Evaluation of Reports of High Surf Events at Gambell, Saint Lawrence Island
During Mid Winter

Ted Fathauer

Atmospheric Science Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Introduction.  During the 1990’s, the National Weather Service in Fairbanks received a number of reports of high surf at Gambell, Saint Lawrence Island, in mid winter, when the edge of pack ice in the Bering Sea was 200-500 km south and west of the island.  These were regarded as impossible to explain, and of dubious credibility.  Consequently, the records of these reports were never published in Storm Data.  However, the report from the German ice breaker Polarstern, of significant wave energy propagating under the Antarctic pack ice during a winter cruise, gave reason to reevaluate the Gambell reports.

The purpose of this investigation was to determine if such events on the beach at Gambell are impossible, or if there is some reason to believe that they could indeed occur.  From the available information, there is reason to believe that the reports could have been accurate.