This section is from "Scientific American Supplement Volumes 275, 286, 288, 299, 303, 312, 315, 324, 344 and 358". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
It will be remembered that a short time since we mentioned the fact that W.H. Dall, of the U. S. Coast Survey, who has passed a number of years in Alaskan waters, on Coast Survey duty, denied the existence of any branch of the Kuro Shiwo, or Japanese warm stream, in Behring's Straits. That is, he failed to find evidence of the existence of any such current, although he had made careful observations. At the islands in Behring's Straits, his vessel had sailed in opposite directions with ebb and flood tide, and he thought the only currents there were tidal in their nature. The existence or non-existence of this current is an important point in Arctic research on this side of the continent.
At the last meeting of the Academy of Sciences, Prof. Davidson, of the U. S. Coast Survey, author of the "Alaska Coast Pilot," refuted Dr. Dall's opinion of the non-existence of a branch of the Kuro Shiwo, or Japanese warm stream, from the north Pacific into the Arctic Ocean, through Behring's Straits. He said that in 1857 he gave to the Academy his own observations, and recently he had conferred with Capt. C.L. Hooper, who commanded the U. S. steamer Thomas Corwin, employed as a revenue steam cruiser in the Arctic and around the coast of Alaska. Capt. Hooper confirms the opinions of all previous navigators, every one of which, except Dr. Dall, say that a branch of this warm stream passed northward into the Arctic through Behring's Strait. It is partly deflected by St. Lawrence Island, and closely follows the coast on the Alaskan side, while a cold current comes out south, past East Cape in Siberia, skirting the Asiatic shore past Kamschatka, and thence continues down the coast of China. He said ice often extended several miles seaward, from East Cape on the Asiatic side of Behring Strait, making what seamen call a false cape, and indicating cold water, while no such formation makes off on the American side, where the water is 12 degrees warmer than on the Asiatic shore off the Diomede islands, situated in the middle of Behring's Strait, the current varies in intensity according to the wind.
Frequently it is almost nothing for several days, when after a series of southerly winds the shallow Arctic basin has been filled, under a heavy pressure, with an unusual volume of water, and a sudden change to northerly winds, makes even a small current setting southward for a few days, just as at times the surface currents set out our Golden Gate continuously for 24 and 48 hours, as shown by the United States Coast Survey tide gauges. Whalers report that the incoming water then flows in, under the temporary outflowing stream.
Old trees, of a variety known to grow in tropical Japan, are floated into the Arctic basin as far as past Point Barrow, on the American side, but none are found on the Asiatic side, or near Wrangell Land, where a cold stream exists, and ice remains late in the season. On the northern side of the Aleutian islands are found cocoanut husks and other tropical productions stranded along the beaches. The American coast of Alaska has a much warmer climate than the Asiatic coast of Siberia, and the American timber line extends very far north. The ice opens early in the season on the American side, and invariably late on the Asiatic.
Capt. C. L. Hooper says that when just north of Behring's Strait, off the American coast, in the Arctic basin, the U.S. steamer Thomas Corwin, when becalmed for 24 hours, drifted 40 miles to the northward. From all these, and other facts, and the unanimous testimony of American whalemen, who have for years spent many months annually in the Arctic, and from his own observations, he argued that a branch of the Kuro-Shiwo or Japanese warm stream, unquestionably runs northward through Behring's Strait into the Arctic basin along the northwestern coast of Alaska.
Prof. Davidson then called to mind the testimony in regard to the existence of Plover Island, between Herald Island and Wrangell Land, which he said was first made public through this academy. The evidence of Capts. Williams and Thomas Long were recited and highly praised. One of the officers of Admiral Rodgers' expedition climbed to near the top of Herald Island, at a time of great refraction, when probably a false horizon existed, and hence did not see Plover Island, although Wrangell Land was in sight.
Prof. Davidson thinks all the authorities are against Dr. Dall, who attributes the warm current he observed on the American coast to water from the Yukon River and to the large expanse of shallow water exposed to the sun's rays. As Dall's observations only covered a few days of possibly exceptional weather, and the whalers and Captain Hooper's cover vastly longer periods, and whalers all say it is a pretty hard thing to beat southward through Behring's Strait, owing to the northerly current setting into the Arctic, we are forced to the conclusion that Dr. Dall has mistaken the exception for the rule, and his conclusions are therefore erroneous. When, in 1824, Wrangell went north, he, like others, always found broken ice and considerable open water. In 1867, when Capt. Thomas Long made his memorable survey of the coast of Wrangell Land, the season was an exceptionally open one, and in California we had heavy rains, extending into July.