The Chichagof Mine


Chichagof Gold Mine Sänna

“I said the old mining camp would be nothing but trouble but we still went there. It took five days to find the mine, what happened afterwards will stay with me for the rest of my life. Then it turns out Dave knew about the rumours all along…” Henry

So we finally left Elfin Cove to head for Sitka. The route first took us east along the tide driven Lisianski Straits to the Pacific Ocean shoreline of Chichagof Island, then we laid a course southwards through the stunning outside passage – taking us between countless small islands that protected us from the worst of the long Pacific swells breaking along the outer coastline. The route, often used by Alaskan fishermen, afforded a number of secluded anchorages that we could use to day-sail our way south. It is difficult to find words to describe to you this spectacular journey, this part of Alaska that appears in no tourist guide or cruise itinerary yet must easily rank as one of the most scenic passages we’ve made since leaving the Mediterranean twelve years ago…

We had a specific destination in mind. From Elfin Cove we slowly meandered southeast in sublime westerly winds before turning easterly towards the ruins of the abandoned Chichagof Gold Mine. We’d often heard whispered rumours about the mine, how difficult it was to find and then reach although we’d been given detailed instructions by the fishermen in Elfin Cove on how to get there. First, despite the official line, they told us the mine did indeed exist and how we should locate Chichagof Gold Mine Sännait… but they explicitly warned that we must be careful, the mine was dangerous since being abandoned in the late 1930’s. These days few people ever went there, partly due to its extreme remoteness, it’s precarious state and also because there’d been a number of mysterious disappearances a few years back; there were rumours of unworldly encounters and there’d recently been a spate of deadly grizzly bear attacks. Only the previous year a group of adventurers accompanied by two guides had searched for the mine but were then attacked by a grizzly with her two cubs. Both the guides and been badly mauled, necessitating a difficult emergency air evacuation from an extremely remote location, the two guides had been taken first to Sitka for medical treatment and then to Seattle for more intensive care with amputations for their appalling injuries. They were lucky to survive.

By mid afternoon we had traversed the intricate narrows leading to the Smooth Channel that then lead us to Elbow Passage, the tight dogleg turn we’d been warned was Klag Bay Sännaparticularly hairy in the fast running currents. Negotiating Elbow Passage was indeed difficult but we made the intricate turns relatively easily just after slack tide, the route then took us swiftly to the Gate, the notoriously tight entrance into Klag Bay – from this point we meticulously followed the instructions we’d been given back in Elfin Cove to then pass through the Gate both unscathed and relieved. Heading to the head of Klag Bay we were now dwarfed by the high snow-capped dual peaks of Coopers Mountain.

As instructed we looked for the dilapidated pilings of the old loading wharf along the shoreline and sure enough, there it was. From there we could see other ruined buildings but the mine entrance itself was half way up the mountainside linked by an overgrown pathway through the dense forest that right Loading Wharf, Chichagof Mine, Sänna now we could not make out. The guided party had been attacked by the grizzly bear on this narrow roadway, if we ourselves went ashore then we would need to be especially careful. We’d also been told to be wary of two submerged wrecks when trying to anchor off the old wharf, both in uncertain locations so we gingerly probed around for somewhere to drop our anchor. Our first attempt was not successful, our anchor dragged rather too easily so we raised it to make a second attempt which then proved to be more secure. We anchored in four fathoms. The anchorage, I have to tell you, was exceptionally calm and quite spectacular.

Whilst tying our snub-line to the anchor chain to hold us more securely, Henry straightaway spotted a large bear prowling the shoreline. We watched the grizzly whilst it kept a wary eye on ourselves as it made its way around the narrow head of Chichagof Gold Mine Sänna the bay before disappearing into the dense forest close to the ruined wharf. By now it was late in the day with the sun beginning to drop over the high western ridge line of Coopers Mountain, the eerie atmosphere being compounded by the distant howling of a pack of wolves somewhere off to our right in the general direction of Waterfall Creek. Ok, we’d at least get a decent nights sleep before going ashore sometime the next day. Henry suggested that first we might fly our camera drone over the mine to get some idea of where it was safe to land, to see if there was anything around that we should be concerned about.

