Jul 02, 2019 - National Geographic Orion
We arrived early this morning off Kamen Ariy, an amazing islet off northwest Bering Island, the westernmost Aleutian Island. The temperature was 6o C and the sea surface under low cloud cover like smooth, silvery billows as we set forth in our fleet of Zodiacs. Kamen Ariy is amazing for two reasons: first is the geology, as it is formed of columnar basalt with the columns positioned is such a way as to provide myriad nesting sites for birds; second is that every possible nesting site is being occupied by nesting seabirds—tens of thousands of them. Common and thick-billed murres nested shoulder-to-shoulder on narrow ledges. Tufted and horned puffins and smaller auklets occupied the highest ground. Kittiwakes shared the basalt cliffs lower on the island and here the black-legged kittiwakes nested side-by-side with the rare red-legged kittiwakes—of which we saw many! Red-faced and pelagic cormorants were resplendent in their breeding plumage. Young northern fur seals romped near kelp beds and giant Steller’s sea lions had a small rookery on the rocks.
In the afternoon, we visited the village of Nikolskoye, home to 613 ethnic Russians and Aleuts. With schoolchildren as our guides, we toured the village with its two museums and a new visitors’ center. We enjoyed a dance performance at the cultural center and visited the small but beautiful Russian Orthodox Church built of logs. The people were very friendly and welcoming.
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