First contacts, 1741-1794

The earliest known encounter between European and Tlingit people was probably in 1741, when Chirikov sent a party ashore—some say at Xaayta.aan, inside the yellow-cedar village (Surge Bay) on outer Yakobi Island. They never returned, and much has been written and speculated about that event.

Closer to home, the first encounter was almost surely in 1794, when Joseph Whidbey led 3 small rowing craft through Áak’w Tá, little-lake bay (Auke Bay). This too was a tragic first meeting, in which one or more Tlingit warriors were apparently killed by musket fire.

The Whidbey surveys were well documented in several journals kept by the crew. The 2 most valuable records are George Vancouver’s, edited and published by W.K. Lamb in 1984, and those of Archibald Menzies, surgeon/botanist of the voyage, edited by Wally Olson in 1993. But nobody has tried to compare the various reports, enter them into GIS, and determine exactly what happened in the area now called the City and Borough of Juneau. Figuring this out requires familiarity with local topography, and an understanding of how waterways and habitats differed at the peak of the Little Ice Age. In 2010 I began to piece this story together, and I hope soon to link here to a narrated slide show detailing the events.

By the way, let’s be done with a common malapropism. Even many historians commit this error when citing what Vancouver “saw” in northern inside waters that his intrepid 1794 crew rowed through while he lay ill at anchor on the outer coast. Bad enough that George named all of our grandest landscape features for patrons and relatives back in England without suggesting that he actually saw Lynn Canal or Berners Bay. (Sorry; pet peeve.)

As Vancouver passed through the Pacific Northwest (places he actually did see), he ‘developed’ the landscape in mind’s eye—stripping off conifers and clothing hills in scenes of pastoral British productivity. He’d have been pleased to know that 135 years later, the gentlemen below (and a few wives and secretaries), would be hard at work on that dream. Heintzleman, second from left, would shepard the archipelago into the 20th Century, taming the rainforest, bumping Tleixsatanjín, hand at rest, and installing his name on the ridge dividing Áak’w from T’aakú biogeographic provinces.

Forest Service officers conference in Juneau, 1929. For background on most of these IWGs (important white guys), check out Rakestraw’s History of the United States Forest Service in Alaska (1981). It’s a 14MB download. When you’re done with that, however, best move on to a 21st-Century reality check and read Jim MacKovjak’s Tongass Timber (2010).

In this section

Áak’w & T’aakú Aaní: the natural history of resilience

Presentation for Evening at Egan On November 9th, 2018, I gave the second in a series of 4 lectures for…

Nov, 2018 | Richard Carstensen | 36 minutes

Trail-mapping at Aansadaak’w (Kupreanof)

In May, 2017, I ferried down to the tiny town of Kupreanof, just across Gánti Yaakw Séedi, steamboat pass (Wrangell…

2017 | Richard Carstensen | 100 pages

Fickle fashions: stereoscopy

I wrote this as an appendix to my report with Kathy Hocker on repeat photography. It reviews trends in a…

2013 | Richard Carstensen | 6 pages

Sydney Laurence in Áak’w Aaní

Part of a 2012 slide show for Juneau-Douglas City Museum on Alaskan landscape painter Sydney Laurence. I co-presented with Mike…

2012 | Richard Carstensen | 17 minutes

Cemetery stem mapping: then and now

Remapping with Montessori For a teacher at any of the downtown schools (Harborview, Montessori, JD High) with only an hour’s…

2017 | Richard Carstensen | 13 minute slideshow

Historical aerials of Southeast communities

In 2011, Cathy Pohl and I received a drive with 22,000 scanned air photos taken by the Navy in 1948.…

2011 | Richard Carstensen | 35 minutes

Sesquicentennial slideshow

For the sesquicentennial year of the 1867 Alaska Purchase, Juneau-Douglas City Museum asked me to create 3 banners showing 150…

2017 | Richard Carstensen | 28 minutes

1867-2017: 150 years of change

Background paper for 3 banners commissioned by the Juneau Douglas City Museum, showing changes to iconic landscapes of Áak’w Aaní…

2017 | Richard Carstensen | 41 Pages

Juneau’s dairy history: Parts 1 & 2

As Kathy Hocker and I built up Discovery‚’s library of historical photographs, during our Repeat Photography Project in 2004-2005, we…

2012 | Richard Carstensen | 10 min; 25 min

Naming our home

Name as story; name as narcissism Over the past decade, I’ve grown increasingly interested in cultural differences in the way…

2013: update 2020 | Richard Carstensen | 5 pages

Repeat photography summary report

Documenting change through repeat photography in Southeast Alaska Carefully framed retakes of historical photographs documenting vegetation and landform change in…

2005: 2nd ed, 2013 | Richard Carstensen, Kathy Hocker | 39 pages

Dzantik’i Héeni delta historical series

Seawalk: Rehabilitating our waterfront. 2013: To evaluate change along the shoreline proposed for a seawalk, I georeferenced a series of…

2013: updated 2022 | Richard Carstensen | 22 pages

Just before the camera: journal of Richard Meade

Richard Meade was captain of a steamship that spent 4 months in Southeast in 1868 and 1869. I’ve created a…

2014: updated 2023 | Richard Meade (Carstensen, ed) | 44 pages

Pond & Davies at Echo Cove

Annotated guide to Alaska State Library’s collection of historic photos of the Echo Cove by turn-of-the-century miners Percy Pond and…

2014 | Richard Carstensen | 6 pages