John Ryan

Interim News Director

John Ryan worked for KUCB in 2015.

Ways to Connect

KUCB/John Ryan photo

Chapter 1. An Amazing Disaster

From a viewing blind in the middle of a seal rookery on Alaska's remote Pribilof Islands, it can be hard to fathom this place once holding vastly more life than it does now.

Untold thousands of chubby brown bodies drape over boulders and sprawl across the tundra into the distance: northern fur seals. Their bleating, groaning and barking fill the cool, salty air.

KUCB photo/John Ryan

As the superintendent of one of Alaska's smallest and most remote school districts, Connie Newman wears many hats. The Pribilof School District has 10 students at its school on St. George Island and 71 on St. Paul Island. The lightly inhabited, windswept islands sit 300 miles off Alaska's west coast in the Bering Sea.

After declining enrollment forced cutbacks two years ago, Newman took on the mantle of St. Paul School principal as well as district superintendent.

Zac Schasteen / Unalaska Department of Public Safety

Emergency crews were mopping up an ammonia leak from a boat at the OSI dock on Unalaska's Captains Bay Road midday Friday. They blocked off the road at the Crowley dock Friday morning, about a half mile closer to town, as they responded to the leak. At 11 a.m., Unalaska police officers moved the road block closer to OSI, stopping traffic just before the main entrance to the facility. 

As of 12:30 p.m., OSI employees were still sheltering in place. Coast Guard and Unalaska Public Safety personnel were on the scene.

Officials said there was no imminent public health threat.

St. Paul School students look out over the Bering Sea
Justine Kibbe

City and tribal-government employees on Alaska's St. Paul Island get Oct. 28 off each year for a holiday you might not have heard of: St. Paul Aleut Independence Day.

It marks the day in 1983 when Saint Paul islanders gained their freedom from the federal government. Various U.S. agencies had been running the island's fur seal harvest and economy for decades, leaving the locals as little more than wards of the state.

John Ryan / KUCB

William Wells lives and works at what may be the nation's most remote weather station. It's 300 miles off the west coast of Alaska (and 500 miles off the east coast of Siberia) in the Bering Sea. Even by St. Paul Island standards, his station is remote: it's off by itself, a few miles away from the village of 400 700 people who call St. Paul home.

Each afternoon, he walks from his office into a two-story-tall garage to fill up a six-foot-wide balloon with hydrogen gas.

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