Ukivok: The Haunting Alaskan Ghost Village Clinging to an Inhospitable Cliff Face

ukivok-abandoned-stilt-village-alaska-ghost-town-6 (Image: NOAA, public domain)

Ukivok, the rugged, abandoned stilt village on Alaska’s King Island is one of the world’s most isolated and impressive ghost towns. Clinging precariously to the face of a sheer cliff that overhangs the unforgiving Bering Sea some 40 miles west of Cape Douglas, the enigmatic wooden ruins were once home to several hundred native Inupiat hunter-gatherers known as Aseuluk, or ‘people of the sea’.

ukivok-abandoned-stilt-village-alaska-ghost-town-7

ukivok-abandoned-stilt-village-alaska-ghost-town-3 (Images: National Trust for Historic Preservation; Israel C Russell, public domain)

As subsistence hunters, the islanders spent the summer months gathering birds eggs and other food sources on King Island. They hunted walruses and seals, and engaged in other subsistence activities such as ice fishing during winter months.

ukivok-abandoned-stilt-village-alaska-ghost-town-4 (Image: Israel C Russell, public domain)

Throughout the summer the Aseuluk people, also known as Ukivokmiut, sold ornate carvings to citizens in Nome, a port settlement in mainland Alaska some 90 miles southeast of King Island.

ukivok-abandoned-stilt-village-alaska-ghost-town-5 (Image: via Wikimedia, public domain)

But in the early 20th century when the Bureau of Indian Affairs closed Ukivok’s small school, the stilt village’s children were forced to attend classes on the mainland, leaving their elders to hunt and gather alone.

ukivok-abandoned-stilt-village-alaska-ghost-town (Image: NOAA, public domain)

In a move that ultimately dealt the death knell for the isolated island community, adults were unable to gather sufficient food for the winter without the help of their younger generation. As a result, Ukivok was steadily abandoned as the remaining islanders relocated to the mainland, taking their rich cultural history with them.

ukivok-abandoned-stilt-village-alaska-ghost-town-8 (Images: National Trust for Historic Preservation, public domain)

By 1970, King Island, which had been so named in 1778 by Captain James Cook after Lt. James King, a member of his party, was completely deserted, though some natives did occasionally return to hunt.

ukivok-abandoned-stilt-village-alaska-ghost-town-9 (Image: NOAA, public domain)

From 2005 to 2006, the National Science Foundation returned a number of natives to King Island as part of a research project. For some, it was the first time they’d seen the battered ruins of their historic home settlement for half a century.

king-island-alaska (Image: Dave Cohoe, cc-3.0)

Now part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, the abandoned stilt village of Ukivok, deteriorating after decades of neglect at the mercy of unrelenting elemental forces, cuts a haunting sight on the windswept cliff face. Though thankfully off-limits to even the most determined of vandals, only time will tell how long the Aseuluk’s historic home, considered one of America’s most endangered historic places, endures.

Keep reading – explore 20 amazing ghost towns of the world.

 

About the author: Tom

 

Website: https://www.urbanghostsmedia.com

 

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