The Aleutian Islands are a series of 14 large and 55 small volcanic islands belonging to the American state of Alaska and the Russian territory of Kamchatka Krai. The islands occupy an area of 6,821 square miles and extend for 1,200 miles from Alaska to the Kamchatka Peninsula. The Aleutian Islands demarcate the boundary between the Pacific Ocean to the south and the Bering Sea to the north. The islands stretch across the longitude 180° and thus consist of the westernmost region of the US by longitude (Amatignak Island) and the easternmost region by longitude (Semisopochnoi Island). The islands lie on the northernmost region of the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Geography of the Aleutian Islands
The Aleutian archipelago is made up of 14 large and 55 smaller islands, and several islets. Most lie within Alaska while a few are administered as Russian territory. The major islands from west to east are; the Near, Rat, Andreanof, the Islands of the Four Mountains, and the Fox Islands. The Aleutian islands form the northernmost section of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Some volcanoes including Shishaldin volcanoes remain active in the region.
Climate and Vegetation
The Aleutian Islands experience oceanic climate with heavy rainfall and moderate temperatures. The average annual temperature for the inhabited islands is about 38 °F in January and 52 °F in August. The islands are devoid of native vegetation except for grass and stunted willows. Agriculture thrives between early May and late September. A few conifers introduced by the Russians grow on the islands of Amaknak and Adak.
Demography and Economy
The native people of the islands are known as Unangan, but they are commonly referred to as "Aleut" by the non-natives. The Unangan speak three mutually intelligible dialects that are closely linked to the Eskimo-Aleut family. At one point, Aleut, English, and Russian were commonly spoken, but English is currently the dominant language. There are about eight thousand inhabitants of the islands, half of whom are in the main island of Unalaska. Rearing of reindeer, llama, and foxes is the main activity in the less mountainous islands while other islands depend on fishing.
Fauna of the Aleutian Islands
Several species of animals were introduced in the 70s and 80s but most including reindeer, cattle, and foxes have become feral. Some of these introduced species have altered the habitat through predation and grazing on seabird colonies. The development of military equipment has also led to pollution while Amchitka Island remains radioactive from the nuclear testing of the 1970s.