The Alaska Air Cargo team recently paid a visit to the community of Adak, AK. Adak is located on the western tip of the Aleutian Islands, midway between the United States and Russia, where the Bering Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. Remote by any definition, Adak is the southernmost community in Alaska, 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage. Once hosting a U.S. military base supporting a population of thousands, Adak’s current population is fewer than 400 hardy inhabitants, many of whom work in the commercial fish processing industry.
We hosted a luncheon and a Q&A forum at the airport. Here’s some follow-up input from two of our customers and a local cargo station employee. This will give you a good flavor for an unusual place.
Laine Ogilvie, Golden Harvest Seafood
What’s it like to live and work in Adak?
It is an interesting place. It is a very popular place for people to go bird-watching, hunting, and fishing.
During WWII the island had more than 90,000 people. In the 1980s we had 10,000 residents. Today it is very secluded and remote, and we have limited access to the Internet. So we don’t always know what is going on in the world around us.
Has the new freighter service helped?
Yes, tremendously. With just passenger planes we are lucky to get 4,000 pounds net per plane. When you bring in the freighter it makes a huge difference, and we can get the bulk of our product off the island fresh. Plus, we can get much-needed supplies that we had trouble getting before.
Layton J. Lockett, Adak City Manager and Grocery Store Operator
Tell us about life in Adak.
It’s actually an amazing place to live. Many of our recreational activities are for the island kids, and we support them as much as we can. During the holidays the kids get three Christmases: the traditional December 25, our community Christmas dinner with “Santa” and gifts, and the Alaska Airlines Xmas flight, which has been a great tradition.
What kinds of goods do you get via air cargo?
Groceries, mail, and food for restaurants and stores. Plus, the processing plant, school, utility companies, and government contractors rely on the timely movement of goods. Our economy revolves around transporting fresh or live seafood, such as halibut or golden king crab. The ability to transport large amounts of seafood means that jobs are created, and commerce can grow and thrive.
What has been the impact of all-freighter cargo service?
I think we are just starting to realize the impact of not having to wait on a barge. We’re now able to tender cargo that would be prohibited on a passenger aircraft, for example.
Julie Motley, Alaska Airlines Contract Service Lead
How do you like living here?
I have been here for two years. And I’ve gotten used to it, but I still struggle with planning meals and growing fresh vegetables. I tried planting some vegetables in my atrium this summer in pots, but it never got enough sun for anything to really grow and then I got aphids!
How important is cargo service to the island?
It’s the only way locals, businesses, the city, the post office, and the fish plant get supplies on a regular basis. Everything from basic supplies to lawn mowers, four-wheelers, you name it.
Are you able to utilize any other modes of transportation?
There might be a barge once or twice a year, but its schedule depends on when enough people and businesses need cars or supplies that can only be sent on a barge.
What else does Adak have to offer?
Hunters come from all over for Adak’s huge caribou herd that the military brought in years ago. The island is also a destination for birders because the Bering Sea’s infamous storms blow birds off of their regular migration routes, and they wind up here. Visitors can often see rare and unusual birds from other countries. There’s also a rich Aleut history on Adak.