Point Barrow, Arctic Ocean

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Point Barrow is a narrow point of land between the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, and is the northernmost point in Alaska. The point was named by Captain Frederick William Beechey, of the Royal Navy, in September 1826, for Sir John Barrow of the British Admiralty, "to mark the progress of northern discovery”. The point was discovered by Thomas Elson, William Smyth, and the crew whom Beechey sent in an open boat to explore northward when his ship, the HMS Blossom, was unable to proceed farther due to sea ice. The Inupiat name for the point is "Nuwak" meaning ''point of land". The point was originally named "Cape North" by Thomas Simpson before the present name became established.

Point Barrow is an important geographical landmark, marking the limit between two marginal seas of the Arctic, the Chukchi Sea and the Beaufort Sea. The water around it is now ice-free for two or three months a year, but this was not the experience of the early explorers. Beechey could not reach it by ship and had to send a ship's boat ahead. In 1826, Sir John Franklin tried to reach it from the east and was blocked by ice. In 1837, Thomas Simpson walked 50 miles (81 km) west to Point Barrow after his boats were stopped by ice. In 1849, William Pullen rounded it in two whaleboats after sending two larger boats back west because of the ice. 

Point Barrow has been a jumping-off point for many Arctic expeditions, including the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913–1916. This was a scientific expedition in the Arctic Circle organized and led by Vilhjalmur Stefansson. The expedition was to be sponsored by the U.S. but Canada took over the funding because of the potential for discovery of new land. The expedition was divided into a Northern Party led by Stefansson, and a Southern Party led by R.M. Anderson. Learn more about the expedition here, and about the Northern Party here. Click here to download the CoastView app and explore more of Point Barrow and the Arctic coastline.


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