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 Post subject: Re: The Nomes - A Grand Excursion
PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 2:51 am 
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And now for a few specific landmarks in the cartoon Nome, which have counterparts in the real world!


Balto's Boat/The Wendy K
It may actually surprise you to learn that the boat we see in the Balto movies actually has a sort of precedent in the real Nome! In the cartoons, it is an old, grounded and abandoned fishing boat in which Balto takes up residence. We don't ever learn anything more about the boat than that. It sits about a mile or so (reckoning a dead estimate by visual cues) south of the fictional Nome, facing north (towards the town and the ridge beyond).

In the real, modern-day Nome, in the same approximate location (more or less a mile or so south of the present borders of the town), sits an old boat, nudged behind some buildings and definitely grounded (though not nearly on the kind or rakish tilt seen in the fictional boat). The prow of this boat also faces in the opposite direction...to the south. It is actually a tugboat. When I visited Nome, I met with the owner of the property upon which the boat sits. He called it the "Wendy K", describing it as a sixty year-old boat which did service up in the Inupiat fishing village of Teller (many miles north of Nome). He did not know how it came to be in Nome, but after he acquired the property, his kids used to use it as a clubhouse (as did many other Nome children). Now, it is NOT as old as a boat which could have been in the historical Nome back in the 1920s...and, given the weather in that region, it is doubtful a wooden boat could survive across the years so close to the Bering Sea and all it throws down onto the Seward Peninsula (it sits farther back off the beach than Balto's boat does, but it is still a mere several hundred yards at most from there, blocked only by a few modern buildings and a house).

I did an in-depth photographic (and video) analysis of the boat, as the owner allowed me to climb up onto and into it (this was one of my goals in visiting Nome...lol. A small one, but a goal nevertheless). I will post that full analysis at another time. Structurally, it is VERY similar to Balto's boat. It has the same general size and form...with a single tall wheel house, a rear engine compartment with a smoke stack rising from it (behind the wheel house), and some partially-repaired damage and shedding paint along the body. It also sits on a few boulders. So it is easy to determine that the production design team for the Balto movie DEFINITELY saw it and used it when they were visiting Nome on location research. Perhaps they assumed the boat was as old as the serum run. They were wrong if they did, but then they could just have thought it would be an interesting story item. Have a look! (The smokestack on the Wendy K is not visible in the photo I have provided but trust me...it's there. I have many photographs which show that. The angle of this photo is just not conducive. When I do a topic about it, you will all see...)

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Above: The Wendy K, a sixty year-old tugboat sitting just south of present-day Nome.


St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church
In 1900, the Roman Catholics built a church to serve the Nome faithful there. It served the town for many years, where it sat at the end of Nome's Steadman Street near the south end of town. As the Catholic community dwindled there, and over the ravages of time, the church eventually fell into disuse (though the Roman Catholic community still survives in a new building which serves the community as "St. Joseph's church"). The original building, however, was rescued by a preservation effort in the town, and moved to its present location at the end of Seppala Drive on the north end of town. It was restored, received a new (historically-accurate) steeple, and was repurposed as a community center.

The original church had a cross on top of the steeple which was electrically-lighted and, being the tallest structure in Nome, it was said to be visible for miles (and often served as a focal point for mushers and wanderers looking to spot Nome from a distance in a white-out or in the dark). The church is seen in the Balto cartoons. However, and unfortunately, there are a few errors in its design in Wings of Change, where the building actually changes form just a bit (as you will see below). Still, it is an interesting place, and when I visited the real church, I was given the honor of a private tour (and again, took many photographs)!

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Above: St. Joseph's church seen at the end of Steadman Street in Nome, probably during the 1920s (date not confirmed).

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Above: St. Joseph's church (now a community center) in modern-day Nome,
opposite the end of Seppala Drive in present-day Nome.


