Not long after Alaska was purchased by the United States from Russia in 1867, the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service (USRCS) made its first appearance in the Bering Sea. Over the next forty-eight years the ships and men of the USRCS firmly established U.S. sovereignty in the area and performed amazing acts of rescue and humanitarian aid-contributions that have received little attention until the publication of this book. Bringing together widely scattered documentation and records, maritime historians Dennis Noble and Truman Strobridge chronicle events in the service's colorful history. Filled with high drama as well as historical significance, the story includes a number of notable figures, among them Capt. Michael A. "Hell Roaring Mike" Healy, the black revenue cutter captain who became a legend of the Alaskan frontier and was memorialized in James Michener's novel Alaska. The cuttermen explored vast unknown areas in their multimission role, providing humanitarian relief after earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, bringing medical care to isolated areas, feeding starving North American natives, and rescuing shipwrecked sailors, whalers beset in the ice, lost explorers, and others in trouble in the hostile environment. Among the many projects described in the book is a noble social experiment carried out by these early U.S. Coast Guardsmen. They imported reindeer from Siberia and taught the Alaskan natives how to herd to assure a steady food supply and to avoid future famines. They also transported federal judges and their staffs to isolated settlements to bring a veneer of civilization to the rough frontier. The authors describe and analyze these events in colourful narrative detail. Readers will quickly come to understand why the USRCS became so admired throughout the new territory and appreciate the effect the service had on the political, economic, and social life of the North Pacific region....
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