arctic

Laura Kraegel/KUCB

A U.S. Navy warship called on Unalaska last week, marking the branch's first visit since the closure of Adak's base in the 1990s.

While city and tribal officials took the opportunity to push for a larger military presence on the island, other community members were wary of the crowds and chaos that came with 1,000 extra people in a community of about 4,500.

As Arctic Ice Melts, Will The Navy Return To Adak?

Sep 27, 2019
Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media

Amid the wind, waves, and rain, a strange ship roared through Kuluk Bay toward the shores of Adak.

It looked out of place, speeding past misty green mountains of the western Aleutian Island, a cross between a speedboat and an industrial fishing barge. With alarming speed, it lurched from the shore onto the beach, kicking up dark swirls of sand and sea spray. Its cargo trickled down of a ramp: Humvees, U.S. Marines, a compact green bulldozer. Everything you would need in an invasion.

Laura Kraegel/KUCB

The U.S. Navy warship USS Somerset has docked in Unalaska. Despite Navy officials' earlier concerns about limited space onboard, the vessel will be open Friday for public tours.

Unalaskans are invited to park their cars and line up at the city dock from 2 to 7 p.m. After clearing a security checkpoint, they'll be taken for tours in groups of 20. 

Berett Wilber/KUCB

Updated 9/23/19

After making a brief stop over the weekend, a large U.S. Navy ship is expected to call on Unalaska again — and stay for longer — next week.

"It's going to be noticeable," said Bailey Young, who's helping to organize the visit on behalf of the Unalaska Visitors Bureau. "They're not going be here for just a day."

Young was a member of the Navy for six years before moving to Unalaska. She said island residents should expect the port calling to be an even busier event than a cruise ship or U.S. Coast Guard cutter visit.

Laura Kraegel/KUCB

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan wants to increase Arctic security infrastructure throughout Alaska. During a short visit to Unalaska last week, he said the island and its port will play a role in that vision. Still, he stopped short of giving any specifics.

As Russia and China work to expand their influence in the Arctic, Sullivan said federal officials in the U.S. are finally starting to recognize the strategic importance of the region — a recognition that may result in a greater military presence in the Aleutian Islands.

Pages