Now...here are a few additional shots of St. Joseph's church, taken from the Wings of Change movie (and one additional shot of the church in historical Nome of the past). Note the one discrepancy in the cartoon church, which is an obvious continuity error from the production. Though, honestly, this would have been a momentary foul-up which is probably not that noticeable on-screen without scenes being paused.

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Above: St. Joseph's church sitting brand-new at the end of Steadman Street in 1900,
with (according to the caption) the Nome court house and recording office.






Gold Dredges
Though they were only occasionally used during the early gold rush days, gold dredges did occasionally appear out on the tundra outside of Nome...usually floating on rivers, creeks and lakes (as they were able to float on water due to their construction). However, dredges of the usual kind seen below were never actually documented to have been used in the surf, as implied in the Balto cartoons (where they sit on the beachline in town). Their design changed a bit over time, as they gradually came to look more like floating houses than the early sort seen in the historical photograph below. They were powered by steam (through a boiler), which then enabled large metal buckets, secured to a "bucket line" (a heavy cable and/or belt assembly) to dig up chunks of earth and dump that into sorting machinery to sift out bits of gold, and then dump the refuse earth and rock out as "tailings" behind the machine as it slowly was moved along (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_dredge). Though rare now, they are still used in places like Nome...although are usually a LOT larger and more complex, and powered differently.

The gold dredges seen in the cartoon Nome may have their hypothetical basis in historic designs. However, the only complete and easly-accessible example of this in modern-day Nome is the Swanberg Gold Dredge, which sits just outside of the southern end of town, and is owned by Nome. It was in operation during the 1940s, long after the gold rush and about twenty years or so after the serum run. So its design is a bit more complex than what would have been used by the gold mining companies during the gold rush and afterwards in early Nome.

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Above: One example of a gold dredge used during the late 1910s, perhaps the early 1920s, here seen out on the tundra east of Nome.

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Above: The Swanberg Gold Dredge, which currently sits just outside of the southern end of modern-day Nome,
and is owned by the town as a tourist attraction. There is a wooden boardwalk up to it over what is usually pooled
meltwater, and interpretive signs. However, it is nearly impossible to access the dredge itself without getting quite wet.






General/Grocery Stores
In Wings of Change, we get a look at Mr. Gundersen's general store...a nice little scene which fleshes out cartoon Nome just a bit. As you might imagine, historical Nome also had a few general stores (along with many other kinds of vendors). Modern-day Nome has at least three grocery stores (though not the usual commercial chains to which you may be accustomed in your neighborhoods).

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Above: Dipsy, in Wings of Change, "getting into things" in Mr. Gundersen's general store.

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Above: The inside of the Alaska Mercantile Company, one of old Nome's well-established general stores. Photo
dates from the early 1900s. Note the subtle similarities with elements in the cartoon image (though whether
or not this photo was ever seen by the production designers of Wings of Change, I cannot say).

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Above: An exterior look at the Alaska Mercantile Company in Nome, circa 1906.

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Above: The Hanson Trading Company, one of present-day Nome's grocery stores (subsidized by the
Safeway national supermarket chain). It sits on the north end of town.





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 Post subject: Re: The Nomes - A Grand Excursion
PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 3:56 am 
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Nome From The Air

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Above: Unfortunately not a great photo, as the original I found of this
was VERY small in size. But this is a photo, taken from an airplane, of Nome in 1925.

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Above: A photo of modern-day Nome, taken from an airplane,
looking generally south (with the Bering Sea on the right of the photo).






Interiors
We get to see some interiors through the three Balto movies...the home of Rosy's parents, the telegraph office, the post office, the general store, the carpenter's shop, the town hall, the boiler room of one of the gold dredges (which the dogs apparently use as a gathering place...even to camp out sometimes), and the hospital.

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Above: Jenna resting in the parlor of her owners' home.

