Kodiak Island

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Nickname: Emerald Isle[1]
Location Pacific Ocean
Coordinates 57°28′N 153°26′W / 57.467°N 153.433°W / 57.467; -153.433Coordinates: 57°28′N 153°26′W / 57.467°N 153.433°W / 57.467; -153.433
Archipelago Kodiak Archipelago
Total islands 25
Area 9,311.24 km2 (3,595.09 sq mi)
United States
State Alaska
Borough Kodiak Island
Largest settlement Kodiak
Ethnic groups Alutiiq, European, Filipino
other Asian and Indigenous peoples,
Hispanics, including Filipino Hispanics

Kodiak Island is a large island on the south coast of the U.S. state of Alaska, separated from the Alaska mainland by the Shelikof Strait. The largest island in the Kodiak Archipelago, Kodiak Island is the second largest island in the United States and the 80th largest island in the world, with an area of 9,311.24 km2 (3,595.09 sq mi).,[2] slightly larger than Cyprus. It is 160 km (100 miles) long and in width ranges from 16 to 96 km (10 to 60 miles). Kodiak Island is the namesake for Kodiak Seamount, which lies off the coast at the Aleutian Trench. The largest community on the island is the city of Kodiak, Alaska.

Kodiak Island is mountainous and heavily forested in the north and east, but fairly treeless on the south. The island has many deep, ice-free bays that provide sheltered anchorages for boats. The southwestern two-thirds of the island, like much of the Kodiak Archipelago, is part of Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge.

Kodiak Island is part of the Kodiak Island Borough and Kodiak Archipelago of Alaska. The town of Kodiak is one of seven communities on Kodiak Island and is the island's main city. All commercial transportation between the island and the outside world goes through this city either via ferryboat or airline. Other settlements include the villages of Akhiok, Old Harbor, Karluk, Larsen Bay, Port Lions, and an unorganized community near Cape Chiniak. The village of Ouzinkie on nearby Spruce Island is also part of the island community. Kodiak is also home to the largest U.S. Coast Guard base, which includes Integrated Support Command Kodiak, Air Station Kodiak, Communications Station Kodiak, and Aids to Navigation Station Kodiak.

The Kodiak bear and the king crab are native to the island. The fishing industry is the most important economic activity on the island; fisheries include Pacific salmon, Pacific halibut, and crab. The Karluk River is famous for its salmon run. Logging, ranching, numerous canneries, and some copper mining are also prevalent.

An antenna farm at the summit of Pillar Mountain above the city of Kodiak provides primary communications to and from the island.


Native artifacts from the Kodiak Islands
Location of Three Saints Bay and St. Paul on Kodiak in 1805

Kodiak is the ancestral land of the Sugpiaq, an Alutiiq nation of Alaska Natives. The original inhabitants subsisted by hunting, fishing, farming, and gathering. Kodiak Island was explored in 1763 by Russian fur trader Stephan Glotov.

The first outsiders to settle on the island were Russian explorers under Grigory Shelekhov, a fur trader, who founded a Russian settlement on Kodiak Island at Three Saints Bay near the present-day village of Old Harbor in 1784.[3]:162–163 The settlement was moved to the site of present-day Kodiak in 1792 and became the center of Russian fur trading. Following the 1867 Alaska purchase the island became part of the United States; Americans settled there and engaged in hunting and fishing.

The settlement of Grigory Shelekhov on Kodiak Island.

In 1784, Shelekhov, along with 130 Russian fur traders massacred (see Awa'uq Massacre) several hundred Qik’rtarmiut Sugpiat ("Sugpiaq people of Qik’rtaq/Kodiak") tribe of Alutiiq men, women and children at Refuge Rock, a tiny stack island off the eastern coast of Sitkalidak Island. In Alutiiq, this sacred place is known as Awa'uq, "to become numb".[4]

Effects of Novarupta eruption[edit]

Novarupta is a volcano 100 miles (160 km) northwest of Kodiak Island that erupted from June 6 to June 8, 1912: the largest eruption in the 20th century. Life on Kodiak Island was immobilized during the 60-hour eruption. Darkness and suffocating conditions caused by the falling ash and sulfur dioxide gas rendered villagers helpless. Among Kodiak's 500 inhabitants, sore eyes and respiratory problems were widespread. Water became undrinkable. Radio communications were disrupted and visibility was nil. Roofs in the village collapsed under the weight of more than a foot of ash. Buildings were destroyed as avalanches of ash rushed down from nearby hillsides.[5][6]

On June 9 Kodiak villagers saw the first clear, ash-free skies in three days, but their environment had changed fundamentally. Wildlife on Kodiak Island was devastated by ash and acid rain from the eruption. Bears and other large animals were blinded by thick ash and many starved to death because large numbers of plants and small animals were smothered in the eruption. Birds blinded and coated by volcanic ash fell to the ground. Even the region's prolific mosquitoes were exterminated. Aquatic organisms in the region perished in the ash-clogged waters. Salmon, in all stages of life, were destroyed by the eruption and its aftereffects. From 1915 to 1919, southwestern Alaska's salmon-fishing industry was devastated.[7]

The island was also hit by the 1964 Good Friday earthquake and tsunami, which destroyed much of the waterfront, business district, and several villages.[8]

University of Alaska Anchorage has a beautiful 50-acre campus that began opening classes in 1968 located about 2 miles northwest of the City of Kodiak. The campus features 30-40 international and native Faculty and Adjunct Professors of international and native origins instructing more than 100 courses to 900+ students each semester in the following areas:

  • Adult Basic Ed: GED & ESL
  • Allied Health
  • Alutiiq Studies
  • Applied Technology Department
  • Business and Accounting
  • College Preparatory & Developmental Studies (CPDS)
  • Computer Information & Office Systems (CIOS)
  • Education
  • English
  • Fisheries Technology Programs
  • History & Humanities
  • Maritime Workforce Development
  • Mathematics
  • Natural Sciences
  • Nursing Program

The Campus web site can be used to obtain more programmatic information at http://www.koc.alaska.edu/about//index.cshtml


  1. ^ "Kodiak". Alaska Magazine. Retrieved August 28, 2013. 
  2. ^ Dunham, Mike (July 31, 2010). "Turns out Kodiak is largest U.S. island, depending on viewpoint". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved August 1, 2010. 
  3. ^ Brown, S.R., 2009, Merchant Kings, New York:St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9780312616113
  4. ^ Ben Fitzhugh (2003), The Evolution of Complex Hunter-Gatherers: archaeological evidence from the North Pacific, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York, 2003
  5. ^  This article incorporates public domain material from the National Park Service document "The great eruption of 1912: Alaska Park Science Winter 2002" by Jennifer Adleman.
  6. ^ Fierstein, Judy; Hildreth, Wes (2001). "Preliminary volcano-hazard assessment for the Katmai volcanic cluster, Alaska". U.S. Geological Survey. Open-File Report OF 00-0489. 
  7. ^ Fierstein, Judy; Hildreth, Wes; Hendley, J. W. II.; Stauffer, P. H. (1998). "Can another great volcanic eruption happen in Alaska?". U.S. Geological Survey. Fact Sheet FS 0075-98. 
  8. ^ "1964 Earthquake & Tidal Wave". Explore Kodiak History & Culture. Kodiak Island Convention & Visitors Bureau. Retrieved 2010-11-25. 

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