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Me and Nephew Bobby at the constantly eroding Point Barrow. (2007)
When I was a child, after hearing stories about my dad's time at the northern tip of Alaska, I always thought Barrow and Point Barrow were the same thing, but they're not. Barrow is a town and Point Barrow is the name of a bit of land that juts a little farther north into the Arctic Ocean. When you're at the Point looking north, the Chukchi Sea is on your left and the Beaufort Sea is on the right.
If you look at my Barrow Bullet Points, this picture was taken on our first day out. This is the picture that Candy chose for me to get framed to put in the living room. She likes this one best because my nephew Bobby is smiling with his teeth.
On our first day in Barrow, on the tour when this picture was taken, we learned about the severe erosion that is occurring all along the Alaskan coast. In Barrow in particular there are old (centuries old) graves that are being washed out to sea because the indigenous people used to bury people near the water.
The erosion is caused by global warming, and if you don't see the connection at first, don't worry because we didn't either. Here's the deal... In Barrow in the winter (when the sun is gone or almost gone) they have pack ice along the shore. You can't tell where the land ends and the ice begins in places. When the pack ice is in (we heard stories about how it'll just show up one morning — I thought it would be more gradual) the waves can't crash against the shore.
Because of global warming, the pack ice has been coming later and later in the year and that means the waves have more time to hammer the shore and wash away the land. Our guide, Daniel, would point to places along the shore swamped with water from the sea and tell us, “I remember when we could drive there.” So within his lifetime he is watching the land of his ancestors (and sometimes his ancestors as well; see my previous comment about the graves) disappear into the ocean. Scary stuff.
This later and later pack ice is also what is killing the polar bears. Because they do their best hunting out on the pack ice, with it showing up later and later, the bears are having to go longer without food.
Your Link of the Day is a National Geographic article that talks about the seaside erosion that Alaska is suffering. While it is disconcerting that this is happening, I really wish I had the means to travel along the remote Alaskan coast to take pictures of the erosion. Check out the article and you'll see what I mean. There are some more good picture in this article as well:
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