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Point Franklin is between Peard Bay and the Chukchi Sea, about 33 miles (53 km) northeast of Wainwright, on the Arctic Plain of Alaska. Captain Frederick William Beechey, of the Royal Navy, named the cape in 1826 after Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin. Peard Bay is a shallow embayment about 20 miles (32 km) across on the Chukchi Sea coast named after Lieutenant George Peard.
This area of the Chukchi Sea, between Peard Bay and Icy Cape is know for a recurring polynya. Polynyas are areas of year-around open water or thin ice found at predictable and recurrent locations in sea ice-covered regions. For 19th century whalers, these were open water wintering area in an otherwise frozen world, with large concentrations of marine mammals, such as whales, walrus, seals and polar bears.
The whaling disaster of 1871 was an incident in which a fleet of 33 American whaling ships were trapped in the Arctic ice and subsequently abandoned. It dealt a serious blow to the American whaling industry that was already in decline. In August 1871, the fleet was near Wainwright before a stationary high pressure weather system reversed the normal wind pattern and pushed the pack ice toward the Alaskan coast. Seven ships were able to escape to the south, but 33 others were trapped. By mid-September all 1,219 people aboard the ships evacuated in small whaleboats with a three-month supply of provisions, crossed 70 miles (110 km) of ocean, and were eventually brought to safety by the seven ships which had escaped the ice. Wreckage from several ships was recently found between Point Franklin and Wainwright. The painting "Abandonment of the Whalers In The Arctic Ocean September 1871" depicts several of the U.S. whaling ships involved. Read more here and here. Click here to download the CoastView app and explore the Chukchi Sea coast where many of the ships washed ashore.