(Written April 30, 2000)
My first duty station out of bootcamp was at the USN Communications site on Adak from Dec '66 to Dec '77, with 540 guys, "no grass, no trees, no girls" as the saying went. After the year in Adak was up the Navy sent me to Viet Nam, but that's another story. Strange that the site does not show up in any of your photos. Behind us & on the other side of the ridgeline from our site was a Coast Guard Loran station (used for guiding ships & planes in the older days). They had a beautiful view as they were right on the tip of a high ledge overlooking the Pacific with a really interesting half-mile (or so it seemed) drop-off down to the ocean for their "front lawn." We used to walk to a fairly large lake behind the site - Cannot remember its name [Lake Andrew]. On the other side of the lake was the Pacific & some really great mountain climbing as that side of our corner of the island faced the incoming ocean swell and rose near vertically from the ocean's edge to at least 6-800 feet. Interesting free-style climbs (before the term was invented?) for a teenager, totally against the rules, but one had to do something to keep from going stir-crazy. Always knew the place was beautiful, but unfortunately we didn't get to see very much of it due to duty requirements & the weather, which seemed to be really nasty most of the time, if memory serves me correctly. We spent most of the time in our little corner of the island - Vehicles were for official use only, the roads were mainly rutted gravel, so we were pretty well limited to seeing what we could hike to.
As I worked as a Gunners Mate in the "Boats Division," four of us were temporary game wardens. We had to bag up any eagles that had decided to die & ship them to Anchorage for examination. Only found two in the year I was there; the most interesting one had washed up on the large, rounded boulders outside of what I think we called Clam Lagoon. He had grabbed a really large fish by its back & was unable to lift the fish out of the ocean. We found the drowned eagle with his claws still sunk into the fish's back (the fish was about a foot & a half from top to bottom). The front & tail end of the fish had been eaten by other sea critters so by the time they washed ashore the piece of fish was kind of a rectangular chunk - I remember noticing the meat looked almost good enough to put on a grill. Guess it was the icy water. Am assuming eagles' talons have some sort of locking device that prevents them from letting loose whatever they have grabbed until they can set it down on terra firma.
Are the sea otters still there? Used to be a small colony of 40 - 50 individuals in the same area mentioned in the above paragraph. The State of Alaska was trying to get their population back to growing again. Cute little devils - One could understand how they almost got killed off as all one had to do was whistle & they 'd pop their heads up to see what the racket was about. Was a riot to watch them eat. They would bring up urchins & other shellfish from the bottom and, while swimming on their backs, use their chest as table and lay the goodies out for snacking. Invariably, some eagle-eyed gull (pun intended) would swoop down and grab a piece of the otter's din-din. This would displease the otter immensely, he'd take a swing at the gull and in so doing dump his dinner over the side. That really got him honked off - He'd then sit there squealing at the gull - One could almost see the air turning blue with the curses hurled heavenward at the retreating gull. The little creatures seemed almost human at times.
I remember finding bits and pieces of aircraft when we climbed the mountains behind the CommSite. Being an aviation freak, I was able to identify bits from several different P-39s, Curtis P-40s and Lockheed P-38s. From what I've read, Adak's weather claimed a heck of lot more of our pilot's than the Japanese ever did. On a clear day looking out across the channel one could also see the sparkle of aircraft aluminum close to the top of Mt. Sitka, an active volcano. I questioned some of the Reeves' Aleutian pilots who'd stop by our establishment for a beer or two between weathered-in flights, & the story was that we were looking at the final resting place of Old Man Reeves' son's last flight. Never did find out if the story was true or not.