Like most places in Alaska Chinitna Bay has two faces. One being that of a haven; the first time I paddled into the bay was after having filmed in wilds of Augustine Island were the weather was seemingly always threatening. The bay was sunny and still. Seemed like an old friend. The next year I was in the same bay but things felt much different. I was stranded on the beach in a storm waiting for the tide to float us off losing count of the Brown Bears sharing the beach with us. It’s all a matter of perspective I guess.

Chinitna Bay

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Chinitna Bay

The inlet was first explored and settled by Dena’ina people. In the 18th century, Russian fur hunters (promyshlenniki) were among the first European visitors. The Lebedev Lastochkin Company leader Stepan Zaikov established a post at the mouth of the Kenai River, Fort Nikolaev, in 1786. These fur trappers used Siberian Native and Alaska Native people, particularly Aleuts from the Aleutian Islands and Koniag natives from Kodiak, to hunt for sea otters and other marine mammal species for trade with China via Russia’s then-exclusive inland port of trade at Kiakhta.

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. – Marcus Aurelius

Other Europeans to visit Cook Inlet include the 1778 expedition of James Cook who sailed into it while searching for the Northwest Passage. Cook received maps of Alaska, the Aleutians, and Kamchatka during a visit with Russian fur trader Gerasim Izmailov in Unalaska, and combined these maps with those of his expedition to create the first Mercator projection of the North Pacific. The inlet was named after Cook in 1794 by George Vancouver, who had served under Cook in 1778. Turnagain Arm was named by William Bligh of HMS Bounty fame. Bligh served as Cook’s Sailing Master on his 3rd and final voyage, the aim of which was discovery of the Northwest Passage.

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