Shaw Island, Cook Inlet

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Shaw Island, Cook Inlet

by | Jan 25, 2021

Shaw Island is located in Cook Inlet near the entrance to Kamishak Bay, 2.5 miles (4 km) north of the Alaska Peninsula in Katmai National Park and Preserve, and about 119 miles (192 km) east-northeast of King Salmon and 79 miles (127 km) southwest of Homer, Alaska. The island was named “Shaw’s Island” in 1794 by Captain George Vancouver. The Native name “Shunakhtuli” was published in 1847 on Russian Hydrographic charts. Shaw Island is flat and grass-covered, surrounded by extensive rocky ledges that are exposed or awash at low tide.

At the height of the fur trade in the 1880s, the Alaska Commercial Company organized sea otter hunting parties by provisioning Aleut hunters and providing boats to transport them and their kayaks to hunting areas. Kamishak Bay was an important hunting area when sea otters were regionally in rapid decline. The nearest trading station was at Douglas on Shelikof Strait. Each spring, hunters from several villages on the Alaska Peninsula migrated to the area to hunt for the Alaska Commercial Company. Many camps were spread out along the shores from Augustine Island south to Cape Douglas and hunters were also known to occupy nearby islands, including Shaw Island. Schooners traveled around the Cook Inlet area to pick up furs and deliver them to the Douglas Station. Poor hunting returns and epidemics led to depopulation of the Katmai region, and the Douglas Station closed in 1901.

The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989, and 10.8 million US gallons (257,000 bbl or 37,000 tonnes) of crude oil flowed into the Gulf of Alaska and was then carried west by the coastal currents to Cook Inlet and Shelikof Strait. Storms mixed the oil with water and transformed the crude oil into a water-in-oil emulsion called mousse with significantly greater volume. Rafts of this oil mousse were stranded sporadically along the Gulf of Alaska coastlines of the Kenai Peninsula, the Kodiak Archipelago, and the Alaska Peninsula. In the aftermath of the oil spill, Gulf of Alaska shorelines were surveyed for stranded oil and cleanup was carried out in the most heavily oiled areas. In 1992, oil was found on Cape Douglas and Shaw Island but was rapidly degraded by subsequent winter storms. Read more here and here. Explore more of Shaw Island here:

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