It is hard to believe a place as beautiful as the Aleutians is real. Impossibly green islands erupting from the unfathomably rich ocean. Simultaneously storm-battered and verdant. Cloaked in glaciers while smoking with volcanic vents. As remote as any place on earth but with a complex and fascinating human history. Explore the Aleutians with us!
The Aleutian Islands form an arc across the Bering Sea from Alaska to Siberia. Each isolated island is unique in its human and natural history. Some islands boast the greatest diversity of nesting seabirds in North America, where skies darken with bird wings and the air is pungent with guano. Other islands show evidence on Unangan (Aleut) villages several thousand years old, complete with driftwood and whale bone house frames; a reminder that this was once the most populated portion of indigenous Alaska.
Still other islands belch volcanic ash and steamy fumeroles showing us that the islands are still rising from the sea. Rocky shores show the scars of both US and Japanese military occupation and war. We will have nearly two weeks to explore and enjoy the far reaches of the western Aleutians at the peak of summer. Each island and indeed the ocean between is full of wonder and beauty.
Based on the 72′ foot steel hulled Puk Uk and in the company of one of regions the more experienced captains along with Michael Wald, Arctic Wild’s owner, this trip provides a truly unique opportunity to explore rarely visited and remote portions of the western Aleutians. Comfortably housed, and well fed on this capable boat we will have the tools and the time to penetrate the hidden bays and climb the lonely summits of these storied islands. There is no end to the wonders of the Aleutians and this trip is designed to provide you with ample time to follow your curiosity, hike around the next bend, and relish your time on shore.
We could easily spend the entire journey in the vicinity of Adak, never getting west of Kiska. But given that we have 12 full days of charter with the Puk Uk it’ll be really fun to travel to the extreme western edge of the country to explore the human and natural history of the area. We will set our sights on Attu at the start of the trip and will plan on making a nearly 900 mile circuit through this remote wilderness.
Leaving Adak we will head west, doing our best to cover some miles but not hurrying past marine or birdlife. If the forecast is favorable we may travel for the bulk of a day or more to make some miles towards Attu knowing we will have time to hike and explore on the way back. Or if it is stormy we can poke around closer islands, hiking, birding, and exploring before pushing west.
Attu will be a highlight but there is a lifetime of exploring to be done before we get that far. We will work to balance the need to cover miles with the desire to enjoy each day to the fullest. Expect a few full days at sea and lots of time ashore too.
This trip is not for everyone. The Puk Uk is a comfortable and capable vessel but we may encounter rough seas and, if prone to seasickness, you may not feel your best some of the days. But there is no place on earth quite as rich and interesting as the Aleutians and we are eager to share it with you.
Last updated: May 15, 2021
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet in Adak.
Remarkably, given the location and population, the town of Adak has twice weekly scheduled jet service with Alaska Airlines for the 1,200 mile flight. Once you and your luggage has arrived, we will make our way to the harbor to settle into shipboard life. Depending on the weather (a phrase you’ll grow to love) we may have time to explore this former military base which once housed 4,000 plus people but is now less than a tenth the size. Or we may cast our lines immediately and begin our journey towards the very end of America.
The weather will of course dictate how we spend our time. If it is rough we can seek shelter in the islands, hike the ridges, comb the beaches, fish the bays, explore the ruins, ponder the depth of Unangan (Aleut) history and the violence of the military history.
When the sea-state is more favorable we can cover some miles, heading west into the eastern hemisphere edging closer to the date-line while marveling at the abundance and diversity of sea-birds and marine mammals.
The weather dictates everything in this part of the world so we don’t have a set itinerary. But we do have some places we are eager to share with you.
There are islands and islets screaming with seabirds, a kaleidoscope of wings and bills swirling by the thousands between grey water and grey sky.
In the passes between islands where the tidal currents stir the rich soup of the north Pacific into the cold Bering Sea, the sea boils with marine life and we can spend hours watching whales feed and cavort in the fog.
There are wonderfully deep harbors ringed with cliffs and waterfalls. Torrents of melted snow fresh from the volcano’s slopes which launch from the green tundra only to be torn away by the wind or on occasion blown right back up the cliff!
And in the richest places with the best beaches and the most shelter lie the wonderfully situated Unangan village sites, where remains of whalebone framed barabaras (sod houses) show the outlines of large and prosperous communities. The sounds of children replaced by the sound of grass in the wind.
Glacier cloaked volcanoes including the currently smoking Semisopochnoi Island dot the horizon as we steam west and still further west.
And other islands produce fumaroles, bubbling springs, and all manner of geothermal wonders not far from the beach.
On Kiska Island we can see where more than 5,000 Japanese soldiers lived during their occupation of the island during World War II. Relics from the US and Japanese Navy litter the tundra and the beach, red with rust. A moving memorial to this little known part of the war.
Then still further west, out of the Rat Islands and into the loneliest stretch of the entire 1,200 mile Aleutian Arc to Buldir Island, the most remote island in the whole chain which supports the most diverse seabird colony in the northern hemisphere.
And finally to Attu, as far west as you can go in the United States. We’ve come here for more than just the novelty of crossing into the eastern hemisphere and being at the western most point in America. Attu is rich in human and natural history and with the extensive road system left from military occupation the island is amazingly easy to get around on. We can hike or stroll along the roads for views of the cliffy coast (assuming no fog), inspect the bunkers and batteries on the headlands and keep our binoculars handy for unusual birds flitting in the creeks.
And then, exultant and invigorated from a week of exploring ever further west, we turn back perhaps visiting a favorite harbor and certainly seeing new sights and wildlife as we work eastward towards Adak.
We could spend all summer exploring the western Aleutians, we could spend a lifetime getting to know just one island. 12 days will give us an opportunity to cover the miles between Adak and Attu, while leaving plenty of time to go ashore and hike, explore, bird, photograph, paint, ponder, or whatever delights you. We will spend as much time ashore as we can and with a small group your interests and abilities will guide our adventures.
We arrive in Adak in the morning and prepare for a mid-day check-in for the flight to Anchorage.
The guides were uncommonly knowledgeable, competent, hardworking, and they consistently took care of the group before taking care of their own stuff. They kept our safety in mind while staying open to suggestions, and allowing folks a lot of freedom for personal wanderings.
12 days of charter aboard the Pukuk
All meals while aboard
Professional Guide Service
Wind and Fog
Transportation to and from Adak
Meals nor Accommodations in Adak
Personal clothing, and footwear. See equipment list for details
Gratuity for guide/ captain/ cook/ deckhand
Cost associated with weather delays (eg lodging or meals in Adak while waiting for a plane)
No Bears. No Bugs. Wind and storms and sun and rain and FOG maybe all in the same day. Expect atrocious weather and unrelenting fog with hurricane force winds. If those are your expectations, you might be pleasantly surprised by the weather if it clears.