Founded: 1943 Population: 441 Land Area: 40.3 sq miles
Saint Paul Island is the largest of the Pribilof Islands, a group of five Alaskan volcanic islands located in the Bering Sea between the United States and Russia. The city of St. Paul is the only residential area on the island. The two nearest islands to Saint Paul Island are Otter Island to the southwest, and Walrus Island to the east. St. Paul Island has a land area of 40 square miles. St. Paul Island currently has one school (K-12, 100 students), one post office, one bar, one small store, and one church (the Russian Orthodox Sts. Peter and Paul Church). The church is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
History and Culture
The Pribilofs, named after the Russian navigator, Gavriel Pribylov, were discovered in 1786 by Russian fur traders; no Alaska Natives are known to have lived on the island prior to this point. They landed first on St. George and named the larger island to the north St. Peter and St. Paul Island. In 1788, the Russian-American Company enslaved and relocated Aleuts from Atka and Unalaska to the Pribilofs to hunt fur seals; their descendants live on the two islands today. In 1870, the now-American owned Alaska Commercial Company (formerly the Russian-American Company) was awarded a 20-year sealing lease by the U.S. Government, and provided housing, food and medical care to the Aleuts in exchange for seal harvesting. In 1890, a second 20-year lease was awarded to the North American Commercial Company, however, the fur seals had been severely over-harvested. Only an estimated 2,000 fur seals remained. The 1910 Fur Seal Treaty ended private leasing on the islands and placed the community and fur seals under the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. Food and clothing were scarce, social and racial segregation were practiced, and working conditions were poor.
Although King Eider hunting is what we focus on during your stay, Saint Paul Island was made famous by the Discovery Channel documentary series The Deadliest Catch. Portraying real life events aboard fishing vessels in the Bering Sea that often dock in the harbor. On off days or once you've limited out on your King Eiders you can experience the real life of Alaskan King Crab fisherman. It's a very cool sight that very few people in the world ever get to experience in real life.