If American explorer, Frederick Schwatka had his way, the famous Yukon Lake called Tagish would be named Bove Lake. Imagine that. One of the Yukon’s most beautiful and important lakes named for an Italian naval Lieutenant!
How did it almost happen? Well, the West Point-trained American military man, Frederick Schwatka, was one of the first outsiders to explore the Yukon River system.
In the summer of 1883, Schwatka travelled over the Chilkoot Pass to Lake Lindeman and Lake Bennett, then through the narrows at Carcross and on to the mouth of Windy Arm. From here, Schwatka’s party of seven men continued down Tagish and Marsh lakes and into the Yukon River.
Schwatka, the explorer, was notorious for giving names to almost every geographic feature he saw. He made little or no attempt to record names already in use by the local miners or native people that he met along the way.
He shrewdly bolstered his American-based financial connections during his 1883 expedition by naming many features after prominent geographers or explorers, including Lindeman Lake after Dr. Lindeman of the Bremen Geographical Society, and Lake Bennett after Gordon Bennett, publisher of the New York Herald.
So it is no surprize that even though Schwatka new that Lake Tagish already carried the native name, he named it Lake Bove. There is also a fairly large island, just off the north shore, that he named Bove Island. The name “ Lake Bove “ stuck until the original name Tagish was restored on Canadian Maps in 1887 by explorer George Dawson.
So who was Bove, for whom there is still an island in Tagish Lake named for him? Giacomo Bove was born in a little Italian village (Maranzana) in 1852. He became a Lieutenant in the Italian navy in 1876 and led some Italian-sponsored scientific expeditions to Africa.
Bove had wanted to explore Antarctica but got only as far as Africa. On one trip there he became very ill. When he returned to Italy, the illness got much worse. Giacomo Bove, for whom that much photographed island in Tagish Lake is named, committed suicide in August of 1887.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
See also: Frederick Schwatka