Sunday, June 20, 2010

Geography & What's in a Name?

For those of you not familiar with Alaska's geography, here is an explanation of where Unalaska is. The Aleutian Chain is that long group of small volcanic islands which extends from the most soutwest corner of Alaska in an approximately 1500 mile long line running southwest toward Russia from the most south-west corner of Alaska. (The last US island on the chain is Attu.) Unalaska is about 1000 miles from Anchorage, via ferry. And--no, sorry, you can't see Russia from there!

The native peoples, Aleut or Unangan, have lived on Unalaska Island for thousands of years. The Russian fur trade reached Unalaska in 1759. The Unangan people, who were the first to inhabit the island of Unalaska, named it “Ounalashka” meaning "Near the Peninsula." The name Unalaska is probably an English variation of this name. The regional native corporation has adopted this and is known as the Ounalashka Corporation. Dutch Harbor was named that by the Russians because they believed that a Dutch vessel was the first European ship to enter the harbor.

The naming around Unalaska is confusing for some. The name Unalaska is the name of the island. It is also the name of the major town on the island, population approximately 4000, making it the 11th largest city in Alaska! Dutch Harbor, the official name of the city's port, is often applied to the portion of the City of Unalaska located on Amaknak Island, which is connected by bridge to the rest of the community on Unalaska Island. The bridge is known as "The Bridge to the Other Side"--the other side being Amaknak. Interestingly, the airport is called Dutch Harbor (because it is on Amaknak Island), not Unalaska, and they actually have two post offices--one for Unalaska, the other for Dutch Harbor.

OK, so I know, that's way more than you wanted to know!! Happy Father's Day :-)

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