In 1898 Lady Hamilton, recently arrived from England, is traveling by rail on a tour of the West. During the trip Hannah Butler, one of her servants, meets Hans Nelson, a fellow traveler bound for the Pacific. Their courtship is brief and they soon marry. Nelson has visions of striking it rich as he plans to make a fortune mining gold. Along the way they encounter three other gold-seekers: Harky, Dutch and Michael Severts.
Their journey seeking riches is not an easy one, as countless others discover. Undaunted by the climate and horror stories, they manage to make a tenuous landing after a ferocious storm in Lituya Bay, Alaska. For months they work tirelessly with meager results. Their promise of wealth eludes them. When they lose their only means of transportation back to civilization, their despair is lifted when Negook, a local Tlingit shaman, agrees to take them back home. As they enter his village, abundant food and wealth are everywhere, and a plan to stay is agreed upon by all. Negook is convinced the white people are causing bad luck to his people. He knows that the only way for him to rid himself of their presence is to give them what they want. He sees that greed is driving their destiny and is sure they won’t survive, so Negook leads them to gold, lots of gold.
Heartbroke Bay is based on the true story of Hans and Hannah Nelson. With D’Urso’s research and some imagination, it is easy to picture the despair and isolation felt by the four men who, along with Hannah Nelson, battled the harsh and hostile climate of Alaska.