Beloved landmark falls to time and erosion

Photo of what remains of Qikertaugaq by Jimmie Lincoln

by Greg Lincoln

The rock island in Kangirrluar Bay, where Toksook Bay is located, has succumbed to time and the unrelenting forces of nature and has collapsed into the sea. It put up a good long fight, standing up to the pounding surf borne by ocean storms and the pelting rains of our coastal homeland. It was home to generations of ocean seabirds and plant life, a much-loved landmark since time immemorial.

This rock was once part of a peninsula. Its time has come to go too, as is the way of all things, and that has happened now right during our lifetime.

Nelson Island was formed by volcanic activity. In 1990, geologists conducted mapping of Nelson Island and found that it is made up of basaltic lava flows that are up to 30 meters thick. In fact, when you are flying above, you can see how the lava flowed in blobs which are now covered by tussocky tundra.

Most Nelson Islanders have a special connection to the now-gone island. Its native name is Qikertaugaq in our Yup’ik tongue. Its natural beauty and formation was a favorite subject of photographers. It would be the first thing we’d look for when looking out the window to see what the weather was like. It helped travelers know where they are when they were out on the bay.

In my younger years I remember scaling its rocky cliffs to the top. There was vegetation and it was full of seabirds, a very lively and busy happy place.

Qikertaugaq was always the first thing we’d look for on approach to land in Toksook. It welcomed us back like it was a relative and we were a child from wherever we had been and our eyes would be locked on it as we gazed on its incredible beauty and amazingness. Looking at it from the air you can see how it was once part of the mainland.

We thank the Creator for giving us this most beloved landmark for the time we had it. We will miss seeing it.