When I was telling my friends about our upcoming trip they responded with a question: You're going to Adak? Why?
Why indeed? When Doug offered me the chance to accompany him and Bill (my partners in Alaska Boats & Permits) on a weekend flight to Adak I jumped at it. I had never been anywhere out on "the chain", as the Aleutian Islands are known to Homer fishermen, and being prone to seasickness knew if I had to take a boat to get there it was never gonna happen. I was eager to see what was out there first hand. The weather in the Aleutians is not the sort tourists seek out. A description from the official tourist guide reads: "The Aleutian climate is characterized by precipitation, fog, high winds, and frequent violent cyclonic storms. Clear, warm sunny days are rare." We already knew this from talking with friends who had fished out there but we laughed it off. We prepared ourselves for rain and wind and packed our bags accordingly. We did hope for at least a few hours of sun during our 4-day stay. Luckily, we got considerably more than that.
|Adak and the Aleutians (click for a bigger image) showing ocean depths|
It was a pleasant 3-hour flight from Anchorage on a mostly empty Alaska Airlines 737. The first thing one notices upon disembarking in Adak is the terrific wind. It's usually blowing hard and when it goes all out it's severe enough to strip the siding off houses, blow signs down and otherwise harry the inhabitants which now, after the military pull out, number only about 100 permanent residents. Jobs and money are scarce and the community is struggling to find a new economic center built around fishing and tourism.
|Fishing boats in Adak Harbor|
|The Gannet Rocks in Kuluk Bay protect Adak Harbor|
|View of Sweeper Cove|
|I'm dressed to stay warm and dry, Finger Bay in the background (N51.83245 W176.62746)|
|Old cabin - Finger Bay|
|Waterfall below Lake Betty|
|Windy day on Lake Betty|
|Only a few of these quonset huts remain of the hundreds that once dotted the area|
|Bomb storage bunkers on Bomb Storage Road|
|Fire hydrants are scattered here and there|
|Albert E. Mitchell Field and Clam Lagoon (N51.936274, W176.577220)|
|Mitchell Field is only just visible now due to the berms alongside its runways|
|Jean Lake (foreground) and Andrew Lake (N51.917088, W176.637126)|
|Doug, Dave and Bill at Andrew Lake, June 24, 2012|
|Small pond near Andrew Lake|
|View to the northeast from the gunmounts|
|View southeast from the gunmounts|
|Small halibut long-liner near a big hillside - a view across Janet's Cove (click image to enlarge)|
|Gun emplacement (N51.92792 W176.54729)|
All the while we were on Adak Mt. Moffett, the islands tallest peak at 4,000 feet, was hidden in a swirl of clouds and fog. But finally, on this our last day, it emerged white and resplendent.
|View of Mt. Moffett from the east|
Nevertheless, we were happy to head back to Homer after our brief visit. Aside from the exploring and bird watching — we spotted most of the common bird species found on Adak: grey crowned ruby finches, a snow bunting, song sparrows, black oystercatchers, Aleutian terns, and bald eagles — there wasn't much else going on in Adak. There is one store, one restaurant, one liquor store, and one bar which also serves food. Everything in them is expensive (a $9 bottle of wine set us back $30 bucks, a can of evaporated milk about $5) and the choices very limited. Here is a photo of the Bay Five restaurant. Not much to look at but the Mexican style food was good and the staff friendly. None of the places mentioned above sport any signs. You just have to find them on your own.
|The Bay 5|
|The neighborhood where we stayed. Most of these U.S. government built houses are deserted now.|
On the return flight I happened to read an article, "Decontaminating Alaska", mentioning Adak in the June, 2012 issue of Alaska Business Monthly. As a boy I read everything I could get my hands on about WWII and thought of it as glamorous, a "good war" — it was the war my father and uncle Bill fought in after all. The truth about war, that war and all wars, only came later as I gained years and knowledge. The article fleshed out the role the U.S. armed forces played in Adak during that war. "The U.S. Navy evacuated the residents (the native Aleuts) forcibly to internment camps where many died, and burned the villages to the ground to prevent any use by the invading Japanese army..." The article goes on to describe efforts to remediate the thousands of acres of dumps, buried landfills, unexploded ordinance, asbestos, and who knows what else the Navy left behind. Although the internment of Japanese-Americans is well documented I never knew about the internment of the native Aleuts. Another shameful page in American history.
So ended our Adak adventure. Before we left I had thought of this trip as a once in a lifetime opportunity. It certainly met and exceeded that expectation.
Article about a recent storm 2015