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Aleutian Islands in the Northern Pacific Ocean are a chain (an archipelago) of 14 large-sized islands plus 55 smaller isles. Some belong to USA and some to Russia. Their total land area is 17666 km2 (6821 ml2). The goup extends approx 1900 km (1200 ml) westward from Alaska toward Kamchatka (Russia). They also mark the dividing line between Bering Sea (north) and Pacific Ocean (south).
The Aleutian archipelago contains USA's westernmost territory (Attu Island) and Russia's easternmost territory (Semisopochnoi Island). While nearly all Aleutian Islands are part of USA (Alaska state), at the extreme west Commander Islands are Russian.
The Aleutians are also part of the Pacific Ring of Fire (its northern part), with 57 active volcanoes. Sadly, Aleutian Islands are best known for the battles there during WW2 (1939-1945). The air-bombing of Dutch Harbor (Amaknak Island, Unalaska) in June 1942 was one of only two attacks on US territories - preceeded by the attack on Pearl Harbor (Oahu Island, Hawaii) in December 1941.
The Aleutian Islands comprise 5 groups. Follows the groups names (east to west) and in brackets - the names of the largest islands (also east to west) by group:
- Fox Islands (Umnak, Unalaska, Amaknak, Akutan, Akun, Unimak, Sanak)
- Four Mountains Islands (Amukta, Chagulak, Yunaska, Herbert, Carlisle, Chuginadak, Uliaga, Kagamilislands)
- Andreanof Islands (Gareloi, Tanaga, Kanaga, Adak, Kagalaska, Great Sitkin, Atka, Amlia, Seguam)
- Rat Islands (Kiska, Little Kiska, Segula, Hawadax/Kryssei, Khvostof, Davidof, Little Sitkin, Amchitka, Semisopochnoi)
- Near Islands (Attu, Agattu)
- Bogoslof (formed as a summit of a stratovolcano)
The largest isles are in the Fox Islands group (Attu, Unalaska, Umnak, Unimak), of which the largest one is Unimak (total area 4070 km2 / 1571 ml2), followed by Unalaska (total area 2720 km2 / 1051 ml2).
The Aleutians form a curved island chain similar to Kuril Islands, the Japanese islands and the Philippines islands. All these arcs are located at the Pacific Plate's edge and experience seismic activity. The Aleutians are located between the tectonic plates of the Pacific Ocean and North America. Their elevation is greatest in the eastern and least in the western islands. Their coastlines are rocky and approaching them is exceedingly dangerous. The land (steep mountains) rise immediately from their coasts, reaching heights of 6200 ft (1900 m).
- The plant growing season is 130+ days (early May through late September). Due to the strong winds , the Aleutian conifers rarely reach a height of 10 ft (3 m), with many of them being less than 5 ft (1,5 m) tall. Instead of trees, these islands are covered with dense growth of shrubs and herbage (berries, grasses, sedges, low-flowering plants, Aleutian shield fern).
- The islands' fauna is represented by large colonies of breeding seabirds and some Asiatic birds.
- Radioactivity is present after the nuclear weapon testing on Amchitka Island (1971).
- Today, most of the Aleutian islands are protected wilderness areas as part of the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge (total area 4,9 mill acres / 20,000 km2, of which the wilderness area is 2,64 mill acres / 10700 km2) and the Aleutian Islands Wilderness(total area 1,3 million acres / 5300 km2).
- On the less mountainous Aleutian Islands, the economy used to be raising sheep, reindeer, bisons, even some llamas (on Unalaska). The islands' current economy is based primarily on fishing, and the US military presence in the archipelago.
- As transportation, there are air- and ferry services, plus the Alaska Marine Highway passing through most of the Alaskan islands.
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