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Peard Bay, eastward of Point Franklin, is a deep bight which is often used by whalers in heavy southerly and southwest winds, and for protection from ice when it sets toward the shore. The bottom of the bay is regular, and the soundings decrease gradually to the shore. The water is deeper along the mainland than on the south side along the sand spit making out to Point Franklin.
The coast from Peard Bay to Cape Smyth is a line of mud cliffs 25 to 70 feet (7.6 to 21.3 m) high, being highest at what is called Skull Cliff. From this point they become gradually lower to Cape Smyth, where they end. The coast curves regularly northward, and there are no projecting points. The cliffs are broken by numerous small rivers. There are beaches at the mouths of the rivers, but little or none along the face of the cliffs.
Cape Smyth is not a projecting point, and can not be distinguished as a cape. There is a native village named Utkiavi at this place.
From Cape Smyth to Elson Lagoon the coast is low with a grassy plain back of it; but from the south shore of Elson Lagoon to Point Barrow the coast is a narrow sand spit.
BARROW is the post office and settlement about 10 miles southwestward from Point Barrow. There is an important trading post here and a store well stocked with provisions. There is a mission and a well-equipped hospital maintained in connection with it. The Bureau of Education maintains a school at Barrow.
There is a radio station, call letters WXB, operated by the United States Army Signal Corps.
A few trading vessels call at Barrow during the season of navigation, and a vessel of the Coast Guard makes an annual cruise to the Arctic calling at Barrow.
During the winter the only travel is by dog team or by airplane. Mail goes in by dog team about twice each winter.
Landing at Barrow is difficult and often hazardous. Lighters are kept on hand for discharging freight.
Anchorage.-Offshore soundings of 15 fathoms (27.4 m) are found 2 miles from the land. The water then shoals evenly to 7 fathoms (12.8 m) at about 1 mile from shore.
The depths then lessen rapidly to 21/2 to 3 fathoms (4.6 to 5.5 m) about 34 mile offshore, where there is a slight ridge shoved up by the ice, and which in the early part of the season is always marked by heavy ground ice. Inside and close to this ridge the water deepens again to 3 to 4 fathoms (5.5 to 7.3 m), and vessels seek this inside passage for protection from the ice when necessary. The ridge ends in a 21/2-fathom (4.6 m) shoal about 112 miles offshore, where the high land ends and the sand spit begins at the head of Elson Lagoon. From this point to Point Barrow, depths of 312 to 4 fathoms (6.4 to 7.3 m) can be carried very close up to the sand spit and there is apparently no ridge in the bottom as in that southward.
At POINT BARROW, latitude 71°23'31" N., longitude 156°21'30'' W., the most northern point of Alaska, the sand spit forming the coast turns abruptly eastward. There is a native village on the end of the point. Directly off the point the water is fairly bold, and 3 fathoms (5.5 m) can be carried to within 14 mile of the shore. Farther offshore the deepest water of this part of the Arctic Ocean is found. On rounding the point eastward the water becomes shoal,
and the coast can seldom be approached anywhere closer than 2 miles. About 2 miles east of Point Barrow is Moore Channel, the entrance to Elson Bay, where H. M. S. Plover wintered in 1852– 53-54. A shoal with a least depth of 2 fathoms (3.7 m) makes off from the point on the east side of the channel and extends westward, from 1/2 to 34 mile off the sand spit, and ends nearly opposite the native village at Point Barrow. Inside the shoal there is a channel leading to Moore Channel, with nothing less than 3 fathoms (5.5 m), and deeper water in Moore Channel. This channel is often used as an anchorage for protection from the ice, as heavy ice grounds on the outer shoal. Changes may be expected in the channel at the entrance.
Tides.—The mean rise and fall at Point Barrow is about 12 foot.
The coast eastward of Point Barrow is shown on chart 9400.
A shoal, with a depth of 312 fathoms (6.4 m), is reported to lie about 6 miles northeastward from Point Barrow.
