When you fly to a jet charter airport in Chernofski Harbor, Alaska, you’re transported to one of the continent’s final frontiers.
This raw and rugged harbor sits on Unalaska Island, an uncharted mass of fjords and mountains deep in the Alaskan Peninsula far away from road service and civilization alike. The nearest settlement is inaccessible by land, requiring a plane or boat to reach Nikolski, Alaska on Umnak Island in the neighboring Aleutians West Census Area. With a population of only 39 in 2020, up from 18 in 2010, Nikolski is believed to be one of the oldest continuously-occupied communities in the world. According to the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, there is archaeological evidence found less than five miles offshore in Nikolski Bay that shows human-occupation activity as far back as 8,500 years ago.
In Nikolski, you can visit Chaluka where there is concrete evidence of 4,000 years of continuous occupation. Fishing is the oldest industry on the islands, that now sees residents rely on subsistence farming of sheep and cattle raising. Previously, the island was also known for hunting sea otters and farming foxes. With a sheep ranch established in 1926, Nikolski is home to thousands of sheep. Despite its small population, Nikolski was attacked by Japanese forces in 1942 during the Second World War. Residents of the island were evacuated, and while they were allowed to return in 1944, many chose to stay offshore after finding work in canneries and on fishing vessels.