Torch Bay, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

Torch Bay, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

by | Apr 20, 2021

Torch Bay is about 3 miles (4.8 km) long, located on the outer coast of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve about 7 miles (11.3 km) north of Cape Spencer, 52 miles (84 km) northwest of Hoonah and 41 miles (66 km) west-southwest of Gustavus, Alaska. The bay was named by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1926. Torch Bay was the site of a field camp established by the University of Washington in the 1970s to study the effects of sea otter reintroduction.

The early Russian colonization of Alaska was largely a result of the sea otter fur industry. An estimated 300,000 sea otters populated the West Coast of North America when Captain James Cook explored the area in 1778, but with as many as 18,000 pelts being collected yearly by Russian trading ships, the sea otters were quickly depleted. Alaska was sold to the United States in 1867, and in 1911 the sea otter population was estimated at less than 2,000. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game reintroduced 412 sea otters from Amchitka Island, where the Atomic Energy Commission was conducting underground nuclear weapons testing, and from Prince William Sound to 6 sites in Southeast Alaska between 1965 and 1969.

The studies in Torch Bay showed that where otters were reintroduced, there were extensive kelp beds and diverse ecosystems, but where otters weren’t found, sea urchins thrived but many other species did not. Sea urchins are a preferred food of sea otters so the effect of sea otter predation on urchins was profound. In areas with sea otters there were fewer urchins but more kelp beds, more fish, and more seabirds and eagles. These results led to a better understanding of keystone species and helped shape a new ecosystem conservation paradigm. Read more here and here.  Explore more of Torch 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.

Please report any errors here

error: Content is protected !!