Nome, Norton Sound

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Nome, Norton Sound

by | Jun 19, 2020

Nome is a town on the south coast of the Seward Peninsula and the northern shoreline of Norton Sound, about 289 miles (466 km) northwest of Bethel and 185 miles (298 km) southwest of Kotzebue, Alaska. The name is from the nearby Cape Nome. The origin of the name is generally attributed to a cartographic error by the British Admiralty. The explanation given by the Chief Cartographer of the British Admiralty in 1900 was that a draftsman misinterpreted the annotation “? name” on a manuscript chart constructed on board the HMS Herald in 1850-1852. The “?” mark was taken as a “C” and the “a” was thought to be an “o”.

The area was first settled in the summer of 1898 when the “Three Lucky Swedes” discovered gold on Anvil Creek. The town got its start when six men met at the mouth of the Snake River and formed the Cape Nome mining district. The short-lived name “Anvil City” was derived from Anvil Creek, where the first major gold was found. In June, 1899, gold was found on the beaches of Nome and by August a number of men were prospecting there. News of the gold strike carried to the States that winter and in early summer 1900 the rush was on. At the peak of that summer there were 30,000 people at Nome, but 16,000 left within 13 weeks. Nome incorporated on April 9, 1901. The city is now the commercial hub of northwestern Alaska and gold is still important to the local economy.

In the winter of 1925, Nome was the destination of the famous Great Race of Mercy, in which dog sleds had an important role in transporting diphtheria serum through harsh conditions. The sled driver of the final leg of the relay was the Norwegian-born Gunnar Kaasen and his lead sled dog was Balto. A statue of Balto now stands near the zoo in Central Park, New York City. In 1973, Nome became the end point of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Read more here and here. Explore more of Nome and the Norton Sound coast here:

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