Noatak site experiencing thawing and subsidence.
Observation by Paul Walton:
Our gravesite was moved to the north side of town. It was relocated due to river erosion. But now the permafrost is thawing at the new location causing the crosses and graves to sink. No problem with exposure of remains at this time.
Comment from LEO Editors:
The 1993 spring breakup caused 30 feet of erosion adjacent to the cemetery, near where the airstrip is today. Flooding during the fall of 1994 further threatened the site, so residents mobilized and relocated 200 graves to the north side of town. In 2007, the Tribal Administrator reported that the main factor causing erosion was melting permafrost. Bank loss was reported at a rate of about 10 feet per year. Thawing is contributing to sinking land, and a gradual slipping of buildings towards the river. Some homes are regularly in need of leveling, utility poles are leaning, and the airstrip and the road that connects the village with the boat landing are vulnerable to erosion.
It may be difficult to stop subsidence at the new graveyard. Covering any low areas with a layer of fine silt or sod may help to prevent ponding and discourage thaw. Trimming back shrubs can help to prevent snow capture and insulation of the ground. Note: the less snow, the more seasonal ground freeze can occur, which can help preserve permafrost. If markers are beginning to lean or fall, basic maintenance of individual gravesites can help preserve the record. Mike Brubaker