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Above: The sumptuously-appointed (decorated and furnished) parlor room of the home of W.L. Goodwin (and his wife),
the Engineer in Charge for the Alaska Railroad Commission. He helped survey much of the land on the Seward Peninsula
in the early 1900s, and also the Iditarod Trail itself (which used to be called the "Seward To Nome Trail"):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iditarod_Trail which was, in those days (and long before and after), a transportation
route (by foot, wagon and dog sled team) from the south of Alaska up to the gold rush towns on the Seward peninsula
(including Nome). Quite obviously, this meant that ol' Goodwin was quite "well off" financially, and a high-ranked citizen
with substantial influence. And the picture demonstrates how poshly he and his wife lived. This image was taken on
October 2nd, 1909 (note the piano, the hanging rugs, the "Art Garland" heater stove, the rocking chair, and the
garland and other decorations, and fine dark woodwork).






Image
Above: The Nome telegraph office.

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Above: Interior of the Miners & Merchants Bank of Nome, circa July 1910. The caption indicates that the gold bullion bars seen
with these prominent Nome citizens is about one week's output ($260,000.00 worth back in 1910...which would make it MUCH
more valuable by today's standards of inflation) by the Pioneer Gold Mining Company, which employed the likes of Leonhard
Seppala and Gunnar Kaasen (and many other European immigrants to Alaska. To the left is one of the owners of the Pioneer Gold
Mining Company, Norwegian Jafet Lindeberg...one of Nome's legendary "Three Lucky Swedes", who first struck gold in the
Nome region in 1898 (which gave rise to Nome as a gold rush boom town).






Bush Planes and Dogsleds
The arrival of the biplane, and subsequent designs a short time thereafter, rang the gradual death knell of dog sledding as a means of mail carriage in Alaska. It was not immediate or fast, but by the 1920s is it WAS happening. In 1925, the only airplanes available were small open-cockpit, single-prop, water-cooled engine biplanes of the J-1 type, which were World War I military surplus. Not reliable in cold or harsh weather, and often disassembled and stored in the winter. However, Wings of Change does a pretty good job of presenting the beginnings of the change and how it would come to affect dog sled mushers and their dogs (in terms of jobs). But even in historical Nome and Alaska, there were mixed feelings about it.

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Above: Famous aviator Carl Ben Eielson's biplane appears here next to a mail team of dogs, circa 1924. The caption
on the original photo (of which this is a scan from the book The Cruelest Miles), read "Alaska's Mail Service: Yesterday and Today".






And a few general images...

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Above: Nome, circa 1903, looking southeast along the Bering Sea, with Cape Nome in the distance.
The photo was taken from a "derrick" (a wooden tower).

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Above: A shot of modern-day Nome, and some of the ridge beyond, from the southeast. Nome is the dark,
rough line in about the middle of the photo, on the right-hand side. The Norton Sound, roughly at the point
where it meets the Bering Sea, sits to the left of the photo.






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Above: Some men trying to help rescue a horse, which has fallen over after getting stuck in some deep mud,
on the outskirts of Nome by some homes, circa 1901.

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Above: Homes along one of the back streets of modern-day Nome.






Still more to come!

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Last edited by BaltoSeppala on Thu Dec 30, 2010 5:44 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Nomes - A Grand Excursion
PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 4:01 am 
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Well, their story may have been increadibly distant from accuracy, but it appears that pretty much every other aspect was factual or had at least some factual counterpart. It seems as though I havent been giving the animators as much credit as they deserve. The Wendy K could make for some fantastic photography. Now you really have me looking forward to my trip. I am not entirely familiar with the J-1 biplane, But I assume its a Curtis aircraft within the same family as the famous JN-4 Jenny. I figured WoC had jumped the gun on the implementation of aircraft, considering how minimalistic the aircraft of the day were, and how dramatically the flight of my far more modern Cessna 172 trainer (which I would never attempt to fly in Arctic conditions, regaurdless of experiance) is effected by even mild wheather, I wouldnt have expected such flights to be successful, also considering the distances involoved and the operating ceiling of the aircraft of the day. They werent preticularly fast or heavy either, so they would have suffered greatly in turbulant conditions. My hat goes off to those pilots. *stops self before starts rambling* I cannot positively identify the aircraft in WoC, but it has the characteristics of a J series biplane.

