Kathy Joanne, Chugach Bay

Kathy Joanne, Chugach Bay

by | Sep 22, 2021

Kathy Joanne is a shipwreck located on Badger Point, a peninsula between Chugach Bay and Windy Bay on the outer coast of the Kenai Peninsula and the southern end of the Kenai Mountains, about 95 miles (153 km) southwest of Seward and 18 miles (29 km) southeast of Seldovia, Alaska. The Kenai Mountains extend 120 miles (192 km) northeast from here to the Chugach Mountains and have elevations reaching over 5,000 feet (1,524 m) in the Harding Icefield. The name ‘Kenai’ was first published by Constantin Grewingk in 1849, who obtained his information from I.G. Wosnesenski‘s account of a voyage to the area in 1842. Chugach Bay is about 3 miles (5 km) wide at the mouth and faces southeast into the Gulf of Alaska with East Chugach Island about 2.4 miles (4 km) offshore offering limited protection from the south. Windy Bay is about 1.7 miles (3 km) at the mouth and opens to Rocky Bay. The local names for these embayments were reported in 1909 by U.S. Grant and D.F. Higgins of the U.S. Geological Survey. Badger Point is named after Badger Hill, a mountain with an elevation of 1,852 feet (564 m) that once supported a coastal temperate rainforest.

The Kathy Joanne was a fishing trawler that lost power and broached while drifting in heavy seas, and was blown ashore at Badger Point on Saturday, January 15, 1983. U.S Coast Guard Lieutenant Ray Schultz, a Sikorsky HH-52 helicopter pilot based out of Air Station Kodiak, was decorated for heroism and outstanding service for rescuing the crew. The vessel struck a reef near the shore which tore the keel from the hull complete with propellor, driveshaft, and engine. The remaining hull broke in half in the surf. Subsequent investigations of the shipwreck suggested that Kathy Joanne may have been fishing with a trawl net which fouled the propellor causing the vessel to be immobilized. Trawlers in the Gulf of Alaska primarily target groundfish including pollock, cod, flatfish such as flounder and sole, rockfish, and other demersal species. The ecological effects of bottom trawling include overfishing and bycatch, as well as impacts on the seafloor. Bycatch is a fish or other marine species that is caught unintentionally while fishing for other specific species. Bycatch is either the wrong species, the wrong sex, or is undersized or juveniles of the target species. For example, the incidental catch of juvenile and adult halibut occurs in trawl fisheries targeting groundfish species. Trawling gear affects the seafloor by disrupting the sediment, overturning boulders, and imprinting deep scars on muddy bottoms. Trawl nets also cause habitat damage by removing invertebrate fauna and structure-building organisms that create habitat used by fishes at a variety of life-history stages as refugia from predators.

The North Pacific coastal rainforests occupy a narrow coastal fringe along the Gulf of Alaska from British Columbia to Kodiak, including the outer Kenai Peninsula. This ecoregion contains more than one-fourth of the world’s coastal temperate rainforest and is still one of the largest and most pristine temperate rainforest and shoreline ecosystems in the world. Coastal temperate rainforests are rare and occur in only 6 places outside of Alaska. The vast majority of Alaska’s remaining coastal temperate rainforests are in national forests, national parks, and conservation areas that consist of old-growth Western hemlock, Sitka spruce, mountain hemlock, and Alaska yellow cedar. Coastal rainforests on privately held lands have been mostly clear-cut. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Seldovia Native Association contracted with South-Central Timber Development to log the coastal forests from Jakolof Bay, Rocky Bay, Windy Bay, and Chugach Bay. South-Central Timber also built a road that connects Seldovia to Jakolof Bay, with an extension to the Gulf of Alaska which is no longer maintained. Mature coastal temperate rainforests are extraordinarily complex habitats and many wildlife species have evolved to exploit this habitat. Understanding the complexity of this habitat is only now beginning to emerge under scientific study. Read more here and here. Explore more of Chugach Bay and Windy Bay here:

About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2022 (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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