Skookumchuck, Brownson Island

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Skookumchuck, Brownson Island

by | May 21, 2018

Brownson Island is located off the southeast coast of Etolin Island and separated only by the narrow Canoe Passage, about 47 miles (75 km) north-northwest of Ketchikan and 36 miles (58 km) south of Wrangell, Alaska. Canoe passage was first described by Lieutenant Commander A.S. Snow of the U.S. Navy in 1886. The island was named in 1891 by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey for Lieutenant Commander Willard Herbert Brownson, a highly decorated U.S. Naval officer of the late 19th century.

Brownson Island is cut almost in two by a large lagoon connected to Ernest Sound by a narrow passage. The narrow passages and large range of tides in Southeast Alaska create very strong currents, and in some cases tidal rapids. A tidal rapid is a “skookumchuck” in the Chinook language, literally meaning strong water.

Ernest Sound has a tidal range of up to 23 feet (7 m), which forces large volumes of seawater through the many surrounding inlets and embayments. As the tide rushes out, water surges through these narrows in turbulent rapids and whirlpools. Current speeds here can exceed 16 knots (30 kph). These areas of high currents often have dense concentrations of filter-feeding organisms like mussels and anemones. Read more here and here. Explore more of the skookumchucks on Brownson Island here:

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