Early the next morning Henry awoke both of us, he said there were salmon jumping all around the boat. He was right, the salmon were swarming in vast numbers, seemingly getting Henry Beal Chichagof Mine ready to head up the creeks to spawn… they must have arrived in great shoals overnight, the waters around us were saturated with the colourful streaks of countless fish. It was too good an opportunity to miss. We soon had our rod and line out – within minutes Henry hooked our first coho salmon of the summer and all thoughts of the mysterious mine half way up the mountainside were forgotten as we hauled aboard Henry’s huge salmon with our landing net. Marie told us we had more than enough with the one we’d already caught, that we didn’t need to catch any more. Of course Marie would gut and fillet the salmon but there was only so much fresh salmon we could consume or ever store onboard. Whilst Henry eagerly posed for pictures of his proud catch with his beaming mother standing by his side my eye quickly caught a movement ashore, for a fleeting moment I thought I saw someone standing beside the half collapsed building to the left of the wharf, but when I looked more closely there was no one there.

Whilst Marie gutted and cut up the coho Henry and myself prepared the drone. This marvellous piece of technology with its stunning remote control abilities, high-resolution movie camera and its precision manoeuvrability was proving more and more useful as time went by. Henry was by now adept in his flying skills and, I have to say, he would have slept with the thing if he had the choice. In around fifteen minutes or so we launched the drone and Henry flew it straight towards the remnants of the abandoned mine along the shoreline. The drone streamed spectacular footage back to the control screen which Henry then recorded for our future use, but more importantly we got good images of where it was safe for us to land the dinghy and how far up the mountainside we could get. The drone also revealed far more of the mine than we expected, we saw extensive ruins and also the faint signs of trails which we figured were probably animal trails, more likely bears or wolves. There was no signs of any habitation at all… only absolute complete ruination.

By early afternoon we’d made a plan to go ashore. We took along our bear spray, air horn and taser for bear protection because being English we do not carry guns, we have no weapons onboard Sänna unlike most American boats. Many Americans think we are stupidly foolish and irresponsible, not Chichagof Mine Sänna just for protection against wild animals but to protect ourselves generally – when we explain that we have never found ourselves in a situation in which we’ve needed a weapon we get into quite emotional discussions that are often incomprehensible in our minds. We have no concept of weapons nor any experience of using them, they are alien to our way of thinking. But right now I questioned whether in this instance we’d be better protected by having a gun but then Marie said that we wouldn’t know how to use one anyway. In any event we made our way ashore, landing quite easily just to the left of what used to be the general loading wharf. It was a gravelly shoreline and an easy matter of just stepping out of the dinghy then pulling it up the shore to make sure it couldn’t get caught by the rising tide. I securely tied the painter line to an old rusting piece of machinery… just to make sure.

This was an amazing place. There was old machinery and bits of brown rusted processing plant everywhere, with the remains of three or four buildings which stood half-collapsed and overgrown by the dense tree line that crept relentlessly towards the shore. We poked around for a good hour trying to Chichagof Gold Mine Sänna find the trail up to the mine itself, which we’d been told was hard to locate though there was supposedly an old roadway that wound its way up the mountainside to the mine entrance itself. They’d said in both Elfin Cove and Hoonah the mine was still accessible if possessing nerves of steel to go inside. We’d also been warned that grizzlies probably used the mine itself as a den… we were also conscious that it was on the trail to the mine that the guided group the year before had been attacked, so we were rightly concerned and understandably wary – there was plenty of bear shit and fish heads around… sure signs that grizzlies prowled around here relatively unmolested. Then Henry found what he thought might be the trail.

We deliberated. Marie was dead against heading up the trail to the mine entrance. We’d be stupid, she said. I was still keen and so was Henry, we had bear protection but Marie pointed out that bear spray hadn’t been much use to the group the previous year when the guided party of eight had been decimated, now we were only three. None of us had much faith in the taser I’d bought for fifty bucks in the bar in Hoonah, it hadn’t worked when we’d been chased by the bears in Reid Inlet. I must admit I was uneasy too, the grizzly we’d spotted on the shoreline the previous afternoon had disappeared into the forest at around this spot, I figured it had probably gone somewhere up the trail. We talked some more and decided we’d head up just a short way just to see what condition the trail was in and whether it was actually usable. This, I tell you, was our first mistake.

