Coal Point, Homer Spit

Coal Point, Homer Spit

by | Mar 7, 2023

Coal Point forms the tip of the Homer Spit in Kachemak Bay on the southern Kenai Peninsula, about 15 miles (24 km) northeast of Seldovia and 5.7 miles (9 km) southeast of Homer, Alaska. The name is a translation by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey of the Russian ‘Mys Ugolnoy’ or ‘coal cape’ that was first published by Captain Mikhail Tebenkov in 1881. The Homer Spit is about 4.4 miles (7.1 km) long and was named in 1904 by Ralph W. Stone of the U.S. Geological Survey for the village of Homer which historically was located at Coal Point. The spit is formed by the southeastward movement and deposition of nearshore sediments along the western coast of the Kenai Peninsula. The spit is prevented from further elongation by a submarine trough over 650 feet (200 m) deep with strong tidal currents. The spit is the supra-tidal portion of a much larger subtidal feature called the Archimandritof Shoals. The shoals were initially formed as a moraine when Kachemak Bay was still dominated by ancient partially grounded tidewater glaciers. Sand and gravel that now erode from sea cliffs along the Cook Inlet shoreline are suspended by turbulent storm waves, then transported by shallow water wave-induced currents, and eventually deposited where wave energy is attenuated. The Archimandritof Shoals cause large waves to break farther offshore creating a relatively lower energy shoreline where sediment is deposited. Large high energy waves at high tide will cross the shoals and have caused extensive damage to the spit, as well as to the spit road and buildings.

In 1852, the Russian-American Company began coal mining at Coal Cove which was discovered by Nathaniel Portlock in 1786 at the entrance to Port Graham. The mine was worked until 1867 when the Alaska Purchase transferred the territory to the United States. In 1899, the Cook Inlet Coal Fields Company began developing a coal field within 3 miles (5 km) of the base of the Homer Spit. About 150 men were engaged in constructing 20 buildings at Coal Point for the original settlement of Homer, and a large dock on the east side of the point where there is a protected anchorage. A narrow gauge railroad was built along the spit from Coal Point to the mainland where it ascended a bluff and continued to a mining camp with 8 buildings between Cooper and Coal Creeks. Three tunnels were driven into a coal seam 6.5 feet (2 m) thick under the direction of John Kirsopp, a British mining engineer. During the winter of 1901-1902, the mail steamer Discovery was supplied continuously with fuel from this mine. In the spring of 1902, the operation was shut and no additional investments were made in keeping the mines or the railroad repaired. In 1904, Ralph W. Stone and a team from the U.S. Geological Survey used one of the buildings at Coal Point for headquarters while surveying Kachemak Bay for mineral resources. At that time there were no residents of Homer other than two company caretakers.

Coal Point and the Homer Spit consist of unconsolidated sediments that are constantly shifting in response to the volume of sediment deposition and erosion.  Earthquakes generally cause sea cliff subsidence on the eastern shoreline of Cook Inlet that potentially introduces massive volumes of sediment into the nearshore leading to more accretion. On March 27, 1964, an earthquake shook the Homer area for 3 minutes resulting in tectonic land subsidence of 3 feet (1 m) on the mainland and an additional 3 feet (1 m) from differential compaction of sediments on the Homer Spit. A submarine landslide on the steep submerged face of Coal Point destroyed most of the harbor breakwater. High tides flooded most of the spit; and the buildings at Coal Point, as well as the road, had to be elevated. Much of the Homer Spit has since been altered and the State of Alaska has attempted to control erosion with wooden beach groins, wooden bulkheads, a section of sheet piling, a concrete slab revetment, and most recently, massive blocks of riprap to prevent damage to the highway and other structures. Read more here and here. Explore more of Coal Point and the Homer Spit 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 !!