Carry Inlet, Shuyak Island

Carry Inlet, Shuyak Island

by | Jul 29, 2022

Carry Inlet is an embayment about 0.5 miles (0.9 km) across that extends for 3 miles (5 km) into the northwest coast of Shuyak Island in the Kodiak Archipelago, about 81 miles (130 km) south-southwest of Homer and 56 miles (90 km) north of Kodiak, Alaska. Shuyak Island is about 11 miles (18 km) across and separated from Afognak Island by the narrow Shuyak Strait. The Stevenson Entrance to Cook Inlet separates Shuyak from the Barren Islands. The name Shuyak is an Alaska Koniag name that was reported in 1785 by Grigory I. Shelikhov. This may be the same island called ‘Isla de Bonilla’ on a map from 1791 by the Spaniard Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra. Carry Inlet is presumably named for a small boat portage at the entrance to Carry Inlet that connects Shangin Bay to the east and Shelikof Strait to the west. The name was first published in 1911 by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. The Border Ranges Fault is aligned with the axis of Shangin Bay, which is parallel to Carry Inlet, and separates partially metamorphosed sedimentary rocks of the McHugh Complex to the east from an igneous intrusion called the Afognak pluton to the west. The pluton is situated between the western shore of Shangin Bay and the eastern shore of Carry Inlet. The western shore of Carry Inlet is represented by the Shuyak Formation which is mostly volcanic rocks such as greenstone, breccia, tuff, and argillite. The Alaska-Aleutian subduction zone is a convergent plate boundary that runs for 2,100 miles (3,400 km) along the southern coastline of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. A portion of the trench lies just offshore and to the east of the Kodiak Archipelago, and here, the Pacific Plate is being subducted under the North American Plate at a rate of about 3 inches (7.5 cm) per year. Subduction zone earthquakes occur frequently and several megathrust earthquakes are recorded in sediment cores taken from four marshes on Shuyak Island. The sediment cores record variable amounts of deformation during historical megathrust earthquakes in 1964, 1788, and around 400 years ago, 850 years ago, and 1500 years ago. The sediment cores also showed recurring evidence of the cataclysmic volcanic eruption of Novarupta on the Katmai coast in 1912.

The Kodiak Archipelago lies about 19 miles (30 km) off the Alaska Peninsula in the Gulf of Alaska. This island group was the home of a Pacific Eskimo group or aggregate of subtribes called the Ko­niags or Alutiiq people. They numbered nearly 10,000 at the time of European contact in the 18th century, however, substantially larger numbers have been proposed based on the high count of large house pit sites by archaeological sur­veys along the Karluk and Ayakulik rivers. The Alutiiq people of the Kodiak Islands represent the cultural expression of at least seven millennia of development. The present and historical Kodiak ls­landers were preceded by a series of prehistorical cultures based on the archaeological record. The earliest tradition was Ocean Bay, which was succeeded by the Kachemak tradition. The two distinctively differed from one another, but the Kachemak appears to be primarily a local development out of Ocean Bay that took place about 3,500 years ago. In turn, the Kachemak tradition underwent major changes during the first centuries of the second millennium AD, probably under influence of a culture external to Kodiak, and developed into the Koniag tradition or ancestral Alutiiq. A Russian settlement was established in 1784 at Three Saints Bay on the eastern shore of Kodiak Island, although Russian fur hunters had established temporary shore stations earlier. The site was damaged by subsidence and a probable tsunami in the wake of an earthquake in 1788. In 1791, Alexander Baranov began moving the settlement to the site of present-day Kodiak. Shuyak Island was probably first explored by Russian and Alutiiq sea otter hunters. The convoluted shoreline of Carry Inlet was first thought to be part of a large islet belonging to the Perevalnie Islands which are situated off the northern coast of Shuyak Island. The inlet was named ‘Ostrov Perevalny’ meaning the ‘Island of Perevalny’ on charts published in 1849 by the Russian-American Company. The name was transliterated as Perevalnie Islets by Marcus Baker of the U.S. Geological Survey when he compiled the first Geographic Dictionary of Alaska in 1900. Since then it was discovered that Carry Inlet is actually part of Shuyak Island.

The long-term protection of threatened habitats was one of the earliest goals of the Exxon Valdez Trustee Council which was charged with restoring the environment injured by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Protection of habitat is a common restoration strategy used in natural resource management and the Trustee Council provided funds to acquire title or conservation easements from willing sellers of land determined to be important for the protection of species deemed valuable. In December 1995, the Trustee Council approved $42 million to purchase a parcel of 26,665 acres (10,790 ha) on Shuyak Island from the Kodiak Island Borough. Shuyak Island has an irregular, rocky coastline with rolling terrain thickly forested with Sitka spruce and a dense understory of alder, willow, devil’s club, blueberries, ferns, mosses, and lichens. The purchased parcel was surrounded at the time by Shuyak Island State Park on the west and the proposed Aleksandre Baranov State Game Refuge on the east. The parcel supports a rich diversity of wildlife habitats including seabird colonies, bald eagle nests, and harbor seal haulouts. Pink, coho, and chum salmon are found in the many streams and Steller sea lion, sea otter, porpoises and whales inhabit the nearshore waters. The rich intertidal zone supports harlequin ducks, black oystercatchers, marbled murrelets, and pigeon guillemots. The mature spruce forests on the parcel provide probable nesting habitat for marbled murrelets. There is also high potential for benefits to river otters, sea otters, and harbor seals, which feed, breed, and haul out along the shoreline. The area also has scenic value and supports high-value wilderness-based recreation including hunting, fishing, sea kayaking, and camping. The lands acquired on Shuyak Island are managed by the State of Alaska as part of Shuyak Island State Park. The park has four public-use cabins that are only accessible by air taxi or boats from Homer or Kodiak. Read more here and here. Explore more of Carry Inlet and Shuyak Island here:

About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2021 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

Credit: Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading). Click here for more information about the #warmingstripes.

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