The old roadway leading out of the collapsing wharf buildings was at first quite easy. Even on the trail head there was inordinate amounts of rusting machinery, it seemed there was once some sort of overhead cable that in years gone by carried ore down to the loading dock, the tell-tale iron carts Chichagof Gold Mine Trail Sännawere scattered around in the trees where they’d fallen, they had no doubt once hung from the heavily corroded steel cable that was still visible in places above the tree tops. The trail itself got more overgrown as it climbed upwards, the sunlight breaking through less and less as the forest became more dense. Because of the lack of sunlight the ground became more mud than stonewall and we could easily make out huge paw prints left by a large bear, smaller ones too which no doubt meant there was probably more than one bear around. Henry pointed out other paw prints, wolves or deer perhaps though we weren’t ourselves expert enough to tell. There were no signs of boot prints – so it was fair to say no one else had been hereabouts more recently.

Things then began to get hairy. The trail closed in though it was still clearly marked by the rusting remains of the overhead cable which by now had fallen and twisted up along the ground. Every few moments I fired off the taser to deter any bears that might be around, Marie carried the bear spray and Henry was ahead with our GoPro camera but we were all three uneasy. I walked last, constantly turning around to make sure we weren’t being stalked… I’d been told that most grizzly attacks occur from the rear whilst victims are being hunted. There were no signs of anything, but right now I was having second thoughts about this somewhat uncertain adventure, clearly we were putting ourselves at unacceptable risk which Marie reminded me of several times. We could now see further up the trail which clearly turned to the right, in the far distance where the sunlight broke through a clearing in the forest canopy we could see what must have been the mine entrance set into the hillside. Even from where we stood it looked in bad shape, most of the supporting timber structure had collapsed and it was quite clearly unsafe to go anywhere close… in any event our nerves were by now a little too frayed so we talked some more, we agreed it was time to turn around.

Then we saw that something was behind us. As we turned to go back down the trail we all three at the same time spotted an outline shape that darted quickly into the darkness of the encroaching forest. We stood there stunned. It dawned upon me uneasily that we had in fact been followed although each time I’d turned around to check, I’d seen nothing – not even that uneasy feeling when you sense something is behind you, you know, that sixth sense which warns you when you are in trouble. I’d not felt any of that – and if anyone ever imagines anything then that is me, I kid folk around me all the time. But this was different, something had been there without me even knowing. I reprimanded myself in my mind knowing full well I’d not paid enough attention. I mentally told myself this wild venture was stupid.

Whilst we made our way downwards I said that it was probably a deer or some other skittish animal. Of course, we laughed and chided ourselves, especially when we passed the spot where we thought we’d seen something. There was nothing there. So we dismissed it and carried on to the foot of the trail though I myself felt uneasy. I’d listened to talk back in Hoonah a few months before, stuff I’d not mentioned to Marie or Henry in case they’d decide not to come to the mine at all. We all three knew some of the rumours though, we’d been told in Elfin Cove there had been unexplained disappearances over the last fifty years or so, presumably folk who’d gone into the mine and not been able to find their way out. But Tlingit guys I’d talked to in Hoonah told me other strange stories, stories about weird encounters and bizarre things which from what I gathered, is why no indigenous Tlingit Nation people ever go anywhere near the mine.

The sun shone warmly as we quickly strode out from the old roadway back into the shore-side ruins. We made our way through the rubble and broken roof beams by taking a slightly different route that took us under the remains of the collapsed wharf, this would shortcut our walk back to the dinghy which we’d left pulled up the small gravel beach with the painter line securely tied. We crossed a small creek that was no more than a couple of inches deep and then cut across the small protruding sand bar to where our dinghy was beached. Our dinghy was gone.

Of course, we all stood like idiots not knowing what to say. First we thought we had the wrong location so we looked around to find where we had tied it, but it was not anywhere that we could see. Then it dawned upon us that we were in the right place. Regardless of what had happened to our dinghy we were now in serious trouble if we couldn’t locate it, we had no means of returning across the water to Sänna and no one who might assist ever came here, we knew that for certain. The water was too cold to swim and, anyway, the currents hereabouts were treacherous… we’d never make it. One of us swimming over was no use either because we had no other dinghy to then row back over and the water depth was much too shallow to get Sänna anywhere close.

