In 1788 an expedition led by Esteban José Martínez arrived on that island

Unalaska: this is the westernmost territory that Spanish explorers reached

For hundreds of years, Spanish explorers sailed around the world, reaching some of the most remote places.

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One of those territories was the Aleutian Islands, in the north of the Pacific Ocean and part of the current state of Alaska, in the United States. The first exploration to Alaska organized by the Spanish was carried out by Juan José Pérez Hernández in 1774, but it did not go beyond the island of Haida Gwaii, now part of Canada.

Broad Bay and the Makushin volcano, on the island of Unalaska (Photo: Piergiuliano Chesi).

In 1775, Lieutenant Bruno de Heceta sailed from San Blas, in present-day Mexico, aboard the schooner "Sonora" bound for Alaska, reaching Sitka Sound, in the southeast area of present-day Alaska. Four years later, in 1779, Ignacio de Arteaga led a new expedition with two corvettes, which sailed along the southern coast of the current state of Alaska to Kodiak Island, without encountering a Russian presence.

A photo of the town of Unalaska in 1972 (Photo: Piergiuliano Chesi).

In 1788 a new expedition, led by Esteban José Martínez, returned to Alaska, this time finding a Russian presence in the region. In the summer of that year, the expedition visited a Russian post in the Bay of Three Saints, south of Alaska, whose commander, Evstratii Delarov (a Greek sailor in the service of the Russian Empire), He reported on other Russian settlements in the area and on Russia's intentions to take over the so-called Nutca territory, located in the southeast of present-day Alaska and the west of present-day Canada. Spain maintained its claim to that territory until 1795, after the last three expeditions in that area (two in 1792 and one in 1793).

Unalaska Orthodox Church (Photo:

On July 29, 1788, the Martínez expedition arrived at Unaslaska , an island in the Aleutian archipelago where the Russians had a post commanded by Potap Kuzmich Zaikov, who would die three years later in that island. The Spanish spent several weeks on the island, setting sail on August 18 and returning to Monterrey, Mexico.

The Unalaska Mountains in winter (Photo: Connor Robertson).

Years after the Spanish expedition, in 1825, the Russians built the Unaslaska Church of the Holy Ascension, the first Christian temple on the island. The current orthodox church on the island was built in 1894 to replace the original, which was very dilapidated. Before that, in 1867 the island became part of the United States, when this country bought the territory of Alaska from Russia for 7.2 million dollars. Since then, the island has remained in American hands. On June 3, 1942, it was attacked by Japanese air raids , but this island was never conquered, unlike other islands in the Aleutians.

The south channel of Unalaska Island (Photo: Piergiuliano Chesi).

Today, Unaslaska has 4,254 inhabitants, making it the westernmost town in the US with more than 2,500 residents. It is a town largely dedicated to the fishing industry. In summer the area has mild temperatures, but in winter it usually reaches temperatures below 0ºC. The lowest temperature recorded in Unalaska is -22ºC. If you want to know more about this island, you can watch this video posted a few months ago by Geo Perspective:


Main photo: Thomas Doyle.

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