For 61º North: Adak’s Curious Bones

Adak isn’t the sort of place many people just go. If you are neither hunter nor birder nor fisher, and you still want to go there, it’s best if you have a collector’s mind. It’s the sort of place you’d really get if you’ve always been a beachcomber, a person who likes to walk a tide line, who can’t resist pocketing the hollow bird bone or the hunter’s sun-bleached shotgun shell.

It helps, too, if you like history. History, like beachcombing, is essentially a way to exercise the imagination. Adak has exotic natural beauty, sure, but the place is also a unique study in the life cycle of human debris. It’s junk, really, but if you’re the right sort of person, it fills your mind with stories.

To get to Adak, you fly 1,200 miles west of Anchorage to the far end of the Aleutian Islands. Alaska Airlines currently offers jet service to the island on Thursdays and Sundays. It takes about three hours to get to Adak, depending on the wind. The plane is often mostly empty.

You descend out of the clouds and there it it is: snow-capped peaks rising out of the sea like the island home of a villain in a James Bond movie, the Pacific on one side and the Bering Sea on the other. Once you land, you’re in another time zone, one hour earlier than mainland Alaska.

Read more here (and see photos by Nathaniel Wilder.) To see my iPhone photos from the trip go here.

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Julia O’Malley is a journalist who lives in Anchorage. She writes about culture, family, home, the environment and food in Alaska.

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