In my book I mention how Jack made the first weather records on the Yukon for Smithsonian ornithologist, Edward Nelson. Jack also secured several specimens for Nelson and later named Fort Nelson in his honor. Recently, I received a copy of a report submitted by Nelson which mentions Jack McQuesten several times, including listing some of the specimens he secured.
Nelson says, about Jack's weather report, "In a brief meteorological record kept for me in 1880-'81 at Fort Reliance (the point where the Yukon crosses the British boundary line), by Mr. L. N. McQuesten, I find the lowest winter temperatures were (minus) 63 and 67 on the 19th and 20th of November, 1880, but thermometer recorded (minus) 50 and lower several times afterwards during that season, with long periods of minus temperatures. On May 10, 1881, the temperature arose to +58 and the ice in the Yukon broke up and began to move down.
According to Nelson, "I received from one of the fur traders, Mr. L. N. McQuesten, about two hundred bird-skins collected along the valley of the Yukon, between the mouth of the Tanana River and the point where the Yukon crosses the British boundary line."
Below are Nelson's words to describe what Jack provided to him:
PICA PICA IIUDSONIOA - American Magpie.
This handsome bird is limited in its distribution to a comparatively small portion of the Territory, occurring as a resident and abundant species along that portion of the coast-line extending from the Shumagin Islands east and south. It is abundant on Kodiak Island and in the vicinity of Sitka. Two specimens were brought me from the upper portion of the Yukon by Mr. McQuesten, who obtained them at Fort Reliance. These include all of the Alaskan records of this bird. The two specimens from Fort Reliance place its range close to the Arctic Circle.
FALCO COLUMBARIUS - Pigeon Hawk The well-known, widely-spread Pigeon Hawk is one of the most numerous and familiar birds of prey throughout the wooded portion of Northern Alaska, ranging during the migrations to the barren coasts of Bering Sea and the Arctic, and perhaps even extending its range to the north-eastern shore of Siberia. At Fort Reliance, on the Upper Yukon, Mr. McQuesten secured a specimen of this bird on April 22, 1878, and Mr. Dall records it as a permanent resident at Nulato; but this, I am inclined to think, is somewhat doubtful, from statements made me by the fur traders and natives.
CIRCUS HUDSONIUS - Marsh Hawk.
These hawks are numerous throughout Northern Alaska during the migrations. It is seen frequently along the barren coast of Bering Sea, and has been recorded as rather uncommon in the interior. The last of May, 1879, it was common at the Yukon mouth, and on May 6th a specimen was secured by Mr. McQuesten at Fort Reliance, on the upper part of this river.
FALCO PEREGRINUS ANATUM - Duck Hawk. A single specimen of this widely ranging species was obtained by Mr. McQuesten on the Upper Yukon at Fort Reliance on September 10, 1878.
DRYOBATES VILLOSUS LEUCOMELAS - Northern Hairy Woodpecker. This large form of the Hairy Woodpecker nests along the northern tier of States, particularly those bordering the Saint Lawrence, and thence north through the interior of the fur countries, reaching rarely, if at all, the coast of Bering Sea and the adjacent Arctic shores. The specimen in my collection was taken by Mr. McQuesten at Fort Reliance, on the Upper Yukon, about latitude ?? (unreadable), and undoubtedly the bird straggles still farther north.
SAYORNIS SAYA - Say's Phoebe. Several specimens of this bird were brought me from Fort Reliance by Mr. McQuesten, one a male taken on May 12, and a young of the year taken on September 12. The fur traders told me that the bird breeds thus far north, and perhaps even beyond, within the Arctic Circle, which crosses the Yukon a short distance from the locality whence came my specimens.
OTOCORIS ALPESTRIS LEUCOLAEMA - Pallid Horned Lark.
Throughout Alaska this species appears to be very rare. Two specimens were taken in the vicinity of Saint Michaels during my residence there, and three were secured on the Upper Yukon by Mr. McQuesten on April 3 and 30, 1879. All of these birds are spring males and typical of this variety. It is much more common on the headwaters of the Yukon during spring and summer than along the shores of Bering Sea, where it can only be counted a very rare straggler.
The males reach the Upper Yukon on their return in spring by the 5th to the 18th of April in nearly perfect breeding dress, and from the examination of specimens obtained there by Mr. McQuesten, as also of others taken in full breeding plumage, I am led to believe that, like the Snow Bunting, this bird does not undergo a spring moult, but attains its breeding plumage merely by the wearing away of the light edges to the feathers.
Edward Nelson mentions Captain Jack twice more:
"For repeated kindly aid during my residence in the north, I am under obligations to every one of the fur traders and agents of the Alaska Commercial Company with whom I came in contact, and to my associates at Saint Michaels, Messrs. Rudolph and Henry Neumann and M. Lorenz. I can never forget the cordial interest with which these gentlemen were ever ready to forward my plans, even at considerable personal inconvenience to themselves. To Mr. L. N. McQuesten I am under obligations for many specimens from the Upper Yukon, including the types of Ovis Dalli. (This is the Dall Sheep and Jack is recorded as first to secure a specimen of this hard to find mountain sheep.)"
"E. W. NELSON. SPRINGERVILLE, AKIZ., November 25, 1886."
"In closing this brief outline of work accomplished I take pleasure in acknowledging my indebtedness for favors received from the Alaska Commercial Company and particularly from its officers at Saint Michaels, Messrs. Neumann and M. Lorenz.The fur traders, one and all, forwarded my work with voluntary assistance, and my thanks are particularly due to Messrs. L. N. McQuesten, Charles Petersen, Fredrieks, and Williams."
"E. W. NELSON. SPRINGERVILLE, ARIZ., March 3, 1886."
Elsewhere, Jack is credited with discovering a new breed of bear. At first I thought this might be the Kodiak Bear but later found a more complete description which claimed that this bear had shorter legs on one side than the other because it lived at very high elevations. This does seem a little bit bizarre since the bear would have to always travel in one direction to take advantage of longer legs on one side. Still, the report was given seriously. I wonder if it was just Jack playing a joke on someone.