Drew Point, Smith Bay

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Drew Point is on the Beaufort Sea coast, and is the eastern point defining the entrance to Smith Bay, on the Arctic Plain, Alaska. On July 28, 1837, Thomas Simpson named the point after Richard Drew, Esquire, of the Hudson's Bay Company. The Inupiat native name for the point is "Amil-rhoen".

The coast of the Arctic Plain is mostly permafrost, a combination of ice, frozen soil, rock, and organic materials. Most permafrost at high latitudes is many thousands of years old and in some places can be over 2000 feet (650 m) thick. The ice wedges shown in the image are a type of ground ice that produces recognizable patterns called tundra polygons. Permafrost absorbs the impact of ocean waves and protects against coastal erosion. Sea ice helps too, by blocking waves from reaching the shore. The rate of coastal erosion is accelerating along the Arctic Plain and the main mechanisms are the melting of permafrost and the increased wave attack caused by more frequent and intense storms on an ice-free ocean.

For thousands of years, the rate of coastal erosion has been buffered by sea ice and permafrost. Without it coastal erosion is accelerating and now threatens critical infrastructure – including oil and gas pipelines. Read more here and here. Click here to download the CoastView app and explore the shoreline of Drew Point and Smith Bay in the Beaufort Sea.

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