Ocean currents from around the world make their way to the 6,640 miles of shoreline that make up Alaska, meaning that the sea glass found here could be from anywhere in the world.
However, my favorite story includes Wyatt Earp, who came to Alaska in 1898, the year before gold was first discovered in Nome. Wyatt soon opened the biggest saloon in Nome, which was a more profitable business than gold prospecting. Back in the day, most trash was simply dumped out at sea, meaning tons of glass bottles and jars ended up in the bottom of the ocean. That glass broke down, and continues to break down, before ending up on beaches along the west coast of Alaska, including Unalakleet.
Within a year of Wyatt’s Dexter Saloon opening, up to four ships left Seattle everyday, headed up the coast to Nome. These ships were often loaded with as many as 700 people, tons of general merchandise and mining machinery, dismantled theatres, hotels, and restaurants, all bound for the west coast of Alaska to set up an “instant city” in the small fishing village of Nome. Again, glass bottles were thrown overboard to lighten the load along the way.
Being that the waters around Nome were, and still are, too shallow for ships and docks, the steamers carrying the passengers were met by smaller boats that transported them and the cargo to 30 feet from shore, where the women and cargo were carried by the men, who waded through the surf. It was quite a production!
Meanwhile, another story passed by word of mouth is that Wyatt also had a floating saloon of sorts that traveled across the Norton Sound, between Nome and St. Michael. Every empty beer and whiskey bottle was thrown overboard and it is that boat from which most of the Norton Sound sea glass comes. However, I have been unable to find any written documentation of any such occurrence.
Finally, there is a legend as old as time that when a sailor drowns at sea, the Mermaids cry, and their tears wash up on shore as colored glass
One thing is for sure; the possibilities are endless as to the history surrounding these pieces of glass, tossed around in the Bering Sea for generations. The mysteries of the surf will remain just that.