Alaska Excursions

Alaska Excursions

A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.

Iditarod 41

Photos and stories from the last great race.

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Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, Alaska

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Remote Aleutian town is key to Bering Sea fishing

Unalaska, Alaska, is the town. Dutch Harbor is where the big fishing boats dock, where the airplanes land and where the military post was bombed in World War II.

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Unalaska and Dutch just want to keep that straight. And even though the areas are adjacent with very little else around them for hundreds of miles, they have their own ZIP codes.

Unalaska, population 4,300, is on Unalaska Island in the Aleutian Chain, 800 miles from Anchorage. Dutch Harbor -- the nation's top fishing port for more than a decade -- is the part of the city on Amaknak Island, which is tied to Unalaska by bridge.

These Western Alaska twins share some things: the stormy environment and a dependence on fishing in the Bering Sea.

Early settlers were Unangan people, now known as Aleuts, who lived in two dozen settlements on the islands. Many were enslaved and moved by the Russians to the Pribilofs to harvest fur seals. Current archaeology projects are finding remnants of that old civilization.

In 1825, the first Russian Orthodox church was built. The founding priest, Ivan Veniaminov, translated the scripture into Aleut about this time as well. The cathedral was rebuilt in the mid-1850s as the new Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Ascension, which stands today and incorporates remnants of the original church. At one time on the American Heritage list of most endangered landmarks, it was renovated in the 1990s.

The Japanese bombed Unalaska in June 1942, two months after the city was incorporated, in the same campaign in which they seized Kiska and Attu islands. Almost all of the remaining Aleuts were interned by the United States in Southeast Alaska during the war, and the church was nearly destroyed by U.S. troops. It held together, however, and is the oldest Russian Orthodox cruciform-style church in North America.

The area has sport fishing for salmon and monster halibut, and birders are fond of the Aleutians' seabird colonies. The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge is in the area.

Air service is provided by Alaska Airlines. Once a month between April and September, the Alaska Marine Highway System sends a ferry over from Kodiak. The final ferry of the season is scheduled to arrive in mid-September; it'll depart for Kodiak five hours later.

Hotels in town include the Grand Aleutian Hotel, overlooking Margaret Bay. There are tour companies, the Museum of the Aleutians and some hills to climb. Visitors should keep in mind that most of the land on Unalaska is owned by the Ounalashka Corp., a Native corporation, and a permit is required for crossing the land. Call 907-581-1276 for specific information.

Unalaska has 10 major docks for fishing, fuel and cargo ships. It's a waypoint for barge traffic up from Anchorage up the western coast of Alaska.

January temperatures range from 25 to 35; summers range from 43 to 53. The average annual precipitation is 57.7 inches, and the average wind speed is 17 mph.

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