Yakobi Island possesses unique archeological features, mysteries

Posted: Friday, August 04, 2006

There is a real mystery on the outer coast, on the island of Yakobi, just a short distance from Pelican.

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It presents a conundrum to warm the heart of any aspiring archeologist.

First, let me tell of the re-discovery of the lost Tlingit village of Apolosovo at Surge Bay. The name Apolosovo was given to the village in a Russian report of 1805, but probably the Tlingit had a different name which is unknown. About ten years ago Chris Howard, an avid explorer from Pelican found petroglyphs at the mouth of the creek which flows from Surge Lake. Recently, Chris and my son Allan visited the site.

Petroglyphs are fascinating artistic carvings on stone. Many go back to ancient time, beyond the ken of human memory. They are found not just in many places in Southeastern Alaska but also along the whole littoral of the Pacific Coast, from California to Siberia.

One of the features repeated over and over in places thousands of miles apart is a swirl of lines carved in a circular pattern. Could it be that people long ago witnessed a spectacular heavenly event?

There is another archeological feature on Yakobi Island which is truly unique. It was also discovered by Chris Howard. I invite all my readers to offer an answer to its meaning.

In a quiet cove there rests a tall column of white stones, carefully constructed and finely joined together. It is about eight feet high and at the plinth has a circumference of ten to twelve feet.

What is it? What is it for? Who built it? Why?

It is on the inner edge of a small bay, so it is not visible from the sea and not useful as a beacon to guide a ship into port.

As Robert Service said in one of his poems, "Strange things are done under the Midnight Sun."

• Lifelong Alaskan Elton Engstrom is a retired fish-buyer, lawyer and legislator (1964-70) who lives in Juneau.

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