Cross Island, Beaufort Sea

Cross Island, Beaufort Sea

by | Feb 29, 2020

Cross Island is an Arctic barrier island, about 2 miles (3.2 km) long, located between McClure and Midway Islands on the Beaufort Sea coast, about 74 miles (119 km) northeast of Nuiqsut and 24 miles (40 km) north-northeast of Deadhorse, Alaska. The island was named in 1889 by Captain Stockton of the U.S. Navy, who wrote: “the island, though nameless, was marked by a wooden cross, from which fact it was called Cross Island”.

Cross Island is used for Iñupiat subsistence whaling, especially by the residents of Nuiqsut, a mainland village about 74 miles (119 km) southwest of the island. The village was re-established in 1973 when residents from Utqiaġvik (Barrow) moved to the region. Native traditions such as hunting (whale, caribou, fox, ptarmigan, etc.) and the making of native clothes and crafts continue, although the influence of modern society has reduced both need and interest in these activities to some degree. The traditional whale hunted by the whalers of Nuiqsut is the bowhead.

The bowhead whale is the only baleen whale to spend its entire life in the Arctic and sub-Arctic waters. The Alaskan population spends the winter months in the southwestern Bering Sea and migrates northward in the spring, following openings in the ice, into the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Bowhead whale jawbones are lined up on Cross Island in the Beaufort Sea near the whaling camp. There are 11 villages in Alaska that now hunt bowhead whales during the spring and fall migration. Read more here and here. Explore more of Cross Island here:

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