"Lunch at Bonanza," Chapter 21, from "Legacy of the Chief," pt 1
ABOVE: "We at Kennecott intend to abandon our large Alaskan
presence in favor of a small territory-wide minerals exploration
company. We may elect to use the lower Kennecott mill site as a
jumping-off point for future exploration efforts in the territory."
--Stephen Birch talking to the engineering staff assembled at the
Bonanza mess hall, July 1924
Much of interior Alaska consists of
low-lying, relatively flat river valleys bounded by high mountain
ranges. The Copper River valley is one of these. The cold winter air
settles heavily in these areas. Places closest to frozen river channels
are noted for their extreme cold. A distance of a few hundred feet up a
hill can mean twenty degrees difference in temperature. Up to a point,
the higher elevations of the interior are warmer than elevations closest
to the frozen rivers. In the summer the higher elevations remain mild,
while the lower areas near the rivers become uncomfortably hot. The
winter extremes can last from mid-October to mid-March, whereas the
summer extremes typically last only from mid-June to mid-July.
One last heat wave sat over the lowlands of the Nizina, Chitina and
Copper River valleys when the Birch party arrived in mid-July, 1924.
Temperatures at the mill site were reaching uncomfortable highs that
would be normal most anywhere else. At the 6000-foot altitude of
Bonanza, the engineers found relief from the hot weather they had been
experiencing below at Kennecott. Once again it was a beautifully clear
day with only light breezes. The spectacular view from the Bonanza
barracks included the backdrop of the distant, white-capped Chugach
Range. The southern end of Kennicott Glacier near McCarthy had
striations which could only be seen from above. Most eye-catching was
the west-facing rock glacier, which ended two thousand feet above
Kennecott, while originating near the summit of Porphyry Mountain.
BELOW: "Once again it was
a beautifully clear day with only light breezes. The spectacular view
from the Bonanza barracks included the backdrop of the distant,
white-capped Chugach Range . . . "
Porphyry Mountain and the Chugach
Range as seen from the Bonanza barrack.