The Eastern Arctic Seas Encyclopedia

2016 Edition
| Editors: Igor S. Zonn, Andrey G. Kostianoy, Aleksandr V. Semenov


Reference work entry

Shishmaref – is a settlement on Sarychev Island in the Chukchi Sea to the north of the Bering Strait, 5 miles from Alaska, United States. It is included in the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. The population is 580 people (2014). Shishmaref is a traditional Eskimo–Inupiat settlement. They are mainly sea animal hunters. The settlement is a well-known region of seal skin manufacturing, high-quality seal fat, and fermented meat production. Gathering cloudberry is popular, which is then preserved in Eskimo style (in seal fat). The residents are known to be very friendly and are famous for their bone carving skills. There are well-known traditions of using sledge dogs (the drivers are called “masheri”). Alcohol is completely banned on the island.

The inhabitants of Shishmaref were the first in Alaska to suffer from the catastrophic impact of the global warming which causes melting of the ice and pergelisol; Shishmaref is exposed to storms and developing erosion processes. Waves erode the shores of the island which used to be protected by the permafrost and Arctic shelf ice. The shore is reduced at an average speed of 3.3 m/year despite the shore protection measures. In 2000 88 % of the locals voted in favor of transporting the settlement either to Tin-Trink (20 km to the south of Shishmaref, with the cost of relocation at $170 million) or to Nom and Kotzebue ($140 million).

It was named after the Russian navigator O. Kotzebue and the member of his expedition Captain-Lieutenant G. S. Shishmarev in 1821.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016