Wrangell Narrows, Alexander Archipelago

Wrangell Narrows, Alexander Archipelago

by | Apr 13, 2019

Wrangell Narrows is a channel that extends south for 22 miles (35 km) from Frederick Sound to Sumner Strait, separating Mitkof Island from Kupreanof and Woewodski Islands, Alaska. The channel was named “Proliv Vrangelya”, or “Wrangell Strait”, in 1838 by G. Lindenberg after Ferdinand von Wrangel, who was the governor of Russian-American settlements in 1829. The name Wrangell Narrows once only referred to the narrowest central portion of the channel, but by 1919 on U.S. charts, the name for the entire passage was changed from Wrangell Strait to Wrangell Narrows.

The Wrangell Narrows has about 60 navigational lights and buoys to mark the channel because of the many hazards including islets, reefs, and shoals. The town of Petersburg is at the north end of the Narrows. The channel is part of the Inside Passage and is used by fishing boats and Alaska Marine Highway ferries. It is too shallow and narrow for the safe passage of very large ships. Because this is the only safe “Inside Passage” at this latitude, these larger ships must navigate in “outside” waters. Dry Strait to the east of Mitkof Island is part of the greater Stikine River estuary and not commonly used by marine traffic despite being a wider channel since it is dangerously shallow.

Ferdinand von Wrangel was a Baltic German explorer and seaman in the Imperial Russian Navy, an Honorable Member of the Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences, and a founder of the Russian Geographic Society. He was appointed chief manager of the Russian-American Company in 1829, effectively the governor of all settlements in North America. He traveled to his post by way of Siberia and Kamchatka. After thoroughly reforming the administration, he introduced the cultivation of the potato, opened and regulated the working of several mines, and urged the home government to develop a fur company. He was recalled in 1834 and returned by way of the Isthmus of Panama and the United States. Wrangel retired in 1864 but went on record opposing the sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867. Read more here and here. Explore more of Wrangell Narrows here:

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