On a map, the Aleutian Islands look as effortless as a "connect-the-dots" activity. Getting to Dutch Harbor, however, has proven to be a much greater challenge for several reasons.

    Dutch Harbor
    Basaltic rock is found along the coastline of Dutch Harbor. Photo by Bill Schmoker (PolarTREC 2010), Courtesy of ARCUS
    Dutch Harbor has unique weather patterns due to cold, dry Arctic air from the north converging with low pressure systems from the Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Here in Anchorage today, the skies have been partly cloudy and calm; in contrast, the weather in Dutch Harbor caused several flights to be canceled.
    Another reason it has been a challenge to reach Dutch Harbor is that many people are going there now for seasonal work in the fisheries industry. What makes the Bering Sea around Dutch Harbor so productive has to do with the upwelling of colder, nutrient-rich waters. Upwellings promote the growth of phytoplankton, the primary producers of the marine ecosystem. The abundance of phytoplankton in the Bering Sea gives rise to a great diversity of marine species such as pollock, halibut, mackerel, red king crab and shrimp. These are among the marine organisms harvested and the industries associated with these animals draw a great influx of seasonal workers here.
    Bald eagle on rocks near Dutch Harbor
    A bald eagle strikes a pose near Dutch Harbor. Photo by Bill Schmoker (PolarTREC 2010), Courtesy of ARCUS
    The remoteness of the Aleutian Islands is another piece of the puzzle. This island arc is comprised of nearly 70 islands, many of which are volcanic. These islands form part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and traveling to these islands involves a great deal of planning.

    If flying from the east coast of the U.S. to Dutch Harbor had been as simple as connecting the dots, I would have arrived there at least a day earlier. As easy as it might be to lapse into complaining about the cancellation of my first flight out of Norfolk which caused me to miss that coveted seat on the original Dutch Harbor flight, I instead take comfort in the well-worn traveler adage "The journey is more important than the destination". Over these past two days, I've been in constant contact with Mary Beth Decker, Janet Warburton, Judy Fahnestock and Robbie Score, all of whom gave me great advice to help me secure a new seat on a Dutch Harbor flight. In addition, I have been afforded the opportunity to meet many people on flights and at airports as well as read more about the geology, biology and meteorology of the region.

    Reaching the destination of Dutch Harbor so that I can board the ship on time is foremost on my mind now, but the journey undertaken to get there has greatly enriched my experience.

    Weather Summary
    Partly Cloudy
    60 F
    Wind Speed


    Lisa Seff

    Hi Lee! Oh yes, traveling logistics can get interesting! How exciting that you're trip begins in Dutch Harbor! I will think positive weather thoughts and hope that your flights will come together!safe seas!

    Judy Fahnestock

    We're giddy that you are almost there! You've done such an awesome job taking the first part of your trip in stride; it's so true: the journey *is* more important than the destination. I look forward to seeing a picture of you aboard the Oceanus. Smooth sailing!

    Bill Schmoker

    Hang in there, indeed getting in and out of Dutch can require some patience!! If you have any spare hours, you can explore on foot around town- great sea & shore life, interesting WWII structures, a fantastic small museum, etc.!! Looking forward to your journals at sea.

    Lenore Teevan

    Thanks, Bill! You took some really beautiful photos here.  I would like to explore Dutch Harbor is we have the time.


    Janet Warburton

    I just checked on your plane status -- and I believe you are there! Finally!! Wow. I won't rest until I get your text or email saying that you are there but giddy that the universe decided that you should go to Unalaska after all!
    I hope your presentation also goes great today. Looking forward to those first photos.