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A Tale of Bagging a Mammoth in Alaska

In 1899, a story appeared in McClure's magazine by Henry Tukeman. It told of the time he tracked and killed a mammoth in the Alaskan wilderness, and sold the hide, tusks, and bones to a man who donated them to the Smithsonian Institution.

   While wintering at Fort Yukon in 1890, he said, he passed the time by reading aloud to an Indian friend named Joe. One of the stories concerned elephants. When he showed Joe a picture of an elephant the Indian became excited. He said he had seen such an animal, up there, pointing north and east.

    Joe said he had been hunting on the upper Porcupine River when he came to a cave filled with bones of big animals. The cave opened onto a valley, and in the valley were fresh tracks, "footprints longer than a rifle." Joe followed the tracks to a lake, and in the lake stood a creature of size and shape he had never seen, or heard of around the campfire.

    "He is throwing water over himself with his long nose, and his two front teeth stand out before his head for ten gunlengths, turned up and shining like a swan's wing in the sunlight. Alongside him, this cabin would be like a two-week boar cub beside its mother."

    Tukeman said Joe wouldn't guide him to the cave but told a younger tribesman named Paul how to get to the mammoth stomping grounds. They found the cave, found the valley, and, sure enough, found a mammoth.

The account goes on to describe how he killed the mammoth and what he did with the remains. It caused the Smithsonian no small amount of grief. The number of visitors to the institution surged, and many of those visitors became angry when hearing that the museum had no such exhibit. Read how such a fantastic story ended up in a respectable magazine at the Tacoma Public Library website. -via Cliff Pickover

(Image credit: Paul Jamin, 1885)

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