Cape Etolin, Nunivak Island

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Cape Etolin, Nunivak Island

by | Nov 29, 2019

Cape Etolin is a point of land extending into the Bering Sea on the north coast of Nunivak Island, 25 miles (40 km) southwest of Cape Vancouver on the mainland, and 6.4 miles (10 km) northeast of the community of Mekoryuk, Alaska. The cape was named “Mys Etolina” by the Russians for Captain Adolph Karlovich Etolin, who explored this area in 1821 and was governor of the Russian American colonies from 1841-45.

Nunivak Island is 60 miles (97 km) across, located in the Bering Sea, and separated from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta by Etolin Strait. The island was discovered on July 21, 1821, by Captain M.N. Vasiliev of the Imperial Russian Navy and was named after his ship Otkritie meaning “Discovery” and this was recorded on early Russian maps. Adolf Karlovich Etolin and V.S. Khromchenko of the Russian American Company found the island about the same time. Etolin was a Swedish-speaking Finn, born in Helsinki in Swedish Finland, and became a naval officer, explorer, and administrator in the Russian Empire. Etolin traveled from Russia to America for the Russian American Company with Vasily Golovnin on the Kamchatka in 1817 and served from 1818 to 1825 as a shipmaster. He was part of a group that surveyed the Bering Sea in 1822 to 1824, and then became the adjutant for the Chief Manager or “Governor” of Russian America in 1834, and became Chief Manager himself from 1840 to 1845. From 1847 to 1859, he was a member of the board of the Russian-American Company in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

In 1920, the Lomen Company, an American meatpacker founded in 1914 by brothers Carl and Alfred Lomen, imported reindeer to the island. From 1920–1929, the Lomen Brothers invested in the purchase of more reindeer herds, the crossbreeding of caribou and reindeer, and they built several slaughterhouses and processing facilities in Alaska. The company dominated the export market of reindeer meat and skins for the United States. In 1929, with the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression, the market for reindeer meat began to decline. They also began to have trouble with cattle producers who lobbied Congress to impose barriers to the promotion and sale of reindeer meat. In 1937, Congress passed the Reindeer Act that transferred the possession of all Alaskan reindeer herds to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Read more here and here. Explore more of Cape Etolin here:

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