Dutch Harbor/Unalaska

 People may refer to the whole area as Dutch Harbor, but it’s actually the island and city of Unalaska…Dutch Harbor is on the neighboring island Amaknak and connects to Unalaska by a 500 foot bridge. 

Dutch Harbor/Unalaska (Each has their own zip code) 

Because Dutch Harbor is the busiest international fishing port in America, much of the population and commerce are right at Dutch Harbor.

The Church of Holy Ascension faces Dutch and is seen often on Deadliest Catch (especially the intro) 

   Dutch and Unalaska are part of the Fox islands which are the nearest to the mainland…about 800 miles or so.  The Aleutians are comprised of four main groups: Fox Islands, nearest to the mainland, including Unimak, Unalaska, Umnak, and Akutan; Andreanof Islands, including Amlia, Atka, Adak, Kanaga, and Tanaga; Rat Islands, including Amchitka and Kiska; and Near Islands, the smallest and westernmost group, including Agattu and Attu. The Semichi Islands, of which Shemya is the largest, are nearby.  The Aleutian Islands stretch out for more then 1100 miles.


The Aleutian islands and their arched shape 

Unalaska and Amaknak islands

Aleutians were visited in 1741 by Vitus Bering, a Danish explorer employed by Russia (Name sound familiar?).  Early settlers were Unangan people, now known as Aleuts, who lived in a few dozen settlements on the islands. Many were forced into slavery and moved by the Russians to the Pribilofs to harvest fur seals. Archaeologists often find remnants of the older civilization.  The History of Aleuts goes back at least 70 generations.

Aleut men aboard ship showing pelagic fur seal hunting equipment (1896) 


Hunting tools–spears, harpoons, bows and arrows (1896)

The Church of the Holy Ascension, the oldest Russian-built church still standing in the country, dominates Unalaska. It was first built in 1825 and then enlarged in 1894 when wings were attached to change its floor plan from a ‘vessel’ to a ‘pekov’ or one in the shape of a crucifix. Overlooking the bay, the church with its onion domes is a photographer’s delight. Outside is a small graveyard with the largest marker belonging to Baron Nicholas Zass. Born in 1825 in Russia, he eventually became bishop of the Aleutian Islands and all of Alaska before dying in 1882. Next-door is the Bishop’s House. The church is the repository of more than 700 Russian Orthodox icons, books and paintings.

The Church of the Holy Ascension, the oldest Russian-built church still standing

In 1939, the U.S. built navy and army installations and at one time the area supported 60,000 servicemen. In 1942, the Japanese opened their Aleutian Islands campaign by bombing Dutch Harbor and occupying Attu and Kiska Islands in the only foreign invasion of U.S. soil during World War II.

Remnants of WW II such as this bunker are visible throughout the area

According to 2003 data, 4,200 people live in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor permanently and 2,000 or so more arrive for crab season.

Dutch Harbor crab fishing vessels 

Seafood processing and commercial fishing are the town’s major industries. Dutch Harbor is one of Alaska’s largest seafood-processing centers. The town’s median income is $68,000 a year.



This entry was posted in Aleutian Islands, Dutch Harbor, Unalaska. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dutch Harbor/Unalaska

  1. Hal Granum says:

    Having lived in Unalaska during the fifties I have remained a fervent follower of all things Unalaska. Your pictures bring back great memories and your dialogue is right on. The differences now compared to 1950’s is staggering but the terrain and lifestyle remains the same.

    I recently wrote a children’s book called “The Great Eagle Spirit” about a young Alaskan boy living in Unalaska who discovers the importance of his ancestry as a result of his adventures. I tried to capture what it was like for a young boy living there many years ago.

    Hope to read more about the Aleutian Islands.

  2. opilia says:

    Hal–Thanks so much for posting! I absolutely love ALL pictures I run into of Unalaska and Dutch Harbor. Places that are both beautiful and full of character get in your blood, I think. I will be looking around for your book, and I’ll be writing about St. Paul and St. George over the weekend. Thank you for stopping by.

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