Swanberg Dredge, Rocker Gulch

Swanberg Dredge, Rocker Gulch

by | Aug 16, 2019

The Swanberg Dredge floats in a small pond at Rocker Gulch, about 200 feet (61 m) north of the Nome-Council Highway, and approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) east of Nome, Alaska. The Bering Sea is to the south, the Kigluaik Mountains to the north, and undeveloped flat land to the east.

The Swanberg Dredge has a barge-like steel hull, 60 feet (18 m) long, 30 feet (9 m) wide, and about 6 feet (1.8 m) deep. There is a coal-fired boiler in the hull that provided steam heat and a diesel generator that provided electrical power for the machinery. A one-story superstructure covers virtually the entire hull area. A second story on the half of the superstructure toward the bow of the dredge contains the winch room, hopper, and upper end of the trommel screen. The superstructure is steel with corrugated metal sheathing. The flat roofs are covered with metal sheets.

The Swanberg Dredge, initially known as the Johnson-Pohl Dredge, exemplifies the hopes of mining companies to resume profitable operations on the Seward Peninsula after World War II. The Gold Beach Dredging Company purchased a dredge in San Francisco and shipped it in pieces to Nome in 1946. Unfortunately, wartime inflation made the fixed price of gold, $35 an ounce, inadequate to cover labor and other operating costs. The Swanberg Dredge only operated on the Seward Peninsula for one season before a local bank took possession in 1947. It stands where it stopped operating, and now is an example of small remote mining operations, the economic risks of gold mining, and the challenges miners faced working in the far north during the middle years of the twentieth century. Read more here and here. Explore more or Rocker Gulch here:

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