Ice.—The ice pack seldom moves more than a few miles offshore between Icy Cape and Point Barrow, and is likely to close in at any time. A northeast wind, although it blows directly along the shore, keeps the ice clear and allows the current to set up past Point Barrow. The heavy ice, when close inshore, stops the surface current entirely and lowers the temperature to about 36° F. or less, so that a vessel working up the shore may readily tell if the ice is on the point by watching the set of the current and the temperature of the water. If the ice is clear of the shore, the current will be setting northward from 1 knot to 3 knots, with a temperature of about 40° F.
A vessel going northward of Icy Cape should sight the ice pack frequently, keeping close watch of its movements, and in the event of its starting inshore should get below Blossom Shoals as soon as possible, as several vessels have been caught in the ice in the vicinity of Point Barrow, and some probably crushed.
Eastward of Point Barrow it is reported that ice is always found along the coast, the heavier ice being in close proximity to the various projecting points and islands. With westerly or northwesterly winds the ice pack is likely to come down upon the shores at any or all of these points, while a northeasterly wind may be expected to clear the ice from the coast and open a lane.
The following report on the cruise of the Coast Guard cutter Bear in 1921, by Captain Cochran, may be of interest as showing conditions in a fairly open season:
The Bear left Cape Smyth August 8, 1921, rounded Point Barrow, and proceeded to Demarcation Point, arriving there on August 15, 1921.
Coast and Geodetic Survey chart 9400 was used and found to be fairly accurate. The greatest discrepancy noted was in the longitude of the islands marked “Jones Islands." This group of islands is termed “Thetis Islands" on B. A. chart 2435. Leffingwell has named the westernmost island of this group, in longitude 150°, "Thetis Island.” Professional Paper No. 109, issued by the United States Geological Survey, based on surveys made by Leffingwell, was valuable in identifying the numerous islands and reefs.
Ice was first encountered a little east of Cape Halkett. From there to Demarcation there was considerable ice. The heavy ice appears to reach in to about 7 and 8 fathoms. If the ice forces the vessel inshore into shoal water, it is advisable to stop and anchor and wait a more favorable opportunity rather than to run offshore unless a clear lead can be seen which will bring the vessel back into water from 5 to 7 fathoms deep. Several times the Bear attempted
to go offshore in depths from 8 to 10 fathoms, and each time encountered very heavy ice and had eventually to work back through this ice into shoaler water.
The discharge from rivers carries the ice offshore. This was noted especially off the Colville River, off Canning River, and off Camden Bay.
From the Thetis or Jones Islands to Flaxman Islands the ice was close to the reefs and islands, and at Cross Island the vessel passed through 3 fathoms of water about 14 mile north of the island.
From Barter Island past Martin Point, Griffin Point, Humphrey Point, and Beaufort Lagoon to the end of Icy Reef the ice was fairly close to the island and reefs. Along the reef off Beaufort Lagoon the vessel again passed through 3 fathoms of water. About halfway along Icy Reef the ice was packed in to the shore. A clear lead was found outside of this ice and a course laid for Demarcation Point. While the vessel was at anchor off Demarcation Point a very heavy swell was experienced during a northeast gale, indicating that the ice was a long distance off in this vicinity. It is said that freedom from ice in this locality is usual at this season. This may be due to the discharge from the Mackenzie River carrying the ice offshore.
Along the entire route the water shoals very gradually and soundings give ample warning of shoaling.
The current sets from east-northeast to west-northwest, average strength 1/2 to 1 knot. The strength of the current may have been augmented by fresh east-northeast breezes covering a long period.
The water close in to the north shore of Cape Halkett is very shallow. A landing was attempted with the whaleboat, but could not be made, due to shoal water extending a considerable distance offshore. Information was obtained later that a landing can best be effected to the southward of the island forming the pitch of the cape. A landing was made at Griffin Point where there is an abandoned native village, the beach off the village being steep enough to permit easy landing of the boat. A landing was made at a native village near the west end of Beaufort Lagoon at Point Humphrey. The water is shoal off this place but with care a landing can be made with a light-draft boat. A boat trip was made from Point Humphrey to a point about 8 miles to the eastward through Beaufort Lagoon. There are numerous shoals in this lagoon, but 4 or 5 feet of water was carried practically the entire distance made by the boat. A landing was made at Cape Simpson, which is mentioned as the position of an oil seepage near two prominent mounds in Leffingwell's account of his explorations on the Artic coast. This oil seepage was found to be about 3 miles to the southward of the beach at the pitch of the cape, and the earth in the neighborhood of this exudation of petroleum has the appearance of asphaltum. Numerous claims have been staked in the vicinity of this oil seepage. A landing was effected without any trouble at Demarcation Point, as there are no off-lying shoals to render such a landing difficult.
