Posted on January 10, 2014 under General
What is in a name?

My new favorite book is one I’ve wanted for a long time, the Dictionary of Alaska Place Names. Alaska place names range from practical to whimsical, and almost always tell a story.

I’ve learned a little bit about some of the places where we spend time in the arctic…

Kasegaluk Lagoon– from Inupiat “Kasegelik” meaning “spotted seal place” or “having spotted seal”.

Hulahula River– The name “hoolahoola” introduced by the whalers is of Kanaka (Hawaiian) origin meaning “a dance”.

Cape Seniavin– Named by Capt Lutke (1836) as “Cap Seniavine” for the corrvette (a small sailing ship) in which he explored.


Alaska Pace Names

Knowledge of place names can add not only intellectual knowledge but some practical advice too. More from the dictionary:

“Okpilak River- Eskimo name meaning “no willows,”.” I guess I won’t count on building a fire there.

“Kokolik River- Eskimo name refers to bistort,” Bistort is an edible flowering plant (polygonum bistorta) indeed common on the Kokolik and very tasty in spring.

But even this impressive volume can’t have everything. I’d love to know the derivation of “Nigikpalvgururvak Creek”, a 17 letter creek on the Noatak. I’d even settle for a pronunciation guide.