Delightful Dutch Harbor

We were up just before 8.00am where we watched the Quest slowly manoeuvring into dock in Dutch Harbor.  Immediately in front of our balcony a cliff face rose up, dotted here and there with shrubs and bushes and topped with patches of snow.  The sky looked clear and the sun was attempting to get through the fluffy white cumulus clouds, but there was still a bit of a nip in the air.

We didn’t have any excursions booked today but there were a couple of shuttle buses available to take us to the interesting places, and in any case it was pleasant to be able to go ashore and stretch our legs after three days at sea.

After breakfast we made our way down the gangplank and over the waiting shuttle bus.  The local port guide told us that this bus would take us to the Russian Orthodox Church and drop us there, then pick us up later and take us to the town (such that it was).

We boarded the bus, which was an old yellow school bus, and it slowly wended its way along the road.  Looking out of the window, we could see the distant blue-grey mountains with their snow-patterned tops, outlined against the pale blue sky and reflecting on the lake. In fact, the whole colour palette consisted of gentle shades of blue, grey and white and the effect was calm and serene, the only sounds being the cries of the seabirds and the lapping of the water on the shore.

After about 10 minutes, we arrived at the Russian Orthodox Church, the Church of the Holy Ascension.  The current church was built in 1894, probably on the site of an 1826 church, and likely using timbers and other elements (including one iconostasis) from the older church. It is one of the oldest churches in Alaska, and is significant as the site from which missionaries brought their religion to the local Aleut people.  It is a distinctive white building, with red roofs and green onion domes, the tops of which contained a Russian Orthodox Cross.  This is a variation of the Christian cross known from the 6th century in the Byzantine Empire. The cross has three horizontal crossbeams and the lower one is slanted. Nowadays it is a symbol of the Russian Orthodox Church and a distinctive feature of the cultural landscape of Russia.

The church was surrounded by a small graveyard with carefully tended plots.  The church door was closed and locked, so we decided to take a slow stroll along the road alongside the lake, looking at the private dwellings, a lot of which had big 4 x 4 vehicles parked outside.  Well, I should imagine in the winter months, when the landscape would have changed drastically by lots of snow, all-terrain vehicles would be a must.

As we were walking along, we spotted the Dutch Harbor Restaurant, a plain wooden single-storey building which didn’t open until 11.00am.  There didn’t seem to be a lot else around and, when we saw one of the local residents walking along, we stopped for a chat.  I asked her how the locals spent their time; what did they do during the evenings?  She said they were a very close-knit community and she was involved with the church and with the Girl Scouts (Girl Guides to the Brits) and, in fact, there were plenty of things to do; gorgeous places to go walking and hiking, fishing, and looking out for any wildlife; she said that sea otters were usually around but perhaps they were shy of the visitors today.  😊

The shuttle bus then returned to pick us up, and this time we were taken to the Visitor Centre for the Aleutian World War II Historic Area.  Inside, we learned all about the Japanese invasion of Dutch Harbor during WW2, and how the Aleuts were evacuated and badly treated.  We looked at lots of relics of the war, such as the comms room and Morse radio operator, and tales of aircraft and pilots and other heroic defence of the area.  It was all very interesting.

I was also somewhat intrigued to learn that Dutch Harbor falls under the area called Unalaska, which means “near the peninsula” or “near Alaska” in the Aleut language.  So the full address was Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, Alaska, which sounds a bit confusing!  😊

After we’d spent about an hour in the museum we decided to take a slow walk back to the Quest, as the sun was out now and the weather wasn’t as cold as we’d expected.  On the way, we passed the tiny airport and looked at the fishing boats in the harbour and I took a few photos of the Quest against the picturesque mountain backdrop.

What a lovely and unusual place Dutch Harbor was!  We’d really enjoyed it here.

We arrived back on board in nice time for lunch, and we ate in the Windows Café looking out over the view while enjoying the usual delicious of array of hot and cold foods and trying not to eat too much!  We washed it down with a cold beer each, then returned to our cabin for a post-luncheon power nap.

At 4.30pm we did the usual – went along to The Den for the music quiz, where we teamed up with Dale and Susie.  Today’s questions were all based around Abba’s music, and we scored 19/20 – I was kicking myself because I knew one of the songs but just couldn’t think of the title.  Another team got 20/20, so we narrowly missed out once again!

I enjoyed a couple of Aperol Spritzes and we chatted with our fellow passengers before returning to 6009 to get showered and changed.  Because we’d had a fairly late lunch we didn’t go to dinner until about seven o’clock, and we went to the Windows Café where the theme tonight was American, and was as delicious as ever.  In fact, the range of dishes was so varied it was difficult to know what to choose, and we ate far too much as usual.

Later on, we managed to get a good seat in the Cabaret Lounge for tonight’s performance, which featured the Azamara Signature Singers and Dancers and was called “His Song”, a tribute to the musical genius that is Elton John.  The show featured a lot of exuberant costumes in bright colours, with hats, zany glasses and huge platform shoes.  It was excellent and we really enjoyed it.

Then we just moseyed on up to the Living Room and sat at the front, looking out across the Pacific.  It was still very light and we kept an eye out for whales and other ships.  We enjoyed a few more drinks while listening to the Riviera Sounds, then made our way back to 6009 and settled down for the night.  We were pleased to see that we didn’t have to put our clocks forward again tonight; Alaska time is nine hours behind BST.  We had another interesting day at sea to look forward to tomorrow.

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