Shismaref, the arctic town falling into the sea through climate change ,alaska
ccording to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.3 square miles (19 km2), of which, 2.8 square miles (7.3 km2) of it is land and 4.5 square miles (12 km2) of it (61.62%) is water.
Shishmaref was named in 1821 by explorer Lt. Otto von Kotzebue, of the Imperial Russian Navy, after Capt. Lt. Gleb Shishmaryov who accompanied him on his exploration.
Sarichef Island (on which Shishmaref is located) is part of a dynamic, 100 km-long barrier island chain that records human and environmental history spanning the past 2000 years; the oldest subaerial evidence for the formation of this system is about 1700 years before present, according to carbon 14 dating (see References, below). Erosion at Shishmaref is unique along the islands because of its fetch exposure and high tidal prism, relatively intense infrastructure development during the 20th century, and multiple shoreline defense structures built beginning in the 1970s.
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This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (August 2016)
The effect of global climate change upon Shishmaref is sometimes seen as the most dramatic in the world. Rising temperatures have resulted in a reduction in the sea ice which serves to buffer Shishmaref from storm surges. At the same time, the permafrost that the village is built on has also begun to melt, making the shore even more vulnerable to erosion. In recent years the shore has been receding at an average rate of up to 10 feet (3.3 m) per year. Although a series of barricades has been put up to protect the village, the shore has continued to erode at an alarming rate. The town's homes, water system and infrastructure are being undermined. Currently, Shishmaref has obtained funds to construct seawalls that protect some of the shoreline.
The village had plans to relocate several miles to the south, on the mainland to the Tin Creek site. However, Tin Creek proved unsuitable for long term settlement due to melting permafrost in the area. The Shishmaref Erosion and Relocation Coalition, made up of the city, the IRA Council and other organizations, is seeking federal, state and private funding for a move elsewhere. The cost of moving Shishmaref is estimated at $180 million, nearly $320,000 per resident. The village was told by the Obama administration that no federal money was available, therefore tensions arose in 2013 when John Kerry announced Vietnam would receive $17 million to deal with climate change.
Erosion rates along the island front exceed (and are not comparable with) those along adjacent sectors. Erosion is occurring along the entire island chain, but it is exacerbated at Sarichef Island in part because of the hydrographic impacts of hard armoring of a sandy shoreface and permafrost degradation that is accelerated by infrastructure. Residents are experiencing the effects of coastal retreat on residential and commercial properties.
On August 16, 2016, the village voted to move the town to the mainland.
Shishmaref is a traditional Inupiaq Eskimo village. Residents rely heavily on a subsistence lifestyle, hunting and gathering much of their food. Primary food sources include sea mammals such as oogruk (bearded seal), other seals and walrus, fish, birds (such as ptarmigan), caribou and moose. The village is well known in the region for its high-quality seal oil and fermented meat.
It is known for its Native art. Local carvings of whalebone and walrus ivory are sought after by galleries in Alaska and the Lower 48.
Shishmaref was home to one of Alaska's most-beloved dog mushers. Herbie Nayokpuk, known as the "Shishmaref Cannonball", died in December 2006. He finished the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race numerous times, including a second-place finish.
It is sometimes referred to as "the friendliest village in Alaska." Researchers, journalists and the occasional tourist visit Shishmaref, and the city has acquired a reputation for being a gracious host.