Aleutian Islands to the Arctic Ocean and Back
The 2015 voyage reached the very northern tip of the United States, right up in the polar ice. On the way there and back, we traversed the notoriously rough Bering and Chukchi Seas not only once, but twice!
We broke the northward journey into smaller hops, meaning that we sailed in better than average conditions (although it was still no picnic!) and that we got to experience places that most people never visit. Being wildlife-nerds, we were especially excited to witness unique nesting seabirds, herds of prehistoric-looking muskoxen, a snowy owl – icon of the Arctic – and great flocks of migrating birds.
The people we met truly made the voyage, though – generous new friends who ranged from Inupiat elders to a college student to marine biologists. Two of the best moments were being shown traditional whale-bone and sod iglus on the longest continuously inhabited place in North America and running with Barrow’s last remaining sled-dog team.
The return voyage to Dutch Harbor was a 20-day saga without setting foot on land. The Chukchi and Bering Seas were in their full autumn fury, making the passage our most challenging yet. Still, that made the sight of the volcanic peaks of the Aleutians all the more welcome!If you’re really ambitious and would like to read all about it, here are the blog posts in chronological order, listed in categories: Dutch Harbor, Pribilof Islands (central Bering Sea), Nome and Bering Strait, Alaska’s Arctic North Slope, Arctic Ocean, and the return voyage to the Aleutians.
Dutch Harbor, Aleutian Islands
- Traveling back to Celeste from our shore home in Switzerland: layover in Iceland!
- Traveling back to Celeste: layover in mainland Alaska, visit to Denali
- Arrival back in Dutch Harbor, Unalaska Island
- Readying Celeste for the voyage north: upgrades including new alternator
- Exploring the wilderness of Unalaska Island
- Scuba diving in the Bering Sea and Celeste‘s sea trials
- Last projects before departing Dutch Harbor
St Paul, Pribilof Islands, Bering Sea
- Passage from Dutch Harbor to St Paul Island, central Bering Sea
- Unique birds and breeding fur seals on St Paul Island
- Coldest 4th of July ever!
- High winds and Arctic foxes
Nome, Alaska and the Bering Strait
- 4-day passage from St Paul Island to Nome, complete traverse of the Bering Sea
- ‘There’s No Place Like Nome!’
- Salmon fishing outside Nome
- Exploring the Seward Peninsula by bicycle: birds, muskoxen, tundra, gold mining
- Passage through the Bering Strait
Point Hope, North Slope
- Unexpected Stop on Point Hope
- Meeting Inupiat elders, learning about Point Hope’s history – longest continuously inhabited place in North America!
- Snowy owl, spotted seals, and an ATV
Chukchi Sea, Point Barrow, and the Arctic Ocean
- Passage from Point Hope to Point Barrow, northernmost tip of the United States
- Weatherbound at Point Barrow
- At the edge of the polar pack ice
- Barrow, Alaska: tundra town and muktuk (whale blubber)!
- Barrow’s last remaining sled-dog team and huge flocks of migrating birds
- Visiting climate change scientist George Divoky and his nesting seabirds
Return Passage, Point Barrow to Dutch Harbor
- A rough and challenging 20-day passage across the Chukchi and Bering Seas
- Decommissioning Celeste, Northern Lights, and spawning salmon
To read about the 2014 voyage from Washington State to the Aleutians, click here.
All text and photographs © Ellen Massey Leonard and Seton Leonard, 2016, All Rights Reserved.