Ashore in Adak

Been a while but I’ve been ashore in Adak twice, first time was when I was on a CG Cutter stationed out of Kodiak.

The ship tied up to a pier right next to the runway for the night, the base with its clubs lay just beyond on the other side of the runway. The crew was given a lecture not to cross the runway because you’d get caught by the MP and thrown in the brig.

I went ashore with a shipmate, a GM1 called by everyone “Gunner”. He must have been about 30 years old but he seemed much older and wiser to me.

We dutifully hiked clear round the runway to get to the club but when we left the club, seeing the ship all lit up right in front of us was too much, we decided to take a shortcut so we sprinted across the runway. Made it without incident.

Here’s a photo of Gunner with his beloved M-1 (IIRC), not Adak but on Unimak Island.

The ship had anchored in Unimak Bight and the motor whaleboat took crew members ashore.


When I made BMC aboard a Seattle based WHEC (378’) I had to wait till we got to Adak to be initiated as a CPO. I spent the better part of the morning being "entertained " by the Marines, then turned over to the Navy Chiefs for further enlightenment. That was a day to remember. Adak has some of the roughest roads anywhere, especially when yo are face down in the back of a P/U truck handcuffed and being guarded The rain does blow sideways and is almost constant.
The Naval station is all gone now, just some of the old family housing & other buildings left to decay…


Looks like a Model of 1903 bolt action in .30-06; precursor to the M1 Garand of WW2 fame.


I lived there as a teenager for two years in the early 80s. I remember hunting and fishing all over that island!

They are trying but failing to get a permanent 5000 ton allocation of cod quota in order to keep some jobs on the island- just turned down. Without that Adak might as well be Kiska. Lots of good infrastructure but nothing to do with it.

Have for sure learned a lot from these seasoned posters. Cool shit.

The second trip I made to Adak was as third mate on a MSC ship about 10 years later. I posted about that trip on this forum:

The other thing I recall about that trip was I went ashore for a trip to the PX and recall that there was a McDonald’s there.


we put in there and me and the 3rd found we could ‘rent’ a van at the local store. the mcdonalds was long shut down but the signs were up. the local resteraunt’’ had the most expensive burger I ever bought (not bad either but after a month aboard ship ??) the waste there still amazes me, cement trucks, the fenced in D-9, dozers, backhoes, buildings open to the outside. The resident generator station watcher had been out of contact so long he couldn’t stop talking … to anyone !!! a nice visit … unlike Kiska which i found down right spooky.

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The Aleutians have their share of ghost towns. The biggest Aleutian Island, Unimak, presently has only one town, False Pass, with less than a hundred people. But at one time there were two towns, and in addition two Coast Guard light stations, and a DEW Line radar facility.

The government installations were linked by a unpaved road, and had an airstrip for large planes. Scotch Cap lighthouse wasn’t too impressive, except for the foundations of the original lighthouse, demolished by a tsunami in 1946. The replacement, a concrete bunker of a place, was built back farther from the cliffs. The USCG wasn’t taking any more chances.

The big facility was Cape Sarichef light station, ten miles from Scotch Cap. Sarichef had begun as a lifesaving station, with rescue boats. The station had been abandoned in 1979. Pretty much everything had been left behind. Too costly to fly stuff out. Visiting hunters had vandalized the place, but it was more or less intact by the time I saw it in 1991, to sheets on the beds and balls on the pool table.

There was a DEW Line radar station nearby, built on top of a cinder cone (small volcano). A gigantic building with no windows. Hardened for bombing, presumably. The USCG station had all of its signs still up. You could tell what each building and room had been. But at the DEW Line station every single sign, label, and door nameplate had been removed when it was decommissioned in 1969. Talk about Cold War paranoia.

A friend and I backpacked around the entire island in the 1991. 220 miles. It had been so long since humans had frequented this part of the island that animals had forgotten about them. The brown bears and foxes would walk by you, as if you weren’t there. Caribous treated us like wolves and charged us, then circled us a few yards away. A behavior they use for scaring off wolves.

All the government installations were demolished and removed in 1999.


great story freighterman, yes, there is tremendous development/destruction and all else up in the cold regions and cost to save/reclaim/salvage a lot of it isn’t all, it’s also ruff on the people sent to do work there.
I know a fisherman who put into some island (we know this place, can’t think of it) but they’d drilled a big hole there to light off a nuke. they had houses with dishwashers, cars in the garage all with 1/4 tank of gas, tool boxes with tools, … it was like a town that’d never seen humans to study the effects of the underground blast. I later read it raised the ground level by 2 inches or something but then they left it and quarantined it.
He’d had to put in there because of weather, they explored everywhere, drove a few cars etc.
I went to Johnston Atoll, they scraped the top 2’’ of dirt off the whole island and decommissioned it. we went there evidently to take photos of the like new air field. it has a tall hosital there of concrete 6 ft. thick all boarded up though some of the tin is flapping. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is well stocked with equipment? the birds had never seen humans, the dock was made of synthetic wood. all other buildings had been removed, the power poles were decked in a parking lot, paint on the streets, concrete foundations in place, bomb bunkers at the airfield looked good. If one were a trillionaire it may make a ideal place to live like a Dr. Mourie or James Bond villian.

I flew out of Adak after my first contract trawling nearly 20 years ago. I remember buying a 32oz V8 splash for $13.

In the summer of 1957 I was a buck private on the USNS JAMES O’HARA heading for Japan when we stopped in Adak. Having been told the old story that Adak is great, there is a woman behind every tree, I couldn’t wait to dock there. Well, one - we weren’t allowed to go ashore and two - from the ship I couldn’t see one tree on the island. I have seen later a picture of a single small tree with a sign in front reading “Adak National Forest”. Ah well, got a little less naive after that.


I was a 3rd Mate on the USNS Observation Island when I made my Adak visits, in the early '90s.For the convenience of the RCA (I think it was) people who ran the huge dome radars, we stayed on zulu time. That meant that my only time off was when everything was shut down. So, no visits to the commissary or exchange for me! I do remember the McDonald’s, though.

The radar techs seemed to hate the MSC crew, and thought that we were beneath them in status. My first introduction to this was when I was coming out of the ship’s library, and was going upstairs in a narrow stairwell. I was already halfway up one length of it, and one of the radar techs was on his way down. Instead of waiting on the landing for me to pass, because there wasn’t enough room for two people on the stairs, he just started walking down the stairs, and it apparently was my job, as mere MSC scum, to flatten myself up against the wall for his passage.

I remember when we had pulled into port in Cape canaveral, and after we tied up a lot of these guys had found out they had just lost their jobs. They were given something like an hour or two to grab their things, and leave the vessel. I remember a lot of the MSC crew lined up near the gangway, in order to taunt them. “Ha-ha! Hope you can’t get another job!”


My father did some serious time on Observation Island as a Chief TMC. When it went left Canaveral to get refitted in Norfolk from Polaris to Posieden missles, we moved with it. Around 1963. He stayed on that rig more than a few trips.

scribblerF/old sailer, nice to see input from you guys … I really like comments from ‘back in the day’… hope you write more often.

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