"The mine was operating from 1937 until 1941," she began. "It was around 1941 that Pearl Harbor happened, and everyone got nervous, because, if you know your geography, Alaska and Hawaii are real close."
Silence. What did she just say? "Around 1941"? How about exactly December 7, 1941? And Alaska DID feel threatened, but not because they thought the Japanese might make a lefty at Hawaii and beeline for the Hatcher Pass in Alaska -- but because Japan was just 2000 miles away from the Aleutians, that curving string of islands that juts out from the southwestern edge of Alaska and almost reaches Russia. Landing in the Aleutians (which they did in June 1942) would give them a base in North America from which to launch further attacks. And the mine didn't close in 1941 -- it operated for a couple years under a war-time exemption (other gold mines were deemed non-essential in wartime and closed) because, in addition to gold, this mine was a source of tungsten which was deemed essential. It was, however, eventually closed in 1943, not 1941.
Tokyo to Honolulu: 3860 miles
Honolulu to Anchorage: 2780 miles
Move men and planes 6640 miles or 2000 miles? Which would you choose?
So we were off to a humorous, if unbelievable start. Fortunately, she knew a bit more about the mine than she did of what was, from her 20-something perspective, "ancient history," but she lacked even that information unless it was in her tour. Her stock answer to most questions was, "I don't know" accompanied by a quick return to her script.
And I used a classroom globe to show a curiosity that can be found on many old globes: manufacturers used to fill that huge empty space in the Pacific Ocean with an analema. An analema looks somewhat like a figure 8, but is actually a representation of the path that the sun transcribes in the sky. If you were to take a photo of the sun at the same time each day for a year, the resulting pattern would be the analemma: