Life At the Edge
Some of the most common questions I get asked have to do with where we live, from people in real life and in the blog sphere. It seems everyone is fascinated with where we are and how we got here, and I don't blame them. This place is amazing!
We live in Alaska, on an island in the middle of the Bering Sea. 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. I think that is one of the reasons there is so much interest and amazement by people when they hear where we live. It's infamous for many. 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. Most people here work is some form or another is connected to the fishing industry or shipping. Because it is centrally located in the North Pacific directly on shipping routes between the West Coast and Pacific Rim nations and the fact that our harbors are ice free all year long, we often see huge cargo ships from Asian countries stopping by..
Alright, back to Unalaska. It is pretty much isolated from the rest of the world, 800 air miles from Anchorage. Unalaska is farther west than Hawaii, and closer to Russia than the continental United States. There is travel to the rest of the world by air (usually a 3 or 4 hour flight 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). You can also get here by boat LOL. A ferry comes once a month for 6 months out of the year, but it is a 7 day ferry ride to the mainland!!!! Air travel is very expensive, close to $1000 just from here to Anchorage for one person, the only mainland air destination from Unalaska. Air travel is unpredictable. You need to plan travel with at LEAST a one-day cushion, especially if you have somewhere to be. It can be days where no planes fly in or out. Our airport is the smallest commercial runway in the US, and the second smallest in the world. It is an awesome ride coming in. The Bering Sea on 3 sides and a shear cliff on the other. Not much leeway. It's all visual flight rules, so landing can be tricky in the best of weather, not the mention the crazy squalls we get here.
Okay, Weather … LOTS of fog and low hanging clouds and ferocious winds.... we had hurricane force winds for over 24 hours this winter, with gusts up to 115. The sun does shine, but it is often brief.....Many days we have Sun, Rain, Snow, Clouds, Sun, Rain....all within about a 2 hour period. As my kiddo says, "the weather here is very changeable".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!
We don't really go anywhere, because basically there is no where to go LOL.. 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.
We have 2 stores...yep 2! A grocery store and a ship supply store. That's it. No clothing, no toys, no school supplies, no walmart. Nothing! Anything besides your basic food we have to order online and shipping can be insane. But I can tell you, I have learned how to live simply, and to make do. And that in and of itself is a lesson worth learning.
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 scarred 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!
So you might be wondering how this Southern girl ended up here. Well, I meet my hubby while we were living in GA, we shortly after moved to SC, and a few years later we moved to PA. That was change enough for me, but God had other plans. As I said God has a sense of humor. When we married I told my husband I would never leave the South, but in the summer of 2010, we had some upheaval, and Dh started searching for a new position. And somehow, and I still don't know how, we ended up here. It's been an amazing ride and I have grown and learned so much.
So that's about it in a nut shell! Unalaska, wild and beautiful. We get outside and enjoy the tundra, the beaches, and the mountains every chance we get.