I sat down on a nearby rock to think things over, the tide had not risen hardly at all so the dinghy couldn’t have floated away. Anyway, I’d tied it to the old rusting piece of conveyor that I stared at right now. We were in the right place, so someone must have untied the dinghy then taken it away… there really couldn’t be any other explanation. But no one had made themselves known to us. The dinghy and the outboard was heavy, it couldn’t be just spirited away into the forest or anything like that so reason said it was either close by or someone had launched it, started the engine and driven it off… but we’d heard no sounds of outboard engines or anything to indicate that was what had happened though it was the only plausible explanation. We needed to search and find it because in an hour or so it would be starting to get dark, the sun was already hovering just above the hills to the western side of Klag Bay in the direction of the Gate and our exit route out.

Marie rightly said it would be unwise to split up to search because there clearly was someone about. Henry and I agreed. Let’s head up around to the falling ruin that was close to the left-hand shore I said, there wasn’t much the other way except tangled bush and a much too meagre shoreline, we Chichagof Mining Camp Sänna could see most of the shore from where we stood for quite a way and there was nothing there. So we followed the shingle beach the other way, westward towards more of the fallen buildings near the ruins of what must have been the working part of the mine. We climbed a small gathering of rocks that jutted out from the shoreline and then crossed another small shale beach littered with yet more rusting junk. Henry was the first to spot our dinghy up ahead, just beside one of the ruined buildings that abutted the shore. We all three raced ahead not wanting to be left alone, I can’t describe to you our relief when we got to the dinghy and saw that it was fine, it had not deflated and the engine was still lifted out of the water just how I’d left it. But the dinghy, though floating in the water was now tied to the remains of a timber beam that had fallen from the collapsed roof close by. Someone had tied it in a loose knot that I straightaway saw wasn’t that secure… but who? This was when I made our second mistake.

Whilst Marie and Henry untied the painter line then with great effort manoeuvred our dinghy backwards into deeper water close enough that it lapped around the outboard propeller, I walked up to the ruined building close to where we stood, I was rightly curious to find out who had done this. Perhaps our dinghy had somehow floated free of its own accord and someone hereabouts had retrieved it on our behalf, maybe not, but I simply had to know. Looking back now I shouldn’t have done this, in the fraction of time it took me to step up to the open doorway of the building, someone stepped out. We all three stood frozen to the spot, I was instantly spooked because it was totally unexpected that someone should even be there, what made all three of us stare in amazement was that it was a young girl.

I guessed she was about twelve or thirteen but she was not like any young teenage child that I’d ever seen. I was shocked. Henry cried out ‘Oh my God’ whilst Marie, ever quick thinking, greeted her in a kindly way that Marie said afterwards was to buy us time to work out what the hell was going on. The girl was dressed in a torn, dirt-ridden dress that was probably once yellowish in colour, now it was just faded and tattered. Her hair was stringy and unkempt but it was her face that appalled each of us. I simply cannot describe her facial features to you at all, except to say her face was encrusted with what seemed to me like dead skin, but beneath the grime was not the face of some young child lost or forlorn, her face was the face of something else entirely. What struck me straightaway was that down the left side, from beneath her eye to her lower cheeks was a horrible scar, a vivid gash as though from a wound made by something ruthlessly sharp. Quite clearly it had never properly healed. Then she smiled an almost toothless smile, black teeth with gaps of indescribable foulness that not ever in my life shall I be able to adequately describe to anyone. And the stench, the stench was appalling…

The child never answered back to Marie but by now we had the dinghy in the water, then we deliberately backed away before quite calmly climbing in as though nothing untoward was happening. Each of us were trying to stay calm. Marie quietly spoke to Henry, telling him not to worry and to cut his gibberish chatter which was, I suppose, his nervous reaction to this obviously frightening situation. I pushed us out into the bay. The young girl stood not moving or saying anything, just staring at us in the strangest sort of way as if to say that she did not want us to leave – the manner in which she then raised her arms to show the palms of her upturned hands almost gave the impression of pleading with us to take her away. Perhaps she was in trouble and in need of rescue, perhaps she lived there and there were others around too. We couldn’t tell but right now we’d recovered our dinghy and no longer were we in dire straights. Marie said it was best that we left, so I started the outboard and we sped off… all the way back knowing we were shell-shocked and entirely speechless. Speeding off like that somehow seemed to be the right thing to do.

