Elephant Point, Eschscholtz Bay

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Elephant Point, Eschscholtz Bay

by | Feb 6, 2021

Elephant Point is a headland and a historical reindeer station in Eschscholtz Bay at the head of Kotzebue Sound, about 56 miles (90 km) southeast of Kotzebue and 20 miles (32 km) north-northwest of Buckland, Alaska. The headland was named in 1826 by Captain Frederick William Beechey of the Royal Navy for the bones of “elephants” found in the vicinity. These were probably the fossilized bones of a woolly mammoth. Eschscholtz Bay is separated from Kotzebue Sound by the Choris Peninsula and Chamisso Island. The bay was discovered in 1816 by Lieutenant Otto von Kotzebue and named after the ship’s physician, Dr. Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz.

Elephant Point was the site of a village where 100 people once lived. The residents of what is now the village of Buckland have historically moved from one site to another depending on the availability of subsistence foods. Today, village residents are at Elephant Point seasonally to hunt beluga whales and to catch salmon. A herd of more than 2,000 reindeer is privately managed and the workers are paid in meat. Reindeer herding was introduced to the area in 1893 when the Alaska Reindeer Service was established as an integral part of the educational system of northern and western Alaska. This venture was commercialized by the Lomen Company in the early 1900s.

Lomen Company was an American meatpacking industry based in Nome and founded in 1914 by brothers Carl and Alfred Lomen. Between 1920-1929, the Lomen Brothers invested in the purchase of reindeer herds and developed a network of slaughterhouses, cold storage facilities, and reindeer farms. They bought their first herd in 1914, created a natural cold storage plant at Elephant Point in 1920, and organized the Lomen Transportation Company to meet the problem of insufficient ocean shipboard refrigeration. In 1930, they purchased a ship named Arthur J. Baldwin outfitted with refrigeration. For the next six years, the “Reindeer Ship” transported supplies such as lumber and gas from Seattle to northern ports, and shipments of reindeer meat from the Lomen farms to Seattle on returning voyages. The venture collapsed in 1937 when the U.S. 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 Elephant Point here:

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