St. Paul Island, one of several that make up the Pribilof Islands, lies 300 miles from Alaska’s west coast. The Pribilof Islands are well known for their abundance of birds, the northern fur seal, and a picturesque view of rolling hills with a variety of tundra flowers. Carved by wind and wave, the island captivates the senses. There are towering, rocky cliffs rising from the sea, beaches of sand the color of charcoal and green tea, and extensive lava fields and cones dominated by tundra flowers and amazing shapes. Sharp peaks and craggy outcroppings of primarily olivine basalt rock rise toward the sky; it is here the drama of the nestlings emerge on the dramatic cliffs of the Pribilof Islands.
This is a photographer’s paradise. More than 310 species of birds have been recorded on the island. In spring, many rare birds, including Siberian vagrants, may be spotted on the island. One of the most notable sights on the island are the northern fur seal rookeries. In late May, the male seals arrive and stake out their territory in preparation for the arrival of the females. Harbor Seals breed on Otter Island, several miles southwest of St. Paul Island, but nonetheless are often seen off St. Paul shores. Occasionally, Steller sea lions haul out on St. Paul, but usually take refuge in the rookery at Walrus Island, some 10 miles northeast of St. Paul.
Home to the largest Aleut population in the world, the history of these people has been shaped by the Russians and by stewardship under the U. S. government. The Russian influence is visible in the beautiful Russian Orthodox Church, in the three-bar crosses that mark the resting places of Aleuts, in the names of geographic features on the island, and in the names of the Aleuts themselves. The present Aleuts on the island, who are welcoming and friendly, descend from an ancient people that were skilled seafarers and hunters. Many today still ply the Bering Sea today as commercial fishermen of crab and halibut.