Kamen Ariy Island & Nikolskoye Village

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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About the Author

Grace Winer


Geologist and naturalist, Grace is a Montanan now living in Seattle. Grace received her degrees in geology (BS and MSc) from Montana State University. Funded by a grant from the National Geographic Society, she pursued her master’s degree in Alaska’s remote Pribilof Islands. Here she investigated the volcanic evolution of St. Paul Island, creating a geologic map, and predicting volcanic hazards in the event of a future eruption. Her knowledge of the Pribilof Islands and the Bering Sea region led to her work as a consulting geologist on St. George Island for NOAA’s Pribilof Restoration Project.

About the Photographer

Ralph Lee Hopkins

National Geographic Photographer

National Geographic photographer Ralph Lee Hopkins is the founder and director of the Expedition Photography program for the Lindblad-National Geographic alliance. For more than 20 years he has lead expeditions from the Arctic to Antarctica and points in between.

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