Saturday, 18 May 2013

Journey to the Klondike Goldfields with Finding Fortune by Pippa Goodhart and Great Uncle Arthur!

 Finding Fortune by Pippa Goodhart is an adventure novel for older primary school children, although I enjoyed it a lot myself! It tells the story of Ida, whose mother has died, and who runs away with her father, Fa, to find their fortune in the Klondike Goldfields in 1897 at the height of the Gold Rush.
Pippa has done a lot of thorough research to make  the story believable, and you can find how she did it here on The History Girls blog.
From Grandmama's house, they escape across the Atlantic by ship to Quebec and then by train across the Canadian prairies to the west coast where they get yet another ship up to Dyea at the start of the Chilkoot Trail. On the way, they meet helpful and not so helpful prospectors who serve to hinder their progress.
The real challenge comes when Ida and Fa have to provide a ton of goods to last them for a year. They make many trips to Pass Summit carrying it all on their backs and then build a wooden boat to sail to Dawson before they can even think about finding gold. Some of the story is told in letters that Ida writes to Grandmama, in the hope that they will travel the thousands of miles to England. But did they find gold? You'll have to read Finding Fortune to find out!
I've always been interested in the Gold Rush, because my Great Uncle Arthur, pictured here, actually went! Aged just twenty, and the only boy in a family of five girls, he decided to go and seek his fortune. Heaven only knows what his mother went through!
I'm not sure whether he followed the Chilkoot Trail or the White Pass to the south, but both routes were treacherous, and the pack horses that people bought were no use and often left by the trail where they fell.
 In 1898, they began to build the White Pass Railroad, too late for Ida and Fa, and too late for Great Uncle Arthur.
We were able to ride on it on a trip to Skagway, Alaska. You can see how the train clings to the mountain side, and then rattles over the sort of trestle bridge you see in cowboy films, before entering a tunnel.
It made me think about the journey that he made over one hundred years ago, and the hardships he must have endured without the luxury of train travel.
The story goes that he did find gold, but spent it all on wine, women and song, despite how innocent he looks in the photograph!
Have you read Finding Fortune or travelled up the White Pass Railroad?


  1. Dear Jean, I've just found this post about my Finding Fortune, and I'm thrilled that you have done some of Ida's journey yourself. I wish I could! Your Uncle Arthur looks as if butter wouldn't melt, but....!
    Best wishes,

    1. Thanks, Pippa.
      I hope that you will be able to follow in Ida's footsteps one day!
      As for Uncle Arthur, who knows the true story?!