Frequently asked questions:
Unalaska or Dutch Harbor?
The indigenous Unangan (Aleuts) called their island Agunalaksh, which roughly translates to “close to the mainland.” The main village on the island was called Iliuliuk, which refers to the curvature of the bay. Russian fur traders came to the islands in the mid-1700’s and eventually referred to the island the village as Ounalashka. After the U.S. purchased Alaska, the U.S. Board of Geographical Names standardized the spelling to Unalaska.
There is an unsubstantiated story, that in the late 1700’s a Dutch ship anchored up in what was then known as Ulakta Harbor, a naturally very deep and protected harbor along the south shore of Amaknak Island. The Russian population at the time dubbed that body of water Dutch Harbor. During WWII, the military referred to the entire area as Dutch Harbor as did the people who came later to work in the commercial fisheries.
Today the two names are used interchangeable to identify the area. Technically, they are both within the limits of the City of Unalaska, which encompasses all of Amaknak Island and the northeastern end of Unalaska Island. In 1980, the two were connected by the “Bridge to the Other Side.” Amaknak is commonly referred to as the “Dutch Harbor side.”
What is the best time of year to visit?
July and August are generally the best times to visit in terms of weather and ease of getting around but Unalaska offers unique opportunities for unforgettable experiences at all times of the year. Please note: If you are coming to view eagles, most leave the port area in July and August to hunt fish in the many salmon streams around the island.
How do I get there?
Currently, the only regularly scheduled passenger flights to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor are through Ravn Alaska. Tickets can be booked at www.ravnalaska.com.
Please note: Due to weight capacities and weather factors, there is a good chance that your luggage may be delayed or that your flight may be canceled. Make sure you pack all medicines, valuables and an extra set of clothes in your carry-on.
From May until September, the Alaska state ferry Tustumena also brings visitors to the island. You can book your sailing at the Alaska Marine Highway website: www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/
What is the weather like?
Unalaska has a mild year-round temperature, rarely exceeding 65 degrees F in the summer or dropping below 21 degrees F in the winter. The average daily mean for the year is 40.9 degrees F, with a record high of 81 degrees F. Average precipitation is 61 inches per year.
Note: The weather is unpredictable and can change rapidly. Visitors should be prepared for wind and rain and it is recommended that they dress in layers.
For a live look at the weather, click on the link avcams.faa.gov/ and choose the Dutch Harbor Ballyhoo or Haystack aviation cameras.
For forecast information, www.weather.gov/afc/tv
Will my cell phone work there? How do I get on the Internet?
Roaming cell phone service with phones from the Lower 48 is very unreliable. Some AT&T phones will work while others will not.
For information on temporary local SIM cards, contact GCI at www.gci.com or visit the GCI Store near Safeway.
24-hour cell phone rental is also available at the kiosk in the airport or $10 per day, with a $250 deposit.
Texting or any kind of data use will not be possible unless you sign up for a paid WiFi service. OptimERA offers 1G cards for $25 at various places of business, including Amelia's Restaurant, Bering Sea Office Supply and Red Fish Electronics. OptimERA has WiFi hotspots throughout the island.
Another option for getting on the Internet is to visit the Unalaska Public Library (free Internet). Website: ci.unalaska.ak.us/library
How many people live here? How many come here to work?
There are about 4,000 year-round residents. About 300 are descendants of the indigenous peoples, the Unangan, commonly called Aleuts.
Processors in the local plants come from all over the world, including many from Somalia, Sudan, the Philippines, Mexico, Samoa, and Ukraine.
How many children are there at the school?
There are around 450 children in the two schools, preschool through 12th grade.
Is there a pharmacy here?
No, the Iliuliuk Clinic has limited pharmacy supplies and a visit to a clinician is necessary for a refill.
What emergency health services are there?
The Iliuliuk Clinic is prepared to handle many emergencies and there are two services that offer medevac service to hospitals in Anchorage.
LifeMed Alaska offers a medevac insurance for a small annual fee. www.lifemedalaska.com/
Alaska Regional LifeFlight also partners with Guardian Flight to offer medevac service and insurance.
What are boats currently fishing for?
There are two main fishing seasons here- 'A' season runs from January through April, 'B' season runs June through October. Fishing takes place during A and B seasons for pollock, Pacific cod, black cod, halibut, and yellowfin sole. There is a small herring bait fishery in summer. There is no commercial salmon fishery in Unalaska.
Fishing for crab takes place in the winter. Most crab fishing tables place in October and January-February.
How can I see the boats and crews from Deadliest Catch?
The Deadliest Catch crews and boats are generally in Dutch Harbor in October for the Red King Crab fishery and in January to fish for Opilio Crab and Pacific Cod during "A" season. Most of the year these boats and crews are in Seattle.
Why are there so few trees and what kind grow here?
Most of the trees growing on Unalaska are Sitka Spruce. In fact, three of the oldest trees were planted by the Russians in the early 1800s, and these are designated as a National Historic Landmark. Others were planted by the military during WWII as a 'morale-building' exercise for soldiers stationed here. There are several factors limiting tree growth in the Aleutians, including acidic soil. The main factor has been the low average summer soil temperature but in recent years this has increased and resulted in more tree growth. Other trees species are also taking hold and flourishing. For example, there is a small Red Alder Grove on the hike up to Bunker Hill.
For more information on the three National Historic Landmarks in Unalaska and others in the Pribilofs and Aleutian Chain, see the following link- www.nps.gov/subjects/nhlalaska/aleutians.htm