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 Post subject: Re: The Nomes - A Grand Excursion
PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 8:57 am 
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Balto-the-WOlf-Dog wrote:
Well, their story may have been increadibly distant from accuracy, but it appears that pretty much every other aspect was factual or had at least some factual counterpart. It seems as though I havent been giving the animators as much credit as they deserve. The Wendy K could make for some fantastic photography. Now you really have me looking forward to my trip. I am not entirely familiar with the J-1 biplane, But I assume its a Curtis aircraft within the same family as the famous JN-4 Jenny. I figured WoC had jumped the gun on the implementation of aircraft, considering how minimalistic the aircraft of the day were, and how dramatically the flight of my far more modern Cessna 172 trainer (which I would never attempt to fly in Arctic conditions, regaurdless of experiance) is effected by even mild wheather, I wouldnt have expected such flights to be successful, also considering the distances involoved and the operating ceiling of the aircraft of the day. They werent preticularly fast or heavy either, so they would have suffered greatly in turbulant conditions. My hat goes off to those pilots. *stops self before starts rambling* I cannot positively identify the aircraft in WoC, but it has the characteristics of a J series biplane.

They sure did pay some attention to details, at least in background scenes and settings, huh? Not exacting by far, but still a pretty good job, and better than most young fans (or even many adult fans) give them credit for.

Carl Ben Eielson, the fellow whose plane is in the historical photo above, was the first man to complete a test run, by airplane, along a 260-mile route from Fairbanks to McGrath, to determine the efficacy of using airplanes in the mail service. This was done in February of 1924 (so there were no bush pilots flying mail service before that date, at least as implied in the book The Cruelest Miles), and it was but one of ten such flights scheduled by the U.S. Postal Service. But the planes used in the region, at least initially, were three old "Standard J-1" biplanes which were used as training planes by the old Army Air Service in World War I, and were old surplus (two of which were in terrible condition).

Here are a couple of links to help in your research:

http://www.yanksair.com/Standard_J-1.html

http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=640

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 Post subject: Re: The Nomes - A Grand Excursion
PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 10:17 am 
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NewYorkBaltoFan wrote:
I was waiting for you to bring up the Wendy K. Personally I'm very intrigued by this, your guess is as good as mine about whether the writers of the movie just misjudged the age of the boat or if they took some creative license with it but I think it's pretty cool that one of the things from the movie that I was sure was made up ended up actually existing. I haven't seen any reference to this boat anywhere besides your facebook page and now here so thank you for digging up all of this information on it.

And as far as the planes that was another thing that I thought was made up at first, but when I was reading the Cruelest Miles I was surprised to see that that movie did have some basis in reality. I didn't realize exactly how close they were to using bush planes for the serum run, or how much opposition there was to using dogsleds. All very interesting information. It seems a lot of things in the Balto movies are based in reality, they just don't worry about presenting these things in chronological order.

lol Well, the situation with the Wendy K is interesting. The guy who now owns the property it sits on is an old man, and that property is shared by some large structures which may belong to some business entity. Not sure, and he and I did not discuss it. It is the approximate location of the historic "Fort Davis Roadhouse", a stopping point for mushers on their way into Nome (though it was not mentioned in serum run history). The roadhouse, of course, is no longer there.

