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 Situated between the Pacific Ocean to the south and the Bering Sea to the north, the Aleutian Island community of Unalaska/Dutch Harbor is rich in history, and for the last 20 years has been the top commercial fishing port in the country.
About Unalaska
Unalaska’s earliest known inhabitants, the Unangan (also know as Aleut) people have continuously occupied these islands for approximately 9,000 years.
Unalaska was established as the first headquarters for the Russian-American Fur Company and cornerstone for the lucrative sea otter fur trade in the early 1820s. Unalaska’s most prominent landmark, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of Christ, which was completed in 1896, is the oldest cruciform-style cathedral in North America. Overlooking the bay, the church with its onion domes is a favorite for photographers. It is the repository for more than 600 Russian Orthodox icons, books and relics, and is the centerpiece of the community for the local Unangan/Aleut community.
Unalaska, home to the Port of Dutch Harbor, sits in the heart of the North Pacific and Bering Sea fisheries. Its status as the only natural deep-water port in the Aleutians has made it an important port since the 18th century when the Russian fur traders first sailed here. After WWII, the king crab fishery in the Bering Sea began to develop and the first crab processing plants opened in Unalaska in the 1960s, and began the community’s evolution from a quiet village of 400 people to a busy and prosperous port town of approximately 4,000. In the mid-1980s the current Pollock/Pacific Cod fisheries began to build large processing plants in Unalaska and are now the nation’s largest and most valuable fishery. Dutch Harbor is the main delivery port for the crab fleet featured on the Discovery Channel’s hit reality show, “The Deadliest Catch.”
The Port of Dutch Harbor -- Alaska This treeless, rocky, wind-swept place first was settled 9,000 years ago by the native Aleuts. In the 1700s Russian fur traders set up camps and established regular trade routes. During World War II, the United States and Japan fought skirmishes over the islands, weather permitting. World War II buildings and fortified "pill boxes" still dot the town's perimeter. The Aleutian World War II National Historic Area surrounds Dutch Harbor and encompasses the historic footprint of the U.S. Army base Fort Schwatka -- the highest coastal battery ever built in the United States. World War II buildings and fortified "pill boxes" still dot the town's perimeter. The Aleutian World War II National Historic Area surrounds Dutch Harbor and encompasses the historic footprint of the U.S. Army base Fort Schwatka -- the highest coastal battery ever built in the United States. This is considered to be the busiest commercial fishing port in the United States. Now servicing over 600 vessels including: trawlers, long-liners, crab boats, cargo ships, floating factory processors, as well as occasional cruise ships. According to the city, 4,200 people live here permanently and 2,000 or so more arrive for crab season.
Dutch Harbour, a major fishing port located on the island of Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands. The most important and second largest island of the Aleutians. Located 800 miles from Anchorage, and approximately 80 square miles in size with an elevation as high as 6,680 feet at the top of Makushin Volcano. Dutch Harbor is the nation's top fishing port and has been for more than a decade. Unalaska/Dutch Harbor processes millions of pounds of fish and seafood every year. Fish and seafood include king, dungeness and tanner crab, red and pink salmon, herring, and halibut. Dutch Harbor is also known for its recreational activities. Here visitors will find hiking, kayaking, flightseeing, and bird watching.
During your visit be sure to see the first Russian Orthodox Church, built in 1825. The cathedral was rebuilt in the mid-1850s as the new Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Ascension. This is the oldest Russian church still standing in Alaska and a National Historic Landmark. Explore Egg Island, home to Leach's fork-tailed petrels, storm petrels, and ancient murrelets or Baby Island. This is part of an impressive archipelago that is habitat for sea otters and bald eagles. Unalaska was settled from 1760 to 1775 by Russian fur traders. It also became the base of a large U.S. Coast Guard fleet. During WW II it was home to two US airfields used to defend the Aleutians against the Japanese. There are a few good harbours in the archipelago, however navigation is dangerous because of fog and numerous reefs.
Early settlers were Unangan people. Now known as Aleuts, they lived in two dozen settlements on the islands. There were many that were enslaved and moved by the Russians to the Pribilofs to harvest fur seals. The Japanese bombed Unalaska in June of 1942, and just two months after the city was incorporated. All this taking place within 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. The Aleut Indian culture and customs very alive in Unalaska. Cruise passenges will have a chance to experience them during their brief stay in Dutch Harbor.
Russian Orthodox Church:
A National Historic Landmark, this Russian Orthodox cathedral has been a symbol of Unalaska and part of its distinctive charm since its construction in 1895. The first church here was built under the sharp eye of Father Veniaminov in 1826. Later canonized as Saint Innocent, he was a singularly impressive fellow who mastered the baidarka (an early form of kayak) so that he could paddle a thousand miles through the Aleutians to tend his flock. A recently completed church restoration has brought new luster to the largest collection of Russian Orthodox artifacts in Alaska. Tours are available by appointment. Between Broadway and Bayview St; 907/581-6404
Museum of the Aleutians:

This museum opened in 1999 and is the first ever to feature exclusively the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands. Many collections that have been scattered at museums around the world are gradually being brought home. Exhibits begin with Aleut prehistory dating back 9,000 years and follow the Russian occupation, gold rush, World War II, and the fisheries of the past century. The museum also sponsors summer archaeological digs, which you can join for an hour, a week, or a month. A 9400 square foot building that is the only archaeological research and Museum storage facility for the Aleutian Region. For more info on this museum: http://www.aleutians.org.
Remnants of World War II:
Bunkers, pillboxes, tunnels, the remains of old Quonset huts, zigzag trails all over the hills, and a sunken ship in the harbor are visible reminders of the military presence here and the fierce battle for the Aleutians. Hike up Bunker Hill, visit Memorial Park, walk along Unalaska Lake, and note where modern Unalaska has converted military leftovers into homes and businesses. There's even a pillbox next to the school playground.
World War II military structures around town, including some that are still in use, such as the submarine dry dock that today fixes fishing boats. Trails lead over the island to other sites included in the Aleutian World War II National Historic Area, which preserves this evidence of war on American soil and helps tell the story of the Native people who were interned by both the Japanese and Americans during the war. U.S. Army Fort Schwatka, on Mount Ballyhoo, is about an hour's hike from the airport. The fort once had over 100 buildings. Many remain, including the best-preserved gun mounts and lookouts of all the nation's coastal defenses from the war. Besides, it's a spectacular site where you can see ships returning. Stop by the historic site visitor center at the airport first; besides learning the context of the park, your $4 admission fee is your permit for access to the ruins, which belong to the Native-owned Ounalashka Corp. (All use on their land requires a permit). Unalaska/Dutch Harbor Convention & Visitors Bureau; 907/581-2612
On Unalaska there are no bears, no trees to block your view, and bugs tend to get blown away by the sea breezes. The island does have, however, lots of bald eagles and red foxes and a profusion of wildflowers, birds, and berries. Popular hikes close to town are Pyramid Peak (2,136 feet), rising to the south, and Mount Ballyhoo (1,589 feet). Most of the land on the island is privately owned by the Native people. In order to hike, ski, bike, or camp on the land, please first obtain a permit from the Ounalashka Corporation (907/581-1276) on Salmon Way.
The Iliuliuk River, which runs out of Unalaska Lake into Iliuliuk Harbor, teems with salmon in the summer. As it flows past the onion-shaped domes of the cathedral, it is in full view of bald eagles sitting atop the spires, watching their dinner passing by on the fin. The really big fish here, though, are halibut. Unalaska is home to the International Game Fish Association's world-champion halibut, weighing in at 459 pounds. Local charter operations make an art of going after the big ones. Fishing licenses may be purchased at local grocery or fish supply stores.
Makushin Volcano:

Located here on Unalaska. This volcano is the highest point on Unalaska Island

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