Alaska’s Amazing Abandoned Stilt Village of Ukivok

All images by Captain Budd Christman

All images by Captain Budd Christman

The abandoned village of Ukivok clings precariously to the edge of a cliff in one of the most bleak and inhospitable corners of the world.  Situated on King Island, Alaska, in the Bering Sea, Ukivok has been abandoned since the last settlers moved to the mainland around 1970.  Just one mile wide and 40 miles west of Cape Douglas on the Alaskan mainland, the island was the winter home of around 200 Inupiat people (known as the Aseuluk).  These are the Inuit people of Alaska’s Northwest Arctic and North Slope boroughs and the Bering Straits region.

Ukivok 2

The Aseuluk were subsistence hunters and whalers, spending their winters on King Island and summers in Nome on the mainland, where they have remained permanently for almost the last 40 years.  Today the discovery of oil has added to their revenue source, although there has been growing concern that climate change has impacted their more traditional pursuits.

Ukivok 3

In 2005 and 2006 the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded a research project enabling some King Island natives to return home, a number of whom had not revisited the island, discovered by Captain James Cook in 1778, for 50 years.

Ukivok 4

Interestingly, it appears that information about the stilt village of Ukivok remains hidden beneath a shroud of mystery seemingly as thick as the mist that covers the island.  This is, no doubt, a testament to just how isolated this old settlement is.  (Images courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce.  Click images for more information.)

Keep reading – explore 5 Abandoned Settlements at the Ends of the Earth, and visit 8 Ghost Towns and Abandoned Settlements of Antarctica.

 

Around the web

  • KIWI

    Question 1: how the heck could they get to one house to another without going “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa……!!!!” *splash* off a cliff?

  • Tom

    That’s a very good question, Kiwi! It certainly is a pretty precarious looking development, and I expect a few of them probably did take a wrong turn out their doors and were never seen again…

  • Durango4ever

    The entrance is at the bottom of the houses. There ladders to get in the entrance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clark-Magnuson/100000175047362 Clark Magnuson

    I remember such houses on the side of cliffs over the ocean at Neah Bay in the early 1960s.

  • Swami_Binkinanda

    There actually isn’t a lot of mystery about Ukivok and its people.  It was an important location for controlling trade between Siberia and Alaska before Europeans arrived in the area.  Captain Cook didn’t discover it; he mapped it and named it, but people had already been there for centuries.  Many people continued to visit King Island every summer from Nome, but old people and small children were often left out as the trip can be dangerous.
    http://vilda.alaska.edu/cdm/search/searchterm/King%20Island/mode/all/order/nosort/page/1

  • Swami_Binkinanda

    There actually isn’t a lot of mystery about Ukivok and its people.  It was an important location for controlling trade between Siberia and Alaska before Europeans arrived in the area.  Captain Cook didn’t discover it; he mapped it and named it, but people had already been there for centuries.  Many people continued to visit King Island every summer from Nome, but old people and small children were often left out as the trip can be dangerous.
    http://vilda.alaska.edu/cdm/search/searchterm/King%20Island/mode/all/order/nosort/page/1

 
 
 
 
 
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