The Aleutian Islands are a volcanic archipelago of islands in Alaska, extending in a long arc from the mainland to the southwest. Part of the geological chain extends to Siberia, but the name Aleutian Islands is usually used to refer to the part in the United States.

The Aleutian Islands stretch about 1000 miles in linear miles, from Unimak Island in the East to Attu Island in the West, about the same as the distance between New York City and Kansas City, or London and Warsaw. Over this wide arc, they have an area of around 10,000 square miles (Aleutians East Burough contains part of the mainland, so it is hard to find an exact area), or around the proverbial size of New Jersey. They have a population of around 10,000 people, with the largest community being Unalaska, Alaska, with a population of around 4,000 people. Many of the islands have villages with only a few dozen people, or are totally uninhabited.

The Aleutian Islands have been inhabited for many years by Indigenous people, who lived as hunters and fishers. In the early 19th centuries, the Russians settled the islands, followed by Americans after the United States purchased Alaska. In World War II, the Japanese invaded in a campaign that was little more than a feint, but still ended up being tragic and violent. Post-World War II, while Alaska's population grew and it achieved statehood, the Aleutians also grew, despite their remote location. Today, along with the subsidence hunting and fishing of the native population, and tourism, the area is a center for commercial fishing, and attracts many temporary employees from around the United States, and from around the World. Because of this, according to one calculation, the Aleutians are the most ethnically diverse "counties" in the United States.

Another thing to realize about the Aleutians is that they are not that far north. While the mind might conjure visions of the midnight sun and polar extremes, the Aleutians lie between 51 and 54 degrees north, or approximately the same latitudes as between London and Liverpool. The southernmost point in the Aleutians would be about 300 miles north of Seattle. The persistently cool temperatures have to do with their place in the North Pacific ocean, but they are not actually that far north. The same North Pacific Ocean that makes sure they are always cool means that they never get too cold: the winter temperatures in the Aleutians, around freezing, would be enviable in Chicago, 10 degrees further south.

Personally, I would love to visit the Aleutians, although doing so takes more money and time than I might foreseeably have.

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