Ankau Saltchucks, Phipps Peninsula

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Ankau Saltchucks, Phipps Peninsula

by | Mar 8, 2019

The Ankau Saltchucks form a complex network of interconnected tidal flats about 1.2 miles (1.9 km) across, on the northwest end of the Phipps Peninsula near Yakutat, Alaska. The name is derived from The Ankau which is the estuary that flows from the Ankau Saltchucks east to Monti Bay, about 2.6 miles (4.2 km) west of Yakutat. The estuary was originally named “Estero del Ancau” by Captain Alessandro Malaspina in 1791 after a Tlingit chief named Ancau. The word “saltchuck” is derived from the Chinook Jargon, combining the English word “salt”, with the Nootka word for water “č̕aʔak”.

The Phipps Peninsula is about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) long, between the Gulf of Alaska and Monti Bay. It was named “Cape Phipps” by Captain George Dixon in 1787 for the English explorer Constantine John Phipps, famous for his voyage to Spitzbergen and the Arctic Ocean in 1773. The peninsula was heavily used by the military during World War II for coastal defense and to transport needed supplies to Russia and the Aleutian Islands. During the Cold War, a White Alice Communications Station was constructed at Ocean Cape. Decades of operations resulted in spilling or disposing of oil and other hazardous materials on-site or nearby. In the 1980s, this facility was no longer needed, and the many buildings, debris, and contaminants were abandoned.

The Ankau Saltchucks have for centuries been relied upon for subsistence foods, including berries, clams, cockles, ducks, salmon, and seaweed. The Yakutat Tlingit Tribe also operated a youth culture camp at Ocean Cape where local tribal elders taught traditional subsistence practices. This camp was closed in 2003 when concerns were raised about elevated levels of chemical contaminants in the soil and water. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation now manage a monitoring program and remediation effort at the site. Read more here and here. Explore more of Ankau Saltchucks here:

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