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.
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 and its sister city, the Port of Dutch Harbor, sit 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.”
Things to do
Artifacts from archaeological digs as well as other cultural items and information can be viewed at the Museum of the Aleutians and at the Ounalashka Corporation office.
The impact of WWII in the Aleutians remains one of the most visible features that dot this remote landscape today. Quonset huts, barracks, concrete bunkers and former gun emplacements provide visitors with a unique opportunity to explore this part of United States history. Less visible but not less important, was the war’s impact on the Alaska Native residents of the region, who were relocated from the islands after the June 1942 bombing by the Japanese and the difficulties they faced upon their return. This story is told at the Aleutian WWII Visitor Center, the Ounalashka Corporation office and the Museum of the Aleutians. Guided tours of historical sites are also available.
Besides the history, cultural opportunities and beautiful scenery, visitors come to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor to play outdoors. The island provides many outdoor activities including hiking, skiing, sportfishing, kayaking and bird/wildlife watching.