Point Hope, Chukchi Sea

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Point Hope, Chukchi Sea

by | Dec 30, 2020

Point Hope Peninsula is a prominent point of land extending west for 13 miles (21 km) from the mouth of the Kukpuk River on the Cape Lisburne peninsula into the Chukchi Sea, about 320 miles (516 km) southwest of Utqiaġvik and 151 miles (244 km) northwest of Kotzebue, Alaska. The Iñupiat name for the point is “Tikiġaq” or Tigara which is derived from the word meaning “forefinger”. The first recorded Europeans to sight this cape were the Russian explorers Mikhail Vasiliev and Gleb Shishmaryov of the Imperial Russian Navy on the ships Otkrietie and Blagonamierennie. They named this point “Mys Golovnina”, after Vice Admiral Vasily Golovnin. In 1826, the cape was renamed by Captain Frederick William Beechey of the Royal Navy, who named it Point Hope for Sir William Johnstone Hope who was a British Royal Navy officer and politician in the late 18th and early 19th century.

The location of the Point Hope spit is due to the combined influence of the Kukpuk River and a coastwise current that sets northward out of Kotzebue Sound. Point Hope is a twin spit complex that encloses several lagoons, the largest being Marryat Inlet, at the mouth of the Kukpuk River that flows west from the Sakpik Mountains. The north spit is anchored by rugged cliffs of the Lisburne Hills. The south spit is anchored by Cape Thompson. The beach ridge sequence that extends across Point Hope predominantly represents variability in storm-driven wave energy, sediment supplied by coastal erosion, and onshore transport of shelf gravels by the ice pack. Historically when the multi-year ice pack achieved thicknesses of 36-48 feet (11-15 m), the ice would ground in the shallow nearshore water. The constant pressure exerted by wind and ocean currents would cause the ice to shove unconsolidated gravels and sand up the beach face causing the formation of beach ridges.

Point Hope Peninsula has been continuously occupied by the Iñupiat and their ancestors for over 2,500 years. Historical settlements on the peninsula include Ipiutak and Old Tikiġaq, New Tikiġaq (also known as Tigara), and a historical whaling station originally named Coopers and now known as Jabbertown, are situated on the peninsula. The beach ridges provided dry ground for houses and the spit provided hunting access to a polynya that opens under conditions of northerly winds. The location is particularly advantageous for hunting whales that come close to shore during the seasonal migration. Read more here and here. Explore more of Point Hope here:

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