Unga Island, Aleutian Islands

Today’s plan is to land at Unga Island, the final island of the Aleutian Islands chain that we will visit before arriving at the Alaskan Peninsula. The village of Unga was abandoned 50 years ago, and all that remains is some wild, wet and windswept landscapes, and the ruins of the Scandinavian style wooden buildings.

A short zodiac ride to the landing site at Unga Island delivers some kittywakes, and a bonus prize of a horned puffin alongside a tufted puffin, which highlights just how different the markings on these birds are.

It’s a wet and slippery zodiac landing onto Unga Island, until one of the naturalists improvises a long plank of wood as a temporary jetty. Before heading to the village further up the hill, two resident great horned owls have been spotted on the cliffs, which are a highlight of the visit.

The village of Unga is remarkably intact given it has been abandoned for 50 years and subject to the elements. Some structures have completely collapsed, others such as the church have the roof and spire frames intact, with no walls, and the former school seems to have collapsed in on itself.

There should be sea otters around the shoreline, but none are sighted. Happily though, there are juvenile and adult bald-headed eagles in flight around the higher ground further up on the hillside.

Le Soleal tucked away almost out of sight, viewed from the hill above the village.

We could have spent longer than 90 minutes at Unga Island, but we have some distance to sail on Ponant’s Le Soleal to be in Katmai National Park tomorrow.

Whaleback and Haystack Rocks

Along the way to the Alaskan Peninsula, Captain Le Rouzic does a sail by two formations known as Whaleback and Haystack Rocks, in search of wildlife, namely whales, sea birds, and Stellar Sea Lions. We encounter a large pod of fin whales on approach to Whaleback, which also turns out to have a colony of Stellar Sea Lions. There are some massive bulls, and an assortment of females and some very dark young pups.

Colony of protected Stellar Sea Lions on the rock formation known as ‘Whaleback’

Haystack Rock is a nesting site of thousands of kittiwakes, with clouds of them around the rocks.

Another highlight in the afternoon is a scenic ship cruise around and through a massive flooded caldera with stunning lava formations and rich green canopies, and with another colony of Stellar Sea Lions.

It isn’t until we sail away from the caldera that it is really apparent how monstrously large the volcano must have been if this is only the top of it.

And quite a nice sunset tonight.

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