St. Paul (Pribilof Islands)

The Pribilof Islands are ancient volcanos in the Bering Sea; they are roughly 230 miles from any other island and 300 miles from the nearest mainland. St. Paul is one of two inhabited islands. It's about 40 square miles, and the town of St. Paul has a population of roughly 500.

Several species of sea birds nest in the Pribilofs, including the Red-legged Kittiwake, whose entire world population nests here and in just a couple of other Bering Sea islands. The Pribilofs also provide a resting place for birds of many other species who find themselves migrating across the Bering Sea, either on purpose or by mistake. "Asian vagrants", wanderers from Siberia or more distant points are regularly seen here. These are species that are never, or nearly never, seen on the mainland.

The island is wind-swept--there is not one tree, not one shrub on the entire island.

Judging by last year's dead grass, the island is lush green by mid-summer. But at the end of May, everything was still winter brown. Greening had just begun, and progressed noticeably in just the five days we were there.

Wild Celery (the large coarse dead stalks seen here) is abundant all over the island.

The closest thing to a shrub is a kind of willow that grows prostrate on the ground.

The soil is sandy. There is a lot of exposed rock.

The coast is especially rocky. Some of the volcanic rock is very porous.

Here's a crater from a volcano.

Several kinds of seabirds nest on the rocky cliffs, where they are safe from mammalian predators.

Arctic Foxes are common on the island. Most were too evasive to photograph; this one was tired or maybe sick.

The Pribilofs are the most important breeding area for the Northern Fur Seal. The rocky shores provide a breeding area for hundreds of thousands of them. At the time we were there, only a relatively small number of early arrivers were present. Access to rookery areas is completely prohibited beginning in early June. Fortunately for us, this year's closure was not until June 5, just after we left.

Big males like this first one are the size of a cow. Close approach is considered highly dangerous.

Part of the town of St. Paul

The Russian Orthodox church is said to be ornate inside, but it wasn't open when we were there.

Entrance to the St. Paul airport, restaurant and hotel, where we stayed. The food was extremely good, and accommodations were comfortable. We were literally the first group to stay in the new hotel.

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