Climbing back onboard Sänna was an intense relief, whatever happened we were now safely in control of our own situation. I have to say that all three of us were thoroughly shaken… of course we were undecided what we should do next. Daylight Chichagof Island Sännawas now fading into twilight, it would be unwise to pull up our anchor to try to leave, to attempt the Gate or the dogleg of the Elbow Passage in darkness wasn’t really a sensible option. It would be dangerous and irresponsible. I could see that Marie was considering the option of leaving too, I also knew that she came to the same conclusion. Henry though was now quiet and thoughtful. Clearly we were stuck here for the night whatever the situation, but surely we were safe here in our own environment… at least we weren’t still stuck ashore in this dreadful place in darkness – the thought of that made me shudder outwardly in trepidation. So, we did the only thing we could do, we sat and talked everything through rationally…

Marie pointed out that we hadn’t been threatened or intimidated in any way except for the moving of our dinghy. But that had worked out ok even if we had been well spooked. It was Marie who also suggested that the young girl might have been in some kind of danger, that she probably needed our assistance but we had sped off only caring for own safety. But Marie’s like that, she’s always thinking of anyone needing help, always willing to give it whatever the circumstances, I always say to everyone that my wife should have been an angel but no one had ever thought to give her wings. Me? Right now in my somewhat confused mind I was thinking of the stories I’d been told by Tlingit elders back in Hoonah – everything that had now happened whilst ashore was just what I’d been warned about. I decided to say nothing. It’s fair to say that none of us suggested or even contemplated the thought of returning to shore to see if the young girl needed help. Henry suggested that in the morning we fly the drone over to the shore to see what the hell was going on. This seemed like a good enough plan and that is what we decided to do.

I tell you that during the night none of us slept. I certainly did not because I was too spooked, every noise I heard or thought I heard was someone climbing onboard to torment us, but then I must have slept a little because I had a weird dream about our dinghy once more being stolen from Sänna’s stern and the same young girl standing right there on our companionway steps, but of course it was just a dream. Curiously, when the sun finally came up Henry said he’d had the same dream too. We both laughed but said nothing to Marie.

Whilst devouring our breakfast of fresh salmon, muffins and eggs in the warm morning sunshine we each kept snatching the binoculars to see if we could see anything ashore. We could see nothing that had no reason to be there, nothing except the same ruins, the ludicrous amounts of rusting machinery and the shimmering silent remains of the loading wharf where we’d been exploring the previous afternoon. There was certainly no one about, no signs of anyone around or any local inhabitants making cooking fires or anything like that. Of course there was no real doubt that no one lived there, the mine and its desolate ruins were totally abandoned with no inhabitable structures still standing that we could see. Maybe there was a pathway that lead off to somewhere around the bay where folk did live, but we’d been explicitly told back in Elfin Cove there was no one around for nearly forty miles or so. Henry got ready to fly the drone.

Chichagof Gold Mine Sänna What can I say to you? We flew the drone and at first saw nothing, not even when Henry dropped the drone with precise precision into the roofless ruin from which the young girl had stepped out from the doorway. There was nothing around except crumbling desolation. That is, until Henry activated the return to home button on the panel and the drone winged its way back over the water towards Sänna with its batteries nearly depleted. Marie spotted something first, someone or something standing upon a stone boulder right beside the old loading wharf. From this distance we couldn’t be sure, it was just a slight movement more than anything. But Henry turned the drone around to where Marie pointed saying that he had just about enough battery power to get a quick pass… I myself was more distressed by visions of the battery power cutting out and our expensive drone dropping into the water like a stone, the warning bleeps were sounding like crazy on panel.

