Nate Becker lives with his family on a quiet stretch of the Yukon River as it flows into Alaska. On a recent ski trip, I visited the Beckers’ home along with two geologist friends. Nate had a question for them.
“Why are all the gold deposits located on the south side of the river here, and none are on the north side?” Becker said.
A quick look at the map of Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve showed what Becker was talking about. In the 160 miles between the towns of Eagle and Circle, a half-dozen gold-mining settlements — most of them ghosted out — were on the south bank of the Yukon River. Not one was on the north side. That seemed like more than a coincidence.
Bob Gillis, one of the skiers and a geologist who works for the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, said the gold imbalance was due to a slash in the Earth’s crust.
In 1904, R.G. McConnell of the Geological Survey of Canada named the Tintina Fault after an indigenous word for “chief.” The fault is a 1,000-mile line through mountains you can see on a zoomed-out map of eastern Alaska and western Canada.