Gordon's trading station, consisting of several buildings, is located close to the shore about 14 mile east of the beginn of the higher land at the east end of Demarcation Bay. The summer of 1921 was a particularly open season on the Alaskan coast.
Trading posts.-Captain Pederson of the trading vessel Patterson, reports that trading posts are located at the following points eastward from Point Barrow: Cape Halkett, Beechey Point, Barter Island, Demarcation Point, and Herschel Island.
Tangent Point is low, flat, and indented by a number of shallow lagoons.
Cape Simpson, at the western entrance to Smith Bay, is low with two 50-foot (15.2 m) hills near it. There are two oil seepages near the cape. A boat landing can be made at Cape Simpson.
CAPE HALKETT lies about 55 miles eastward of Tangent Point. The water close in to the north shore of Cape Halkett is shoal, making a landing difficult or impossible. It is reported that a landing can be made to the southward of the island at the cape.
Pacific Shoal, about 1 mile in extent and having about 15 feet (4.6 m) of water, is reported about 7 miles eastward of Cape Halkett.
Colville River enters the ocean 40 miles eastward of Cape Halkett. The delta at the mouth of the river is called Beechey Point. Jones Islands, also called Thetis Islands, extend from the delta of Colville River eastward a distance of 25 miles to Return Reef. The group consists of a considerable number of small islands, the largest reported to be about 3 miles in length. Leffingwell has named the westernmost island of this group Thetis Island.
Return Reef was the most westerly point reached by Franklin in his exploration of the coast in 1826.
Midway Islands, about 15 miles eastward of Return Reef, form the western extremity of a chain of islets and shoals known as Lion Reef, which extends eastward, roughly parallel to the coast, a distance of 50 miles to Flaxman Island. The islands lie, in general, from 4 to 7 miles offshore. Separating the islands from the mainland, is a channel, with depths from 1 to 2 fathoms (1.8 to 3.7 m) as reported by Leffingwell who spent several years on Flaxman Island.
Vessels enter past Pole Island, about midway of the group, steering for a small inshore group of islands shown on the chart until in mid-channel. They then follow the mainland, coming out in the vicinity of Return Reef. The entrance channel is said to be marked by a pole on the island.
A shoal area is reported to exist about 25 miles northward of Flaxman Island, but no definite information concerning it is available.
Simpson Cove lies 20 miles east-southeastward of Flaxman Island. The cove, although restricted, is said to afford good anchorage, available for winter quarters, southward of Collinson Point. Á sand spit affords protection from northerly winds and from ice.
During the summer the Eskimos come down from the interior for trading purposes, and at that season their camps may be expected at Collinson Point and Barter Island. During the winter the region is uninhabited.
Barter Island lies about 45 miles east-northeastward of Flaxman Island. From Barter Island eastward to Herschel Island the coast, although still low, has deeper water than that to the westward. East of Barter Island the 10-fathom (18.3 m) curve is a good depth to follow, while west of the island the depth usually carried is abouti 7 fathoms (12.8 m).
DEMARCATION POINT is the northern extremity of the boundary between Alaska and Canada.
Gordon's trading post, consisting of several buildings, is located close to the shore about 14 mile eastward of the beginning of the higher land at the east point of Demarcation Bay. In 1921 the magnetic variation at Demarcation Point was observed to be 40°45' E.
HERSCHEL ISLAND, about 45 miles eastward from the boundary line, is an important trading post, and a station of the Northwest Mounted Police of Canada. Many vessels have wintered here. Supplies go in both by vessel from the westward and from the Mackenzie River. Every fall, about the 1st of December, mail is taken out from Herschel Island by the mounted police. Letters are brought in during July, when the freight arrives from Fort McPherson. The round trip to Fort Yukon requires about 2 months.
There is a Canadian Government radio station, call letter VEE, which is operated during the summer months only, usually from the latter part of July to the latter part of September.
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