Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Point Hope, overlooking the Chukchi Sea

In my wandering quest for Ultima Thule, this time I'm back in Alaska, in the western-most extension of the northwest Alaska coast, southwest of Barrow, called te North Slope.

This is no soft beauty - nature is harsh, civilization too far away, life is back to basics, no comfort, no modern luxury. Isolation is heavy on everyday living, but things got a lot better with, first, the building of the new well-equiped school and a good library, and second, internet access for all.

Point Hope, Alaska
Population ~750
Location 68º 21' N , 166º 47' W, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Point Hope (Tikiġaq) is located near the tip of Lisburne peninsula, a large gravel spit in a lowland area with several coastal lagoons facing the Chukchi Sea, south of the Arctic Sea and north of the Bering Strait.

The settlement got its name from a visiting british captain in honour of an englishman family "connected with the sea". But it had been for centuries inhabited by native Inupiat Inuit people.

Lisburne peninsula is in fact one of the oldest continuously occupied Inuit areas in Alaska.


The climate is arctic. The Chukchi Sea is frozen most of the year, but ice-free from late June until mid-September.

Point Hope in the distance, seen from frozen sea

Point Hope residents are dependent upon marine subsistence.
Ice conditions allow easy boat launchings into open leads early in the spring whaling season.

Native whalers launching the umiak

This highly favorable site, with its abundant resources, has enabled them to retain strong cultural traditions, after more than a century of outside influences. The history of Point Hope was strongly influenced by whaling, trading and caribou herding. Walrus and occasional polar bears are also traditional resources.

Umiak with harpoons in place
The umiak is made of animal skin on a wood frame

Seal skin covered umiak

Caribou herd

Some local facilities:

For shopping

Tikigaq School, the second largest in Alaska, serving more than 250 children

At the Youth Centre's library

The Post office

The igloo-shaped Community centre

Dressed for the cold

Typical house and sled

A wealthy native family: SUV car, 4 wheeler and sled.

At June's whaling festival: inuit drum playing and dancing
Whale bones are strong native symbols

Point Hope at sunset

Cape Thompson

Cape Thompson is a headland on the Chukchi Sea coast of Alaska.
It is located 26 miles to the southeast of Point Hope.

Towering spires and cliffs host giant rookeries

The cape facing ice floes in Chukchi Sea

Chukchi Sea at sunset: