Bering River, Controller Bay

Bering River, Controller Bay

by | Mar 17, 2021

Bering River starts at the terminus of the Bering Glacier and flows southwest about 20 miles (32 km) to Controller Bay, about 63 miles (102 km) west of Cape Yakutaga and 58 miles (94 km) southeast of Cordova, Alaska. The river was inexplicably named “Rio de Lagartos” (River of Lizards) in July 1779, by Don Ignacio Arteaga. The current name of the river is from the glacier and was first reported in 1903 by G.C. Martin, of the U.S. Geological Survey. The river flows into Controller Bay that extends for 15 miles (24 km) between the mouth of the Bering River at Strawberry Point and Okalee Spit. The bay was named “Comptrollers Bay” by Captain James Cook in 1778, probably for Maurice Suckling who was comptroller of the Royal Navy when Cook left on this expedition. The name was adopted by Captain George Vancouver, and was transliterated on Russian charts as “Zaliv Kontrolyer”.

The Bering Glacier is the largest and longest glacier in continental North America, with an area of approximately 1,998 square miles (517,500 ha), and a length of 118 miles (190 km). The name commemorates Vitus Bering, a Dane in the service of Russia under Peter the Great, and as leader of an official voyage of exploration, he was credited with the discovery of Alaska. His first landfall was made in this area in July 1741. The glacier is located on the Malaspina Coastal Plain and is bounded to the north by the Saint Elias Mountains and to the south by the Gulf of Alaska. The Bering Glacier is also the largest surging glacier in America, having surged at least five times during the 20th century. The glacial meltwater drains into ice-marginal lakes, the largest being Vitus Lake in the south and Berg Lake in the north. The Seal River drains Vitus Lake into the Gulf of Alaska, and the Bering River drains Berg Lake into Controller Bay.

A historical Tlingit village or seasonal fish camp named Chilkat was located on the north bank at the mouth of the Bering River until the early 1950s. A salmon cannery was built near the village in 1916, primarily to pack Bering and Copper River salmon. The Bering River fishery was also visited by fishermen from canneries on Wingham Island and at Cordova and was fished somewhat regularly until 1927 when the fishery was closed. The Bering River is the site of a coalfield with an estimated 35 to 65 million tons of recoverable coal. The potential development of the Bering River coalfield has created a century-long battle between conservationists and developers dating to the Guggenheim-Morgan Alaska Syndicate in the early 1900s, and today there are Korean interests. Read more here and here. Explore more of the Bering River and Controller Bay here:

About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2021 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

Credit: Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading). Click here for more information about the #warmingstripes.

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