Stevenson.
Still, I went to Amazon.com and read the table of contents of Hal Roth's books. The only similar chapter title I found was Gales, Totems and Eagles. Either Lee got it wrong or I heard it wrong.
My husband, Steve, first came up with the title, "Glaciers, Bears, Totems and Gold" in 2007 when we put on a slide show for PSCC after our first trip to SE Alaska. That title represented the four things visitors to SE Alaska look for:
1) glaciers and the awe-inspiring landscape they create,
2) bears and other wildlife,
3) totems and the native culture,
4) and gold, which represents the raucous history of SE Alaska in the early days after purchase by the United States.
I liked the name and kept it through the early drafts of the book. In writing the book I was intrigued by the constant presence of the tourist industry in Southeast Alaska so chose the subtitle of "Searching for the Real Southeast Alaska in a land of Tourism." Then at a writing retreat organized by Roberta Cruger http://www.robertacruger.com/
, several writers told me they thought the title was too long. Roberta talked about the value of having an element of surprise in the title so I changed it to "Glaciers, Bears and Tourists: Searching for the Real Southeast Alaska."
But an author with a publisher doesn't have complete control over the name of her book. The folks at Harbour Publishing felt the inclusion of "tourism" in the title was a negative and changed it to Glaciers, Bears and Totems: Sailing in Search of the Real Southeast Alaska
. I had to admit they had a point about the negativity of tourism and three word titles are in vogue, so I went with it.
But if gold isn't in the title anymore, it's definitely in the book. The Klondike Gold Rush wove Alaska and the Alaskan experience into the fabric of the United States culture. Alaska was no longer "Seward's Folly" but "our Alaska." And gold in Alaska isn't just the Klondike Gold Rush. There were also the hard-rock mines in the Juneau area including the Treadwell Mines, so well portrayed by Sheila Kelly, a member of my writers group, in her 2010 book, Treadwell Gold: An Alaska Saga of Riches and Ruins
Glaciers, Bears and Totems
also includes a story about the Chichagof Gold Mine on Chichagof Island, north of Sitka. Like Treadwell it was a company town and a hard-rock mine, but a more recent one. And like Treadwell it's now in ruins. A visit to either of those places today is a chance to think about this intriguing chapter in Alaska's history.