Cooper Island, Beaufort Sea

Cooper Island, Beaufort Sea

by | Nov 16, 2018

Cooper Island is a barrier island on Elson Lagoon in the Beaufort Sea, and one of the Plover Islands, about 23 miles (37 km) east of Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska. The Inupiat name is “lglurak”, meaning, in a general sense, “sod house like”, because two mounds on the island appear like sod houses from a distance.

Cooper Island was named in 1849-50 by Commander Thomas Moore, of the Royal Navy, for one of his officers on HMS Plover. HMS Plover was under the command of William Pullen, a Royal Navy officer who was the first European to sail along the north coast of Alaska from the Bering Strait to the Mackenzie River in Canada. His 1849 journey was one of the many unsuccessful expeditions to rescue Sir John Franklin and explore the Northwest Passage.

In the early 1970s, George Divoky found on Cooper Island a small colony of Black guillemots, a seabird with black summer plumage and large white wing patches. The Black guillemots were using wood debris left by the U.S. Navy in the 1950s as nest cavities for breeding. Divoky became so enamored with the island and the birds that he returned each summer since 1975. His study of the birds and the island has evolved from the biology of an intriguing bird species to a straightforward tale of climate change. Read more here and here. Explore more of Cooper Island here:

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