by Stan Chladek
Expedition Members: Brian Day & Stan Chladek
- Kayaks: Nordkapp Jubilee 3 piece sectional by Valley Canoe Products
- Paddles: Lendal crank shafts
- Dry Suits: Kokatat GoreTex
- Tents: Bibler/Black Diamond
The Aleutian Islands are a remote archipelago stretching in a great arc from southwest Alaska to Siberia. Located at the collision of the relatively warm Northern Pacific Ocean and the frigid Bering Sea, the island’s bad weather is legendary, with frequent fog, gale force winds, and rain. Thus the islands have been called the "Birthplace of Winds" or the "Cradle of Storms". The islands were the home of the Aleutians, perhaps the most accomplished ancient native kayakers. These hunters of the stormy seas had to be expert kayakers in order to survive in the vicious seas and render their livelihood from them. Their hunting machines, the baidarkas, along with West Greenland kayaks, were the most advanced and efficient water crafts used by natives. The baidarkas were used for fishing and hunting various sea mammals including, incredibly, whales. Early Russian observers - because it was the Russians who in the 18 and 19th century colonized the islands - remarked on the extreme seaworthiness and efficiency of the baidarkas as well as on the high skills of the Aleutian kayakers. The Russians virtually enslaved the Aleuts and forced them to hunt sea otters from the baidarkas, whose pelts they traded with the Chinese. This wholesale slaughter of sea otters in the 19th century led to a virtual extinction of this animal along the northwest coast of America. The Aleuts suffered an even worst fate at the hands of the Russians and through the infectious diseases such as small pox introduced by whites. The last straw for these people was a forcible relocation during World War II by the US government when the Islands were attacked by the Japanese. So today, only a small remainder of the once proud natives remain on the islands which are part of Alaska.