McArthur River starts at the terminus of McArthur Glacier in the Neacola Mountains and flows southeast for about 9 miles (15 km) to the confluence of the outflow from the Blockade Glacier in the Chigmit Mountains, and then continues for another 21 miles (34 km) through the Trading Bay State Game Refuge to the western coast of Cook Inlet, about 65 miles (105 km) southwest of Anchorage and 29 miles (46 km) northwest of Kenai, Alaska. The river was named in 1910 for the survey ship McArthur by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Trading Bay is a shallow bight that extends northeast for 25 miles (40 km) from the West Foreland in the south to Granite Point in the north. The bay was named in 1786 by Captain Nathaniel Portlock who anchored here and traded with the Dena’ina Athabascans. The McArthur River Field, also known as Trading Bay Unit, is the largest producing oil field and the fourth largest gas field in Cook Inlet. The Union Oil Company of California discovered the field in late 1965 and three oil platforms started producing in 1968. A fourth platform was constructed in 1987 to develop deeper oil reservoirs.
McArthur was a survey ship for the U.S. Coast Survey from 1876 to 1878 and for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1878 to 1915. McArthur was built by the Mare Island Navy Yard in 1874 at Vallejo, California, and named after William P. McArthur, an American naval officer and hydrologist involved in the first surveys of the Pacific Coast of North America. The ship was powered by a steam engine and was 121.5 feet (37.0 m) long, with a beam of 20 feet (6.1 m) and a draft of 7 feet (2.1 m). She served almost exclusively in the waters of the Territory of Alaska. On 16 January 1915, McArthur was in Seattle, Washington when a fire broke out on the docks. The survey ship USC&GS Explorer, which had steam engines already running, towed McArthur and the USC&GS Thomas R. Gedney to safety, but McArthur was surplussed later that year. A series of survey vessels have since been named after William McArthur, including the survey ship NOAAS McArthur for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1966 to 1970 and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from 1970 to 2003. In 2003, the NOAAS McArthur II was built as an oceanographic research ship for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
William P. McArthur was born in 1814 in Sainte Genevieve, Missouri, and in 1832 was appointed midshipman in the U.S. Naval School at Norfolk, Virginia. In September 1849, Lieutenant Commander McArthur was placed in command of the US survey schooner Ewing to begin surveying the recently acquired coast of California and the west coast of the United States. Upon reaching San Francisco, Ewing and the USS Massachusetts were hampered from progress in the survey due to desertions of their crews to the California goldfields, including a mutiny when crew members rowing into the city threw an officer overboard in an attempt to desert. McArthur and the remaining crew managed to survey Mare Island Strait in San Francisco Bay before steaming to Hawaii to obtain additional crewmen. They returned to San Francisco in the spring of 1850 to resume the coastal survey of northern California and continue to the mouth of the Columbia River. Later that year, McArthur became ill with dysentery and died in Panama, and the body was returned to Mare Island for burial. Read more here and here. Explore more of McArthur River and Trading Bay here: