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> May 24, 2006 - On the Edge, King Island
Samantha_Dassler_Barlow
post May 30 2006, 06:26 PM
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Date: Wednesday, May 24, 2006

GPS Coordinates
Latitude: 64.9į N
Longitude: 168į W

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The Bering Sea Ė 5/24/06

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Can you find a little green dot near the ship on this map? Thatís King Island.

Upon waking and looking out my porthole this morning, I was taken by surprise. I thought I saw a huge chunk of land. I quickly dressed and climbed up the stairs to the bridge. It wasnít long before I found out what I saw outside my porthole was not at all what I first thought it was. I was looking at King Island.

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A large rock in the Bering Sea is the abandoned home of a very few native Alaskans. The captain swung the ship in for a closer look at the interesting features of this little island. At first glance King Island is not much more than a 4 square mile rock in the Bering Sea, several miles off the coast of Alaska. On closer look, a small, abandoned village teeters on the edge of the steep cliffs.

King Island is a tiny Island several miles off the coast of the Seward Peninsula of mainland Alaska. We could even see the mainland in the distance.

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5/24/06 - Our first glimpse of the mainland in weeks, the Seward Peninsula.

With a pair of binoculars, I could easily make out a set of grey structures against the brown backdrop of the island. These are houses on stilts that are remnants of an old native village that have been abandoned since 1970. The residents used to pack their belongings in small boats and go to Nome for the summer, but now the former residents live in Nome all year round. Apparently, around the late 1930ís there used to be a couple hundred residents in the village with a school and a church. The residents subsisted on walrus, seal, bird, berries, and plants. Captain Cook called the island the name we call it today back in the 1730ís, which came from a crewmember on one of his voyages.

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With the help of a pair of binoculars, I captured an image of the abandoned native village. I wish I could get even closer!

I am confused as to what group of natives might have lived there since my research capabilities are limited. I have seen the word Aseuluk in one place and Ukiwuk in another. I canít wait to get home and read more about this island so that I can check my sources and make more sense of what I saw. I am completely fascinated by this little village and the people who used to live there and I wish I could have gone to the island to explore the old houses. I wish I could have talked to the people that have now settled in Nome, Alaska. What amazes me the most, is the fact that these houses, built on stilts (like the houses on the NC barrier islands), are teetering on the edge of existence, perched on the ledges of the steep sides of the cliff. How much longer will they stand with conditions as harsh as the Bering Sea can offer?

The Internet access on the ship is incredibly slow, so I did not have much patience when I tried doing research about King Island on my own. I am really learning just how much I am dependent upon the conveniences of libraries and the Internet. Mr. Barlow was kind enough to send me a few articles from Wikipedia and NOAA.gov. Most of what I have written about King Island has come from those two sources.

There were also a few people on the ship that knew a little bit of information about King Island that made me want to know even more about the village. One person said that the houses were made of wood frames and covered with walrus hides. Another said that there was a statue of Christ overlooking the houses somewhere upwards of the village on a cliff. Why would there be a statue of Christ? The church on the island was a Catholic church. My friend Beth must have better than 20/20 eyesight because after hearing about the statue and looking for it for just a few moments, she directed us to look towards the top of the island to the right of the village at this tiny little thing that looked very much like a statue. We canít quite be sure that was what we saw, but I will definitely scour the Internet and the library when I get home.

One of the civilian computer guys on the ship, David Hassilev, recommended a book to me. He canít remember the author, but he said it is called The Count of Alaska, and it is about King Island. I canít wait to find that one at the bookstore when I get back.

If you know about any books on King Island or you can find more information about King Island, then please summarize, give quick credit to the source, and post it to ďAsk the Teacher.Ē I would love to read more about it!

Thanks to Richard Barlow for referencing an online Wikipedia article on King Island and the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) website for me!
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