Kodiak and the Aleutians 2009

Southwest Alaska is comprised of Kodiak Island, the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Island Chain and is assessable only by boat and air. The Alaska State Ferry runs from Homer, at the end of the Alaskan Highway, to Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island. Air Service is available from PenAir and Alaska Airlines. Travel to this extremely remote region is expensive and very weather dependant.

The City of Kodiak located on Kodiak Island has a population of 6,626 with a larger seasonal fishing population. The US Coast Guard also comprises a significant portion of the community. Arriving by air we first spent time kayaking and hiking from the Kodiak road system before boarding the Alaska State Ferry Tustumena to take us “out the chain” to Dutch Harbor.

The M/V Tustumena is an accredited ocean-going vessel capable of withstanding the high winds and heavy seas common in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. The average run time from Kodiak to Dutch Harbor and back is six days. We also observed that unlike other Alaska State Ferries the Tusumena had stands of those little paper bags like on airplanes. Uh-oh!

Chignik; population 62 is located on Anchorage Bay on south shore of the Alaska Peninsula. Commercial fishing and subsistence activities are the mainstays of the economy.

One local entrepreneur was much the favorite of passengers and crew, the Donut Hole made a brisk business during the short time we were in port. The yummy pastries were well worth the stroll down the board walk and their marketing staff did a very effective job of getting the customers in the door.

On the way to Sand Point we passed “The Haystacks”

Sand Point
Sand Point; population 1,001 is located on Humboldt Harbor on Popof Island off the Alaska Peninsula. Sand Point is home to the largest fishing fleet in the Aleutian Chain. The Island was rather flat and treeless and a large quarry by the ferry dock had supplied rock to build a new runway and large breakwater.

King Cove
King Cove; population 744 is located on the south side of the Alaska Peninsula, on a sand spit fronting Deer Passage. Another commercial fishing and seafood processing village its distinctive feature is a large fresh water lake just behind town. We arrived very early in the morning and had only a stray dog to join us for a walk through the streets.

Cold Bay
Cold Bay; population 84 is located in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge at the western end of the Alaska Peninsula and serves as the regional center for air transportation on the Alaska Peninsula. We visited the Izembek visitor’s center to learn more about the refuge and the wildlife there. Maybe a kayak / bird watching trip someday?

Just behind the village of Cold Bay was Frosty Peak one of the many volcanoes in this area.

False Pass
False Pass; population 41 is located on the eastern shore of Unimak Island, the first island in the Aleutian chain, on a strait connecting the Gulf of Alaska to the Bering Sea. Isanotski Strait is shallow and cannot accommodate large vessels however whales and salmon travel through this strait on their yearly migrations. On our walk through town we enjoyed the splendid view of Roundtop Mountain and chatted with a few locals who call this remote spot home.

Distinctive Isanotski Peaks came into view as we headed west around Unimak Island.


Akutan; population 846 is located on Akutan Island in the eastern Aleutians, one of the Krenitzin Islands of the Fox Island group. Akutan is a fishing community and is the site of a traditional Aleut or Unangan village.

Approaching the bays and mountains of Unalaska Island we passed by huge rafts of Northern Fulmar that stretched from horizon to horizon.

Dutch Harbor
Dutch Harbor; population 3,662 was the end of the Tustumena’s westward voyage and during our day ashore we visited the Russian Orthodox Church Holy Ascension of Christ. Originally constructed in 1825 it is the oldest Russian Orthodox Church in North America and is the city’s iconic landmark overlooking the harbor.

We also spent time enjoying the fascinating exhibits of the islands early inhabitance at the Museum of the Aleutians before walking back to the ferry to return to Kodiak.

The Aleutians are often called “The Cradle of the Storms” and for good reason. The cold arctic Bering Sea collides with the warm pacific waters of the Gulf of Alaska to create some of the most violent weather in the world. But during this rare voyage The Cradle of the Storms had been most kind to us!