Well, what I will tell you is this. Henry surely did get something, some mind-blowing footage but then had to get the drone back quickly as the final power warning alarms kicked in. We somehow got the drone landed just as the battery died completely. The panel screen had automatically dropped into low resolution to save transmitting power – something like a self-preservation thing I guess but with enough detail to show that we’d definitely recorded something. Once we had the micro card out of the drone and into Henry’s laptop we’d get to see what we had filmed in full high-definition 4K video, there wouldn’t be much of it but we’d be able to zoom right in to see what was there in incredible detail.

At this point in what I am relating to you right now common decency must prevail. I have to write these facts down sensibly, I do not wish to be accused of things that might make me appear foolish or to be some sensationalist idiot trying to make up a story. My personal reputation for forthright honesty is sacrosanct and I have no intention of compromising everything I’ve ever said or stood for. At this Marie & Henry, Chichagof Minemoment in time I’d rather not add much more, other than to say that what we had on film was inexplicably horrible. Sure, it was detailed enough but what good is that if what you see before you is unexplainable? You must understand that it’s not for me, nor for Henry or Marie for that matter to describe to you the can of worms we had unwisely opened up by heading ashore to look for the mine, we’re not experts and never would we pretend to be – if I tried to explain to you the way that whatever it is that’s there at the mine yet again pleaded with us then you’d never believe one word, we would likely be ridiculed or accused of things that are not within our bounds of experience. I will say this to you, what we now had on film was without any shadow of doubt related to our unworldly experience the day before, though it straightaway seemed to me this incredible strangeness was indelibly linked to what I’d been warned about back in Hoonah a few months before. Even the folk in Elfin Cove told us to be careful, they said it would not be wise to make our way to the abandoned gold mine. Knowing what I know now we should never have dropped our anchor there. Certainly we should never have gone ashore.

If this was a fictional story or one of those Hollywood blockbuster tales there’s little doubt that at this point there’d be a crescendo build-up to a near disastrous end, when the heroes would finally rescue the heroine and we’d escape with the last vestiges of our lives… probably as the mine exploded and rolled down the hillside towards us. But there was nothing of that, there was no real emotional ending at all except that we decided it was simply best to leave – we were not threatened in any way nor did we suffer any further contact with whoever it is that chooses to hide themself within the ruins of the mine. At daybreak the next day we were favoured with good winds to take us south, we negotiated the Gate and Elbow Passage without mishap or indeed any more problems at all when we finally made our way out of Klag Bay.

Once we reached Sitka a week or so later we went along to the State Trooper’s office, the authority who are responsible for keeping law and order out in the Alaskan bush. Marie thought that we should report what had happened, even her nagging fear that we had left someone behind who might have needed our help. Henry worried that we might ourselves be in some sort of trouble for what we had done… or more stupidly, what we had not done. Marie rightly said we had a responsibility to make a report to someone in authority, someone who would advise us who could then decide the best thing to do, who would perhaps tell us that we had done the right thing. Of course, I was uneasy because there was also the worrying rumours I’d not that long before listened to but then dismissed as tall stories, you know, things said purely to put the wind up a gullible Englishman who didn’t know a great deal.

The Trooper was silent, not saying much. He asked if we had the drone footage. I told him we did not have it right now but we had it back onboard our sailboat. He asked if we’d downloaded it. Henry confirmed that we had, it was loaded onto his laptop. The Trooper said we should never have gone to the mine, they don’t like anyone going there because they have the responsibility of getting folk out when it all goes wrong – just like the year before when the group had been attacked by the grizzly bear. He explained that it was hard to extract anyone who got themselves into trouble, even just getting there on a rescue mission in the vast wilderness was exceptionally difficult. In the event the Trooper asked if he could visit us onboard later that afternoon to see what we had, he would bring along two Rangers from the US National Parks Service who were familiar with the area and who knew the mine. One of the Rangers, the Trooper said, was a Tlingit scout who was something of an expert on the abandoned mine, who’d be keenly interested in our experience. Marie asked if he would be arranging a search or even a rescue, the Trooper told us he would not. He never elaborated why.

