Unalaska's most significant historic site is the Holy Ascension Cathedral. Completed in 1896 on the site of churches that had stood since 1808, the white church with green onion-shaped domes contains 697 icons, artifacts, and artworks, a significant collection that has been continuously in use by the Aleut congregation. The congregation was founded by Father Ivan Veniaminov, who translated the Gospel into Aleut and has been canonized as St. Innocent. Besides his many other accomplishments, he recorded the environmental devastation of Russian fur hunting in this region in the 19th century. A $1.3-million restoration saved the church from collapse in 1996. It is a dignified, geometric counterpoint to the soft edge of sparkling Iliuliuk Bay and easy to find. Vespers services are Saturday at 6:30pm; Sunday services are 8:30am in the summer, 9:30am in the winter.
The professionally curated Museum of the Aleutians, next door to the Ounalashka Corporation on Margaret Bay on the Amaknak Island side of town (tel. 907/581-5150; www.aleutians.org), contains some of the region's best artifacts, including some from North America's oldest coastal sites on Umnak and Unalaska islands. Exhibits also cover the region's 9,000-year history, including material on World War II in the Aleutians. Temporary exhibits have focused on topics ranging from fishery history to underwater photography. Admission is $5. It's open summer Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm, Sunday from noon to 5pm; in winter, it's open Tuesday through Saturday from 11am to 5pm.
There are several World War II military ruins around town, including some that are still in use, such as the submarine dry dock that today fixes fishing boats. Trails lead over the island to other sites included in the Aleutian World War II National Historic Area, which preserves this evidence of war on American soil and helps tell the story of the Native people who were interred by both the Japanese and Americans during the war. Bunker Hill is a quick walk, off Henry Swanson Drive next to the bridge. The main area of ruins requires a climb to Ulatka Head, site of U.S. Army Fort Schwatka, about an hour's hike from the airport. The fort once had more than 100 buildings. Many remain, including the best-preserved gun mounts and lookouts of all the nation's coastal defenses from the war. Besides, it's a spectacular site where you can see ships returning. You will first need a permit from the Native-owned Ounalashka Corporation.
That's about it for sightseeing in Unalaska, unless you take a walk in the port. The activity there is interesting for the size of the vessels and harvest and the incredible investment in buildings and equipment.
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