Dreaming of a remote island where you can really get away from it all? So far away that you may never (be able to) come back? This week, we'll take you on brief tours of five prime vacation non-destinations. Before starting, you might want to fire up Google Earth, just so you'll know to get back home.
The Commander Islands
If you center your Google Earth screen at 54 degrees, 59 minutes north and 166 degrees, 17 minutes east, you'll look down on Bering Island in the Commander archipelago off Kamchatka Peninsula. Although part of Russia, the Commander Islands are geologically an extension of Alaska's Aleutian Islands. The gap between the Commanders and the rest of the Aleutians is such, however, that the Aleuts, the indigenous marine hunters of the north Pacific, never made it the islands "“ nor did anyone else until the 1700s. As a result, this little archipelago formed the last redoubt of Steller's Sea Cow, a three ton, 25-foot long, kelp-grazing relative of the manatee. By 1768, 27 years after the islands' discovery by Vitus Bering, these floating blubber balls had been driven into extinctions by rapacious sailors, fur traders and seal hunters.
Times have changed, and now most of the region lies within the Komandorsky Nature Reserve, noted for its vast populations of sea birds and marine mammals (several of Steller's other creatures "“ such as his sea lion, sea eagle, and eider "“ are still there in numbers). The 750 residents of the islands are concentrated in the single settlement of Nikolskoye, which looks none too inviting. Zoom in, setting your pointer at 55 11'42 N and 156 59'38 east, and take at look at this "village's" forlorn setting and industrial-style buildings.
Not a single tree grows in Nikolskoye, or the rest of the archipelago, for that matter. "Bleak" is an apt descriptor. But then so too is "interesting." Check out, for example, the odd, linear feature on Bering Island's northern tip (55 21'47 N; 156 58'02 east). Know what it is? If so, please enlighten the rest of us!
UP NEXT: The Commander Islands (and why you don't want to go there) And if you missed yesterday's post on the Andaman Islands, click here.
Guest Blogstar Martin W. Lewis is lecturer in international history and director of the program in International Relations at Stanford University. He's also one of Mangesh's favorite professors!