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> May 4, 2006 – Unalaska, Alaska, (also known as Dutch Harbor)
post May 8 2006, 05:13 PM
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May 4, 2006 – Unalaska, Alaska (also known as Dutch Harbor)

At 9:35 this morning, I sat aboard a small dual prop plane that could fit roughly 45 people. When the propellers started to swirl, the noise was so loud that many passengers pulled out the earplugs that had been neatly tucked into each seat pocket. For two hours we flew westward from Anchorage, soaring high above a chain of volcanic islands known as the Aleutian Islands. A heavy load and strong winds drained our plane of more fuel than we would need to get all the way to Unalaska. So the pilot was forced to land on an island called Cold Bay to refuel. All of the passengers had to get off and head for shelter in a small building, which I guess could be called the “airport.” (I use that term loosely!) Cold Bay was earning its name that day—although it was May, the wind was howling and snow was falling.

After a half hour or so, everyone boarded the plane again and Cold Bay became just another speck that I could barely make out as I peeked out of the window. The stewardess announced that depending on the weather in Dutch Harbor, we might have to “boomerang.” In other words, if the winds and visibility in Dutch were too bad, the pilot might have to turn the plane around and fly back to Anchorage. Luck was on our side, and an hour later, the plane started its descent into Dutch Harbor airport. From my window seat on the left side of the plane, I could see only water. A little nervous, I leaned forward and peered out of the window on the plane’s right side. More water—and then steeply rising islands covered in snow popped into view. I looked left again, and suddenly I saw a wall of rock. That was where we were headed. As it turns out, Dutch Harbor’s airstrip is really just a narrow ledge: to the left is a volcanic mountain, to the right is sea. I clutched the armrests and hoped for the best.

We landed with a gentle thud. Welcome to Dutch Harbor.

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This small, dual prop plane took us all the way from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor.

Baggage claim at Dutch Harbor: The steel door opens to the outside and baggage spills down the ramp. Unfortunately, my luggage did not arrive. I am told that it should be on the next flight.

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The baggage handlers lifted the steel door from the outside and dropped the luggage down the small slide.
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