DEW Line Passage:

Camden Bay: POW-D, Kongigivik Point and Brownlow Point



On August 10, with completely calm seas and under gorgeous skies, we paddled out of Kaktovik at about 10 pm in the evening. We entered Arey Lagoon through the Kuvritovik Entrance on the west side of Barter Island and camped on the eastern end of Arey Island, with the lights of Kaktovik still visible. The next morning we sailed down into Camden Bay with the point at the bottom of the bay our first stop - DEW Line site POW-D.


Eco-tourism guide Robert Thompson checks out the rig in Kaktovik before we shove off. Robert made the baleen sailing umiat pictured to the left.

The POW-D DEW Line intermediate site is usually called Brownlow Point or Nuvubaq, but other names for the area are Kangigivik Point and Agilguagruk (which means 'jaw' since the point is shaped like one - this is how it is known to the Inupiat of Kaktovik). The naming is quite confusing because there is another point in Camden Bay that is called Brownlow and another point called Kongigivik (more on those below).

This site is further known as Collinson Point, Camden Bay, or Nuvugaq (which means 'point' but should actually be Nuvukpak: 'point' or 'sandspit point').

The site was transferred to the Air Force in 1957, deactivated in 1963, transferred to the Navy in 1965, transferred to the BLM in 1970, and transferred to Fish & Wildlife when ANWR was created in 1980. It was designated a FUD (Formerly Used Defense site), so the Army Corps of Engineers directs the cleanup and DEC oversees it.

It's interesting that the DEC website on POW-D does not mention that much of the site, slated for clean up, fell into the ocean in 1997/98. In 2000 the remaining buildings were demolished and 32-tons of contaminated soil were removed but "the status of the dump site(s) are unknown at this time," DEC .


Photo courtesy of DEC.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Parker via L. Wilson's DEW Line website.

Photo courtesy of DEC.

This is a picture of Collinson Point in 1914 (source currently unclear). When the ill-fated Karluk was caught in the ice of the Beaufort Sea in 1913, the two smaller schooners that accompanied thelarger karluk on the 2cd Canadian Arctic Expedition managed to make it to Collinson Pt., where they were forced to overwinter.

As they did before the DEW Line site, people currently use the area as a camping/fishing site.

We were still able to find a couple rogue tundra daisies along the spit.


As we were sailing up the west side of Camden Bay after leaving Agilgruaruk (POW-D), the wind picked up considerably and we somehow surfed a wave in a way that put so much pressure on the leeboard that it suddenly sheered off. It was a retractable mahogany board that acted like an extra keel when sailing, and it was attached to the same aluminum pole as the inflatable outrigger. The boat lurched in a disturbing way and we saw the outrigger floating away on the waves! We managed to turn around and retrieve the outrigger, lower the sails and paddle (in rather nasty wind and waves) into the tiny protected harbor of Kongegivik Point. Ryan used a redundant tiller to lash the outrigger back on, but the wind kept us at Kongegivik for the next 4 days.

This is right where the leeboard used to be attached.

Luckily Kongegivik is a beautiful point and there was plenty of driftwood to build a windbreak...


And excellent opportunities for trophy tundra daisy hunting.

Caribou freeway.


When the wind finally subsided enough and we were able to paddle around the point, we left Kongegivik and sailed up the west side of Camden Bay to the place that is called "Brownlow Point" but is not an official DEW Line site. It was, however, a DEW Line staging area of some sort (this map shows POW-D at Collinson Pt. and refers to Brownlow Pt as simply 'DEW').

The DEW Line sites on the eastern arctic coast of Alaska.

Brownlow was where I realized that, like all the natural scientists doing research on the North Slope, I should have radio collars so that I could track the journies of these arctic tumbleweeds. They roll, they float, they degrade slowly and they have been on the move for decades. This small mountain of barrels at Brownlow is just one of the many sources (this one right in the middle of the 1002 area of the Arctic Refuge).

Locals in Kaktovik still refer to "Manning Point," adjacent to Barter Island, as "Drum Island." It is unclear whether they have another name for it. Drum Island had two stacks of barrels that were approximately 4 barrels wide, 10 barrels high, and 300 yards long. A huge west wind hit in 1963 and scattered most of the barrels all over the island and surrounding area. Locals report that they cleaned up 10,000 in the immediate area but they've seen as many strewn further, so they estimate there were 30,000 - 50,000 total.


Lumber and building sections falling over bluffs became a common sight for us.


Next: Flaxman Island and Bullen Point/POW-3

Back: Kaktovik and Bar-Main after the storm

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