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Bonnie Hahn Retrospective
Bonnie Hahn
In this 2007 discussion, Bonnie Hahn talks about changes in Nome since the original Nome Communities of Memory project in 1996, including increased coastal erosion, modernization of the town's infrastructure, and changes in animal and fish populations.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2007-03-02

Project: Nome Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Jun 21, 2007
Narrator(s): Bonnie Hahn
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
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Changes in Nome since 1996

Jetties and their effects on beach erosion

The proposed gold mine near Nome

Travel and communication in the early days of Nome

Changes in hunting and fishing in Nome

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My Name is Bonnie Dunbar Hahn. I've lived in Nome since 1931. I'm trying to think of changes since 1996 when we last talked.

One of the biggest things for me is my home at Cape Nome, which we purchased in 1960. It's on the National Historical Registry. it was built in 1900. It was the only remaining roadhouse on the Iditarod Trail.

And last October, we had this tremendous storm which, the worst storm I can remember, that took about fifty to sixty feet of my land and half of my road in front of the house.

And a lot of people will say that it’s due to global warming. But I have another reason.

Several years ago, I'm not sure just how many years ago, but they built a large -- what do you call that -- jetty out here in Nome, which was to be used as a port for incoming ships that could land and offload things onto this jetty and bring -- haul them into Nome.

Because that port was built, it had blocked off all the sand that came into our Nome beaches. Because the sand migration is from west to east. So now there's a [--] beach build-up on the west side of Nome which was never there before and it took all -- a lot of the sand of the east side of Nome where we used to do a lot of picnicking down on the beach.

Our seawall is eroding because all the sand has been sucked out from underneath and its dropped two-to-three feet from where it was built as a seawall to protect Nome from the storms.

Then they built another port down at Cape Nome which is fourteen miles east, which is just a little bit from my camp, my historical camp. So when they built the port down at Cape Nome which is just a little bit west of my Cape Nome historical site, all the -- that was in 1986-- and all the sand started eroding from my beach right away. I noticed it the first year.

And wrote some letters complaining about it. Nothing was done. More and more sand was eroding, and all the storms up until last year, was no problem to my house and that house has sat there a hundred years until last year because there was no sand left on my beach.

It took everything and I attribute it to the ports that are built down at Cape Nome and to Nome so I don't believe that it’s all due to global warming at all.

So that's one big change, that's one of the biggest changes for me. And then another thing that was mentioned is this large mine that's coming in to Nome.

Somewhere I read that there were five hundred tons of cyanide brought in so they could mine, and there's a lot of controversy on that.

Not particularly about immediate problems, but thirty years down the road when our grandchildren might have problems and they've already left with all their gold, that's what I'm concerned about. That's a big change in Nome is this mine that's come in that's right at our back door.

And I for one am worried that eventually it'll get into our water system, but that's to be seen. I don't know.

Early days when I lived here, we could come in on an airplane but most of us came in on the boat. Were barged in from off the sea.

Now we just hop on a plane and go wherever we want to go and that's a big change.

As Caroline mentioned, you know, people just go on a weekend to some far off place and some even go for just a day or two and are back. Which was impossible in the early days.

And some of our streets have been paved. Which, we were used to gravel roads entirely until a few years back when they started paving our streets and that helped a lot for the sand...for the dust control.

Another change has been, I used to work the telephone company as a switchboard operator when you plug in and say "number please" and so on, now we all have telephones and the biggest thing recently is just last year the cell phone business came into Nome and that has been a huge change.

You see all the kids walking down the street with their telephone to their ears now for cell-phoning. And its helped. In a lot of cases the cell phone's been a very big boost.

My dad and mom were back here in 1927 and '28 there were no moose in our area at all. We never even heard about moose.

And since then, there are a lot moose come into the general vicinity. There's a lot of moose hunting around here now.

That's another change. And muskox which Caroline mentioned. There's I think something like four hundred muskox in our area now. Where there didn't used to be any.

Fishing has, was really bad for quite a long time. There were no fish hardly at all. And now they're coming back and I'm not sure why but fishing is getting a little bit better.

And for a while there we weren't allowed to get any fish at all in the rivers and now we're fishing again. Another thing that's been coming here is halibut fishing, that didn't used to be here at all. We never even heard of halibut before.

Until they, the last few years been a lot of halibut fishing out of here, mainly over near the islands Gambell and Savoonga.

And the crab fishing was real bad for a long time, now that's coming back a little bit. And so there have been some changes.