|Saint Paul Island
An American Eden
with Jackie and Elston Hill
Saint Paul Island is the largest of the Pribilof Islands, a group of four Alaskan volcanic islands located in the Bering Sea between the
United States and Russia. The city of St. Paul is the only residential area on the island.St. Paul Island has a land area of 40 square
miles (100 km2). St. Paul Island currently has one school (K-12), one post office, one bar which only serves beer and wine, one
small store, and one church (Russian Orthodox). The church is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Saint Paul Island has the largest Aleut community in the United States. Out of a total population of 532 people, 457 of them (86
percent) are Alaska Natives.
The Aleut peoples knew of the Pribilofs long before westerners discovered the islands. Russian fur traders were the first non-natives
to discover Saint Paul. The island was discovered by Gavriil Pribylov in 1788. In the 18th-century Russians forced Aleuts from the
Aleutian chain (several hundred miles south of the Pribilofs) to hunt seal for them on the Pribilof Islands. Before this the Pribilofs were
not regularly inhabited. The Aleuts were slave labor for the Russians; hunting, cleaning, preparing fur seal skins which the Russians
sold for a great deal of money. The Aleuts were not taken back to their home islands, lived in inhumane conditions, were beaten, and
were regulated by the Russians down to what they could eat and wear and whom they could marry.
Below are links to pages with pictures from our trip. Or, you may click on the first link (or picture) and at the bottom of each page is a
link to the next page in this series.
When our friend Gunther told us he was going to St. Paul Island, we informed him we were going to join him. After all, if this
celebrated photographer was coming all the way from Germany, we should visit this location in our backyard.
The trip is easy to book. We called Scott at Saint Paul Tours. It took less than five minutes and the tour even included our round trip
flight from Anchorage to St. Paul on PenAir. Saint Paul Tours is owned by the Aleut corporation which runs the island. The
guides--Scott, Stephan, and Alison--were all outstanding and worked very hard to make sure we had a good time. When we and
Gunther had different interests, they dropped us off at different locations and came back to check on us regularly. The cafeteria food
at the Trident plant was quite good. The hotel is basic with shared bath rooms and showers and was very adequate. The bathrooms
and our rooms were kept very clean. The wifi worked well during our visit. There was free access to the laundry room.
Booking our trip directly with St. Paul tours cost us half what we would have paid if we had booked with an organized tour. And our
guides were very accommodating making sure we got to see what interested us. And since they work regularly with photographers,
they understood what would make us happy.