Adak Island - Images of My First (and favorite ) Tour of Duty.


These pictures were taken during 1981. I arrived on Adak in early January 1981 for a one year tour. I'd spent almost two years in electronics training, was an E4, Electronics Technician Third Class, and finally made it to my first duty station. I'd been to basic electricity in San Diego, ET "A" in Great Lakes, then six months of "C" school at NSGA Northwest on the VA/NC border. Does anybody know why it was called "Northwest?" Northwest of what, Charleston? Anyway...

Situated 1200 miles west of mainland Alaska, Adak sits 2/3 of the way out the Aleutian chain of islands. The naval activities were closed around 1995, but the island remains a wildlife refuge, and still has very capable airfield and docks. Great runways: mountain at one end, ocean at the other, and two types of wind - strong and stronger. Windiest place I've ever been. One time me and Mitch were standing on a ridge over the Bering Sea watching the sun set during a rare calm. A Wiliwaw ("wind from nowhere") picked us both up and threw us, luckily, backward. At that time I weighed about 230. Tossed me like a half-full milk carton.

I've now had six duty stations in 18 years, and Adak was my favorite. I was single, making pretty good money due to Alaskan cost of living bonuses. I bought camping gear and two Canon A1 cameras, as well as a bag and lenses which I still have to this day. Practical VCR's didn't exist yet, and there was one gov't controlled AFRTS TV and radio station out of Elmendorf. It was best to make one's own entertainment. When I got back stateside I loved watching commercials - they'd bleeped them all on the island. When not working or partying, I was tundra stomping and taking pictures.

There used to be two bases: Naval Station Adak and Naval Security Group Activity. I worked at NSGA. We called NavSta "downtown" as it was eight miles south. I made that walk many a time. My job was boring, working in the Submarine Special Communiations branch, but the island was wonderful - never got above 60 degrees F., but never got below freezing.

We'd hike, fish, hunt (after a year and could claim residency) drink, work some, make improvements to the cabin, drink more. My work site (the old one on Adagdak) had a big kitchen where we'd experiment during watches. This was where I learned Terry's Killer Baked Beans, how to clean a fox pelt and prepare halibut steaks.

Most of the really raucous times happened at the cabins. These were odd assortments of huts and such left over from WWII. Didn't need a refrigerator - the environment kept whatever was stored outside at just about the perfect temperature. The beer was always cold. Gasoline was about $1.75 a gallon then, but JP-5 in 55 gallon drums was easily accessable; that fuel was used mostly to light fires in the bouy stoves.

You'll notice that almost all the pictures have an overcast sky - that's the way it was 99% of the time. On the rare occasions the sun did shine, everybody was let out of work to go and enjoy it, hence the term "Sunshine Liberty."
lil trees
black rust
This is the Adak National Forest. I thought it was the smallest "national" forest I'd seen until seeing the one on San Clemente Island. Still, it was a plucky assortment of barely surviving pines. Mount Moffett, the highest point on Adak. It's annoying to climb, as the upper ridges are made up of loose rock, made more trecherous with a snow covering. We made it to the top (when it had much less snow) and as you lean over the edge of what is collapsed volcano rim, 3200 ft. drop straight down to the ocean. Unfortunately, those pictures were lost when I dropped my camera and exposed the film. Oops. Goofing around with B&W. This was an old bus, and behind it was some storage shed. I like the way it came out.
c ya
Late LTD
Razorback. Got lucky on a near clouldless night and was packing fast B&W film. Tom Milton moseying down the road to meet his lady friend. The LTD Tom and me bought and neglected. On the way back from a fishing trip the differential caught fire and took the car with it. Thing was, I heard about it from the guys coming in for watch - they'd seen it burning along the road. Tom had bailed out, and could do little about the fire.
Tom later bought a Blazer and accidently drove it into the lake.
During WWII when 100,000 or so men were staged on Adak, many of these low, screwed into the tundra fence posts were used in case of invasion. 38 years later, they were still there. For an island where it rained constantly, hardly anything rusted. I call this one the Adak Family. I don't remember many of the names, but there are a few I recall (in no order): Shannon Cooley, Tom Milton, (Wacky) Jackie, Mitch and Kim. That's it! I really wish I'd put all the names on the pictures, but I was shooting slides most of the time. Me in the department cabin, with the protective helmet liner on. Sometimes the stove exhaust pipe got red hot, melting roof pitch. Amazing the place never burned down.

I don't recall why I was actually wearing the liner.

I don't recall who took this shot either!

Got Food?
Verra red
These characters are a couple of the many creature features of Adak, the quite numerous Bald Eagle. This pair were hanging out on the NSGA Admin bldg.

Eagles are everywhere on Adak. After time, the wonder of "Wow, eagles!" wears off. At dawn almost every morning, they'd perch on every pole and post outside the barracks and screech. It got annoying.

Ben Franklin was right - they're opportunists. They'd steal salmon off your hook, out of your bag or goodies out of the dump.While wandering the dump one day, I saw a dozen or so digging through the garbage. I wanted to shoo them away and yell "Go look regal - dammit, you're our national symbol!" Birds will be birds.

Mt. Sitkin during one of those weird days when things looked much closer than they really were. Well, I did have a 400 mm lens when I took this, but the island, and active volcano, was 25 miles away.


Below is me near the base of Mt. Moffett, with a view of the Aleutians. The weather had sucked for weeks, then one day it was beautiful, so Kim and me hit the slope. Great views, but a trecherous climb with all the loose rock and annoying coat of snow.
Kim took this one.

Back in the old trailer home in Albuquerque. The tour was over, but the beard remained. I've not worn a beard since. Sure was practical in cold weather though.
April Hicks took this picture. .


Below is Tom Milton and his 79", 233 lb. halibut. A pooped but happy fisherman, this ugly bottom dweller became four big fish fries at the boathouse. It was caught between Adak and Kagalaska in the Kagalaska Strait. The record at the time was around 450 lbs., almost double this ones size.

I don't know who took this shot, I was at work. It wasn't too long after this shot that the car burned up.

Eye on you
Rocks, camera - hike.
Ug and Uglier
Seen my feet anywhere?
Got Beer?
Me "tundra stomping" near the foot of Adagdak. One cannot simply walk through tundra, one must lift and plant the feet, and feel for sinkholes. Stomp. I've been racking my brain for years, but damned if I can remember Angela's last name! She commissioned me to take some pictures for her boyfriend. Tom standing atop his creation, the coffin of beer which kicked off the "Drink 'Til You Die" party, which lasted three days. No one was permanently injured.