The old man was nice, and willing to talk. And, with a little respect and deference to him, I easily convinced him to allow me to explore the Wendy K. And he gave me as much of the history of the boat as he knew. But I could find nothing on it online. As I said earlier though, I will post my photographic (and hopefully my video) analysis of the boat on the forum soon. That will give everyone a better look. The image here was actually taken from the website "Tom's Nome"...which is a wonderful site created and maintained by a Nome citizen and his wife (http://www.tomsnome.com). He clearly is involved in local Nome radio (or was) in some respect...but his extensive photo collection provides an interesting and amazing look at Nome and the surrounding countryside (which is staggeringly beautiful...and which I will augment this topic with soon...a comparison of the surrounding region). He was nice enough to link my website on his...somewhere. lol And I have linked his to mine.

The situation with biplanes and the serum run was extremely contentious and volatile in the lead up to the serum run. Representatives of the press corps were eager to use planes, and they had some connections with Alaskan representation in Washington (there were also some business interests there...based out of Fairbanks). Conversely, then Governor Scott Bone was eager to rely upon the mail teams (the dogs). As you know from reading The Cruelest Miles, it was quite the hot little fight...something worthy of Animation Source actually. ROFL But yes, the oft-maligned (by fans) Wings of Change is actually quite well-based in history, in spite of how young fans often love to pick at it. Shows them, huh?

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 Post subject: Re: The Nomes - A Grand Excursion
PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 10:22 am 
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Balto-the-WOlf-Dog wrote:
The Wendy K could make for some fantastic photography. Now you really have me looking forward to my trip.

Just be nice to the old man who owns the property, and be conversive, and he will give you free reign. But mind you, you'll have to endure the company of his zany Jack Russell Terrier, Jake. ROFL

Thing is, he was telling me back in '08, when I visited, that he was considering selling the property and moving. That brings the Wendy K into possible risk of removal if the new property owner doesn't want it there. If, in fact, the old fellow up and moved by now, or may in the near future. I don't know whether or not that is the case.

Keep in mind, as you may already realize, that modern-day Nome is nothing like the historical Nome of the past. I found that out to some dismay as I was researching my trip back in '07 and '08. Most of historic Nome burned down (and the remnants fell into disuse and eventual removal later) in 1934. Modern Nome is even smaller by far than historic Nome. Only a few small remnants of the old town still exist...and only three of those structures (that I know of) are currently maintained or are being restored. The rest sit in gradual decay or limbo.

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 Post subject: Re: The Nomes - A Grand Excursion
PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2010 4:29 am 
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I wouldnt say that WoC was historically innacurate, just annoying. Its premisis makes perfect sense. Aircraft were faster, but far less reliable. I always assumed that there was some sort of a conflict between the two interests, but I was unaware of its severity. The only Balto movie to deviate from reality was Balto 2, which went the magic route, which wasnt to my liking, but at least it was native religon, which is at least interesting, though I would still prefer a documentary.

Unfortunately, Nome isnt, and wasnt all that photogenic, its primarily the surrounding senery. Acctually decay plays well to photography though. Old rotting wood and rusted metal makes for some great shots.

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 Post subject: Re: The Nomes - A Grand Excursion
PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:14 am 
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Balto-the-WOlf-Dog wrote:
Unfortunately, Nome isnt, and wasnt all that photogenic, its primarily the surrounding senery. Acctually decay plays well to photography though. Old rotting wood and rusted metal makes for some great shots.

In my opinion, historic Nome definitely was photogenic. Those old buildings are fascinating. Sadly, they are mostly gone. And it cannot be denied that the modern town, for the most part, is not photogenic in the classic sense of what's "beautiful". Modern Nome isn't beautiful...it's practical. And simplistic. And not always attractive. But it's not really ugly either.

Now the surrounding countryside? Very photogenic. And stunningly beautiful. VERY much different from what is seen in the Balto movies, and I will be covering that soon in here. But beautiful nevertheless. Breathtaking in some cases.

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 Post subject: Re: The Nomes - A Grand Excursion
PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2011 1:17 pm 
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As always Im amazed at the knowledge you both posess, and strive to aquire. I really want to visit this place now, to see it with my own eyes. Could use a vacation anyway.

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