Attu Island & Cruising

Jul 29, 2019 - National Geographic Orion


National Geographic Orion sailed into the vicinity of the island of Attu early on Monday morning. After dropping folks off in the previously inhabited Chichagof Bay, she set anchor around the island’s other side of Massacre Bay.

Attu is a site with much history. During World War II, this westernmost Aleutian island was first occupied by the Japanese. Stationed in Chichagof Bay, they unsuccessfully attempted to hold their ground against the American fleet. Many of the Japanese, in their characteristic pride, self-sacrificed their lives in lieu of becoming prisoners of war. Since the bloody war ended, Attu has remained an American base for US military. A coast guard station inactive since 2010 sits high on a local hill. Though abandoned for nearly a decade, this post remained active for over 60 years.

Guests went ashore on this island to explore a variety of options. The long hikers undertook a serious endeavor, crossing a huge section of the island on a ten-mile strenuous hike. Moderate hikers took to the beach, searching the trail for rare birds and identifying wildflowers, while keeping a good pace. The birders found a rare sandpiper, while the slower hike got down low to identify local flowers.

Long-retired Naval Captain Neil O’Connor and his wife Jean have a very special connection to Attu. In 1948, the captain worked as a meteorologist at the coast guard station here on the island. Today, at 91, he was not only able to see Attu for the first time in 71 years, he could show this part of his past to his life partner. Together, they walked to the plaque dedicated to the wartime heroes of a century past. Captain O’Connor spoke about his time on Attu, reminiscent in an incomparably unique way. It was a special treat for anyone involved in today’s activities to witness the pair during such an important life event.

As the ship sailed from Attu, she heads west towards Russia. With the Aleutians behind us and so much more ahead, the journey to Kamchatka continues.

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About the Author

Alyssa Adler

Undersea Specialist

As a young marine biologist, Alyssa Adler has had the opportunity to work as a diver in many capacities. For several years, she was a dedicated AAUS scientific diver for University of North Carolina on an offshore reef ecology project, and has participated in several of NOAA’s reef survey missions. She has been diving with National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions as an underwater videographer and ocean educator since 2014 and has fostered a love for the poles and extreme cold-water diving, spending most of her time underwater in sub-freezing temperatures.

About the Videographer

Eric Wehrmeister

Video Chronicler

Eric began his life on the far western edge of Chicago, where the concrete meets the cornfields.  His inspiration has always drawn from the expansive beauty of the natural world, as well as the endless forms that populate it.

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