When the Park Rangers and the Trooper came around later in the afternoon we watched the images we had filmed back at the mine. It’s fair to say that all of us were shocked. Afterwards we talked quietly between us, both the Rangers said the content shouldn’t be for general viewing, it wasn’t suitable material and I have to tell you that Marie, Henry and myself readily agreed. The State Trooper said if these images were uploaded onto the internet then most viewers would find the video highly disturbing, there would also be an influx of uncontrollable adventurers, thrill seekers making their own way to the mine into what, in his opinion, was a dangerous location, clearly there were numerous dangers on a number of different levels. The Trooper said he just didn’t want any more mindless idiots making their way to the mine because he’d be the one who’d have to get them out, be it trapped in the mine itself or of more concern, injuries resulting from deadly bear attacks which was already a fact. I felt sheepishly guilty when the Trooper admonished us for deciding to go there ourselves, even when I pointed out we hadn’t broken any rules or caused any problems. No matter, he said, we were irresponsibly foolish.

Afterwards, whilst the two of us walked alone back to the Trooper’s office, the Tlingit Ranger asked me straight if I knew of the rumours about the mine, stories of a ghostly apparition that supposedly haunted the ruins. I told him that I did, that I’d been told by my Tlingit friends back in Hoonah. He asked if I’d told anyone about these stories, I said that I hadn’t, not even to Marie and Henry because I didn’t want to scare them. The Ranger then put the jitters well and truly up my backside when he told me the Tlingit had a long-held name for the young girl we had supposedly disturbed, Kaheah Derigaga Tlengara… Scar Face Child. The Tlingit Ranger told me the tragic story of how she came to be, about the Mine Manager’s eleven year old daughter Clarice Donovan back in 1923. He told me everything but then said what happened back then should stay untold, it’s not for just anyone to know the spiritual ways of the Tlingit. But then things changed…

Chichagof Gold Mine Sänna I’ve just about told everyone now, now that I’ve told you and your friends about this that happened to us at the Chichagof Gold Mine. It’s difficult to explain to you why I’m telling you of our strange experience right now but if you’ve ever not slept because your disturbed mind plays evil tricks in the middle of the night, when every little sound you hear in the shear blackness of the night is a cruelly disfigured young girl desperately pleading with you to save her life then you will know what I mean. The State Trooper asked me to sign a declaration that we’d never disclose the images we recorded nor upload them onto YouTube or anything like that, the Trooper said he could enforce this through law if he decided but said that he would not unless I made trouble. I didn’t like this authoritative pressure so I never signed, perhaps it’s because my free will and my rebel self would not allow me, this obnoxious thing inside that makes me take off in my sailboat to sail around the world.

Eventually Henry and I talked, then we edited out the more disturbing imagery we got from the drone. The State Trooper said it was good that our power battery had nearly drained. Henry later uploaded a slightly sanitised version of our footage containing clear-cut images of whatever it is at the mine that took away our dinghy then tried to entice us to take her away. Tlingit legend has it that no one ever gets to take the young girl with the disfigured face away from the mine, that she would never leave the grave of her father behind.

The drone imagery is available for you to view if you wish, you can then make up your own mind about whether we tell the truth or not. It’s not for me to convince you of anything unnatural or indeed to warrant that what you will see will be of any interest to you, nor do I take heed of your state of mind. Needless to say, I bear no responsibility or any level of blame should you choose to decide matters for yourself. If you do take it upon yourself to view the uploaded content then I will be reprieved of the responsibilities I have burdened myself with, I can then absolve all three of us with regards to the accusations that have since been made… particularly when you might consider my unthinkable error in not revealing that I already knew of certain rumours concerning the Chichagof Mine. When the question of truth is finally resolved then perhaps I will sleep just a little more each night. The link, if you feel inclined is…

Chichagof Gold Mine

WARNING. You may find the contents of the video link above disturbing. The content is unsuitable for anyone of a nervous disposition or anyone of a young age who may be deemed juvenile or not socially responsible. Please do not share or otherwise publish the content without my express permission which generally will not be given. The video imagery is subject to copyright with all rights reserved.

The title Chichagof Mine forms part of Tales From Alaska, a series of short-story blogs based upon true events chronicled by the English sailing vessel Sänna and her intrepid crew during their three years of adventures in the wilderness of Southeast Alaska. You can read more about Sänna and their round-the-world circumnavigation voyage at

Stitched Panorama

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