One: Unless you’re in the fishing industry or live in the Aleutian Islands, you have to go out of your way to get there. Many Alaskans have been to Juneau or Skagway or anywhere on the road system (Homer, Seward, Anchorage, Denali, Fairbanks) because it’s fairly easy to get there. But not to Dutch Harbor—you have to fly or take a four-day ferry to go to Dutch Harbor.
Two: Although most people just say “Dutch Harbor” there are two towns, Dutch Harbor and Unalaska, united by a bridge. Dutch Harbor is the industrial/fishing town, and Unalaska has a more residential, small town feel to it. Originally, Unalaska was the traditional Unangan (Aleut) village and Dutch Harbor was the port, then the military base in the 1930s and 40s—which brings me to why I was there.
I went to do research for my next book about World War II in Alaska. Dutch Harbor was bombed by the Japanese in 1942, and the U.S. Army and Navy had a strong presence there. You can still see bunkers and military buildings all over the area. Plus, the U. S. Government took the Aleuts off the islands and interned them in Southeast Alaska. Evidence of that sad period of our history is also in both towns.
While I was researching a negative period of our history, I was inspired by all the stories of courage, sacrifice, and generosity. Plus, it is beautiful, even stunning, country out there, and the people were very helpful. I’m glad I went.