Friday, November 9, 2012

Eareckson Air Station - Shemya, Alaska

Alaska is home to many magnificent places, including the Aleutian Islands which are an important part of Alaskan and American history. In July 2012, I spent two weeks at Eareckson Air Station which is located on Shemya Island, part of the Near Island group. My career as an environmental scientist has afforded me the privilege of traveling to many remote sites, and Shemya is probably one of the most unique spots. The professionals who manage the base and the natural beauty of the island captured my heart.

The totem pole
located in front of the main building
on Shemya Island


View of the coastline
off the
northwest side of the island

The only mammal on the island is the Blue Fox, locally called "Scruffies". Russians originally stocked the island with these sweet beasts as a source of fur. Today, the population is closely monitored and managed.
As you can see, they aren’t camera shy!

 A blue fox I encountered near my work site
And if you’re looking for the comforts of home on this remote site…you’ll have to travel a bit to get it!
The closest hamburger joint
 is 1,500 miles north!

I’ve included a brief history of the air station below…

Military forces first occupied the once uninhabited island on May 23, 1943, during the final days of the battle to retake Attu Island from the Japanese. Shemya was originally intended as a B-29 Base for the bombing of Japan. Air Force activities were reduced after World War II, but its location provided an ideal refueling stop on the Great Circle Route. Following the Korean War, Shemya was declared surplus and the base was deactivated on July 1, 1954.

The facilities were leased to Northwest Orient Airlines who remained on the island until 1961. In 1958, the Air Force resumed operations in support of various Air Force and Army strategic intelligence collection activities. The Cobra Dane AN/FPS-108 Phased Array Radar facility was constructed during the mid-1970s and is used to monitor space and missile activities. In April 1993, Shemya AFB was renamed Eareckson Air Station after the World War II commander of the island.

--- by Elizabeth Komisar


Char said...

OMG! I spent a week at Shemya back when I worked at Raytheon and was assigned to the Cobra Eye project! I'd been with Raytheon a few months in the main office at Eielson AFB, and went for a week of Eye training at Shemya. Flying into Shemya ten days before Thanksgiving, it was a wonder I made it out and back home before the holidays, since the winds are horrid there and planes sometimes don't make it out for days.

Ah, memories!


Anonymous said...

Char, the flights in/out are so vulneraable due to changing weather. I'm glad you have fond memories of Shemya. Did you enjoy the sites?

Thanks for posting a comment.

Char said...

I did! It was a not-to-be missed experience. The guys from Raytheon who trained me would steal bacon from the mess hall and feed the scruffies. Usually they took the bacon from their hands and would scurry off with it. When I went down, there were maybe twenty women on the entire station. I didn't pay for a single meal or drink the entire time I was there, LOL -

Anonymous said...

What a great experience you had. Work related is sometimes the only way to get to some of the wild places in Alaska. Thanks for sharing the history too.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

What a great post! The Aleutians is one of the few places in Alaska I haven't seen yet, and I hope to fix that next summer.

World War II and the Cold War are fascinating parts of Alaska's history. Thanks for the information.

Tammy Theriault said...

i have family in alaska, it seems so peaceful and so beautiful! loved the pics. new follower...hi!

Shallee said...

Wow, that's so cool! I love hearing about cool places, and Alaska has always been on my list of places to visit.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Tammy, you should visit if you can. Alaska is wonderful.


Anonymous said...


Let us know if you're coming, we'll have coffee!


fanrgs said...

The sign must be new because when I was on Shemya in 1992, it was only 500 miles to a McDonald's. I ate at McDonald's on Adak when the charter Reeve Aleutian Airways 727 stopped to refuel. As part of their contract with the Air Force, Reeve flights were required to circle Shemya for up to 3 hours. If they still couldn't land after that time, they had to have enough fuel left to get back to Adak. But now that the Navy has left Adak, I suppose McDonald's has left too. So, now the closest Golden Arches should be in Kodiak or Homer, but the 1500 miles is the distance to Anchorage.