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Wainwright is located on the Chukchi Sea coast, 3 miles northeast of the Kuk River estuary. It lies at approximately 70░ 38' N Latitude, 160░ 01' W Longitude (Sec. 24, T015N, R032W, Umiat Meridian). The community is located in the Barrow Recording District. The area encompasses 4 sq. miles of land and 12 sq. miles of water.

In 1826, the Wainwright Lagoon was named by Capt. F.W. Beechey for his officer, Lt. John Wainwright. A map of 1853 indicates the name of the village as "Olrona." Its Inupiat name was "Olgoonik." The region around Wainwright was traditionally well-populated, though the present village was not established until 1904, when the Alaska Native Service built a school here and instituted medical and other services. The site was reportedly chosen by the captain of the ship delivering school construction materials, because sea-ice conditions were favorable for landing. A post office was established in 1916. Coal was mined at several nearby sites for village use, the closest about 7 miles away. Today, though, most houses are heated by fuel oil. An Air Force Distance Early Warning Station was constructed nearby.




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