The community of Latouche no longer exists, but it was located on
Latouche Island, a small island (12 miles long, 3 wide) at the western
entrance to Prince William Sound, at 60░ 00'N., 147░ 55' W.
In 1784, Gerasim Izmailov led Captain James Cook to Prince William
Sound, and the first charts of the island known to Izmailov as Ostrov
Khlikakhlik were drawn. It was Captain George Vancouver who, in 1794,
gave the island its current name (it has also at various times been
called Foot Island and Isla San Antonia.
A series of copper prospects were staked on Latouche Island in the
late 1890s, and the Beatson copper mine, in the northwest section of the
island, started shipping ore in 1904. In 1915, with war needs greatly
boosting demand (and prices), the mine was taken over by the Kennecott
Corporation. At its peak period in 1917-1918, there were about 300
people working at the Beatson and almost 4,000 people on the island,
most in the town of Latouche close to the Beatson mine. Expanded
operations required a steady supply of coal, and to supply that need,
the Alaska Railroad built spurs into coal mines such as the Janios &
Athens operation near Houston.
Most of the copper mines in Alaska closed soon after the end of World
War I due to falling prices. The Beatson mine lasted much longer, but
with copper prices nearing 5 cents a pound, it closed on November 29,
1930. During its lifetime, the mine had produced a total of 182,600,000
pounds of copper - there were 23 other copper mines in the region, but
the total production of all 23 combined was only 26,067,000 pounds.
The earthquake that hit Alaska on March 27, 1964, caused massive
changes to the state's landscape. Latouche Island was raised an average
of 9 feet and moved about 60 feet to the southeast, resulting in
discoveries such as stumps from a forest that was submerged below sea
level and buried in prehistoric times.