Point Franklin, Peard Bay

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Point Franklin, Peard Bay

by | Jul 8, 2020

Point Franklin is between Peard Bay and the Chukchi Sea, about 54 miles (87 km) southwest of Utqiaġvik and 33 miles (53 km) northeast of Wainwright, Alaska. Captain Frederick William Beechey, of the Royal Navy, named the cape in 1826 after Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin. Peard Bay is a shallow embayment about 20 miles (32 km) across on the Chukchi Sea coast named after Lieutenant George Peard.

This area of the Chukchi Sea, between Peard Bay and Icy Cape, is known for a recurring polynya. Polynyas are areas of year-around open water or thin ice found at predictable and recurrent locations in sea ice-covered regions. For 19th century whalers, these were open water wintering areas in an otherwise frozen world, with large concentrations of marine mammals, such as whales, walrus, seals, and polar bears.

The whaling disaster of 1871 was an incident in which a fleet of 33 American whaling ships was trapped in the Arctic ice and subsequently abandoned. It dealt a serious blow to the American whaling industry that was already in decline. In August 1871, the fleet was near Wainwright before a stationary high-pressure weather system reversed the normal wind pattern and pushed the pack ice toward the Alaskan coast. Seven ships were able to escape to the south, but 33 others were trapped. By mid-September, all 1,219 people aboard the ships evacuated in small whaleboats with a three-month supply of provisions, crossed 70 miles (110 km) of ocean, and were eventually brought to safety by the seven ships which had escaped the ice. Wreckage from several ships was recently found between Point Franklin and Wainwright. The painting “Abandonment of the Whalers In The Arctic Ocean September 1871” depicts several of the U.S. whaling ships involved. Read more here and here. Explore more of Point Franklin here:

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