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Full Circle

Day 3: Nome

Nome, Alaska, USA 
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Abandoned gold-rush railway in the tundra near Nome.
Michael Palin - Full CircleBreakfast at Fat Freddie's restaurant in Nome, a very whacky town, taking pride in bizarre statistics such as the fact that it is 75 miles away from the nearest tree. It lies on the south-west coast of the 200-mile-long Seward Peninsula, named after George Seward, the American Secretary of State who bought Alaska from the Russians in 1867 for 7.2 million dollars. (Even though this worked out at roughly two cents an acre it was not a popular purchase and the territory was referred to at the time as 'Walrussia' and 'Seward's Ice Box'.) We are quartered at a sea front hotel called the Nugget Inn which lies on Front Street next to the Lucky Swede Gift Shop.

There were in fact three Swedes who, in 1898, struck lucky in nearby Anvil Creek and started a classic gold-rush which in two years turned a stretch of Arctic desert into a city of 20,000. There are different versions of why it was called Nome, all of them suitably eccentric. One Harry de Windt who passed through in 1902 and described the gold-mad town as 'a kind of squalid Monte Carlo', claims that it derives from the Indian word 'No-me' meaning 'I don't know', which was the answer given to early white traders when they asked the natives where they were. The most popular explanation is that Nome came about as a misreading of a naval chart on which a surveyor had noted a nearby cape with the query 'Name?'.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 3
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Nome - Alaska
  • Book page no: 16

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