The Commander Islands…quite possibly a destination you’ve never heard of. On a map, follow the Aleutian Islands from Alaska all the way across to Russia and the closest islands to Russia are actually the Commander Islands.
These Russian Islands, almost 200km off the coast of Far East Russia, are a protected marine area. The village of Nikolskoye, on Bering Island, is home to 800 people. This is the only permanent settlement on the islands, which are prone to severe weather, including earthquakes. There are no trees on the islands – it’s quite a desolate looking part of the world.
This is a place that survives on fishing and was only just escaping the icy grip of winter at the end of May. Not many people visit here, but the wildlife draws some adventurous people who are on the lookout for northern fur seals, sea otters and Steller sea lions.
Russia recently went on an improvement spree here, painting and fixing up some old buildings, building a new church for the village and creating a lookout honouring Vitus Bering, whose ship, St. Peter, wrecked here in 1741.
The church officially opened in October and took about two years to build. It is actually the easternmost Orthodox church in Russia!
As a visitor, the island museum was entertaining too. They had a skeleton of an extinct species of sea cow that was once very common in the area, as well as a good amount of displays showcasing the natural history of the islands.
The lady who takes care of the museum was quite friendly and gave us some insights into local life on the islands as well – such as her favourite meal being puffin soup with lots of blood in it!