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Robert Hart Humber

R. H. HUMBER holds the position of superintendent of the mail route between Nome and Unalakleet. Every winter since 1900, excepting the winter of 1904-'05, he has carried mail in Northwestern Alaska. In four winter seasons and through every phase of winter weather he has traveled with dog teams a total distance of near 1 7,000 miles. He has had many experiences on the trail, several perilous adventures, but has escaped unharmed and without even a serious frostbite. December 15, 1902, he fell through the ice of Norton Sound. That morning when he left the road-house where he had stopped the previous night the thermometer was 45┬░ below zero. Both the road-house proprietor and the natives tried to dissuade him from going. The Eskimo said "Ice aszeruk." But Uncle Sam's mail had to be delivered, and he started to cross Norton Sound. After traveling fifteen miles and accomplishing one-half of his day's journey, and while running ahead of his team, he went through a hole in the ice. Fortunately his arm caught on firm ice and he got out quickly, but not before he was water soaked from the waist down. The distance to Isaac's Point was fifteen miles, and he knew that he must accomplish this journey or freeze. His water soaked garments froze instantly. He ran the entire fifteen miles, and arrived at the road-house in a little more than two hours after meeting with the accident. The violent exercise prevented freezing, but his feet became very numb. He carried an ax with him, and with the handle he beat his feet to keep up the circulation until they were badly bruised. But notwithstanding this thrilling adventure, he was ready the next day to start back with the mail.

On another occasion, when carrying the mail between Cape York and Nome, he was adrift on a floe in Bering Sea, but this is an experience that many Arctic explorers have had. He has encountered blizzards while traveling over the ice, and has been compelled to halt and crawl into his sleeping bag. Some of his dogs have been frozen on the trail. While Mr. Humber has passed through all these ordeals without receiving any scars or showing any evidence of physical effects, the mental strain of such experiences cannot be imagined by a person unfamiliar with the winter environment of Alaska.

Mr. Humber was born in Lincoln County, Kansas, November 19, 1871. He is of Southern ancestry and was educated at the Louisville Military Academy. His boyhood days were spent in Montana, and in 1887 he was appointed assistant post-master under George W. Carlton of the Deer Lodge post office. Subsequently he was associated with the British Columbia Smelting and Refining Company at Rossland. He was among the first men to go over the trail to Dawson in 1897. He prospected in the Klondike country, in the Forty-Mile country and in other parts of the Northwest until the spring of 1 900. He came down the Yukon in a small boat immediately after the break up of the ice. On account of his post-office experience he obtained a position in the Nome post-office, and had charge of the money order department, and every winter since has been a sub-mail contractor under Calkins & Ross.

Mr. Humber is a young man of strong resolutions and indomitable will. All may be inferred from what he has accomplished he has the physique of an athlete.  With a strong sense of duty and an admirable courage he has the social qualities which have made him many friends, who know and esteem him as an honorable and a worthy man.  

Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by R. S. Harrison. Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, 1905.




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