Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Where we live...

Alright so some of y'all have been asking for more info about where we now live. Unalaska is remote, a bush community, as defined by Alaskans. It is in the Aleutian Chain of Islands. The Chain of islands that separate the Pacific Ocean from the Bering Sea. It is often better known by the name of it's international port, Dutch Harbor. Dutch Harbor is actually in the city of Unalaska, but has been made famous by the Discovery Channel show Deadliest Catch. Dutch Harbor, is often applied to the portion of the Unalaska located on Amaknak Island, which is connected by bridge to the rest of the community on Unalaska Island. Unalaska's economy is based on commercial fishing, fish processing, fleet services, and transportation. Because it is centrally located in the North Pacific directly on shipping routes between the West Coast and Pacific Rim nations, the city enjoys a strategic position near the center of the nation's most productive fishing grounds and is the hub of the transshipment of cargo between Pacific Rim trading partners.

Alright, back to Unalaska. It is pretty much isolated from the rest of the world, 800 flight miles from Anchorage. Unalaska is farther west than Hawaii, and closer to Russia than the continental United States. There is travel to the outside by air (usually about 3 hours to Anchorage, often with multiple fuel stops via a small 30 seater prop plan. Oh yeah, did I mention they ask your weight when you sign in so they can arrange seating by weight, and you are really lucky if your baggage is on the same plane, as often it has to all be bumped for weight), and by water (three days). Air travel is very expensive, close to $1000 just from here to Anchorage, the only mainland air destination from Unalaska. Ferry travel is less expensive, but it comes to Unalaska only once each month, and not at all in the winter, which is the longest season. Air travel is unpredictable. You need to plan travel with at LEAST a one-day cushion, especially if you need to meet a predetermined schedule.

Okay, Weather … LOTS of fog and low hanging clouds and ferocious winds often prevent access to landing and departure. The sun does shine, but it is often brief.....Many days you will have Sun, Rain, Snow, Clouds, Sun, Rain....all within about a 2 hour period. Right now the winds are about 60mph outside our window, and this is normal. Last year it was sustained above 120 and knocked over a HUGE crane that is stationary and the size of a sky scraper. We don't get really cold here unless you count the windchill. Average highs in the summers are in the 50's and in the winter our average highs are actually in the 30's with some days in the 20's. But then add some 50-60mph winds or higher up to that and well...it can feel pretty cold. Snow and rain blow horizontal!

Travel on the island is limited. There are few paved roads on the island (about 6 miles total); the longest is about 3 1/2 miles in length. Most of the streets in the village are dirt/gravel, but generally in good condition, although at time the pot holes could swallow a car LOL. There are some one track, four-wheel drive roads on the island; the longest loop is 13 miles. Others are out and back roads of the same quality, and most of these roads outside the village are closed in the winter because of snow.

Generally people do not live here long term. The majority of people who come to this island are here for the summer, or a fishing season of 6 to 12 months. They work in the fish processing plants 7 days a week, 12 hours per day, for minimum wages. Most of these people live in dormitories furnished by the processors. The commercial fishing industry is the biggest employer by far and most other jobs on the island are somehow dependent on the industry or the people brought here from the industry. It is not a large town, but very few people who live here are FROM here. About 4,000 people live here year around, but our population swells to about 15,000, although most of those are centered near the processing plants. During fishing seasons when the boats come in and restock, the grocery store shelves can become bear.

But it is BEAUTIFUL. Windswept beauty in every direction. Volcanic mountains rise right up from the cold, clear, blue sea. In the summer it is the greenest green you have ever seen. There are Eagles and Foxes every place you look. Berries are abundant, there are hiking trails which many of which are thousands of years old established by the Aleut people. The land is scared from WWII, as this is the only other place on American soil besides Pearl Harbor to be bombed by the Japanese. It is amazing. Everyday is different, and so far...I love it!

4 comments:

Amanda said...

Doesn't quite sound like a place I would want to live! I consider our house to be in the country, we live about 15 minutes from a good sized grocery store and a mall and that is as far as I want to be! I couldn't imagine living on that island! It sounds like an adventure! Why did you move there?

Holly said...

Wow! What an adventure for you and your family. Like I have said before, you are a brave woman. What brought your family there?

Colleen (Shibley Smiles) said...

WOW thanks for the insight, it sounds beautiful but I know I could not deal with it especially being a Florida girl the furthest from your type of weather!

Amanda said...

It's definitly an adventure. The wind and rain have set in. Been blowing for about 2 days now. Wind gusting to 80mph on our hill, sustained about 50. Its incredible!

We came here for DH's job. When we started looking we were looking more for position then location, and when he found this posting it fit exactly what he was looking for in his next position. Never thought we would be here, but when they flew us out we both were amazed. I mean how many people can say they lived in a place like this. The beauty of God is undeniable here. So when it was offered we packed up and here we are LOL