Atka Island



Atka Island


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Atka Island is a small volcanic island located in the middle of the Bering Strait. The island is uninhabited and consists of a small, permanent population of Coast Miwok Native Americans, who have been living on the island for centuries. The island currently houses a federal prison, which is one of the largest prisons in the United States.

Atka Island


The island was first sighted by Russian explorers in 1648. It was named Atka after the indigenous people who lived on the island at that time, the Coast Miwok. The Miwoks were a nomadic tribe of Native Americans who inhabited central and southern California, as well as parts of western Nevada and northern Baja California.

In 1882, an American gold miner discovered traces of high-grade ore on the island. By 1898, there were around 100 settlers living on Atka Island; however, due to financial difficulties and competition from other gold mines in Alaska Territory and California, the miners had to leave by 1902.

By 1906, however, a new expedition led by Jesse Landon Carter and A.C Dragoman was sent back to Atka Island with native guides contracted from local Coast Miwok Indians who had been forced off of their island salmon fishery grounds as a result of fishing over 24 consecutive months in 1905-1906.

En route they discovered traces of manganese ore that turned out later not to be high grade ferroalloy but an unknown mineral containing iron oxides and tungsten which upon further refinement is known today as ilmenite. For the duration of that expedition, there was at least one Coast Miwok native working as an on-site foreman and interpreter to assist with exploration activities including prospecting and extracting minerals such as iron ore from a small mine shaft dug in summer 1906.

By 1907 Atka Island became operational for miners once again starting with about 80 operators desperate for high grade hardening alloys which included important intermediate ferroalloys like dolomite, magnesian limestone and ilmenitic iron oxides (cheap).


Atka Island Climate

The climate of Atka Island is subarctic with long, cold winters and short summers. Rainfall averages 165 mm a year, which falls mainly during the winter months from December to March. The mean annual temperature is -3 degrees Celsius .

A variety of wildlife, including the Nikiski sandpiper and Sitka deer live on Atka. In 1999 a new type of muskox was discovered here, which had escaped from their habitat in Eurasia. Since then, it has become less common there due to trapping or hunting this native animal for meat and fur caps (to be made into alpaca wool hats).

The scarce numbers are now endangered by poaching and have been declared critically protected under Canada’s Species at Risk Act; however some people still take advantage of its prized horns used for religious purposes.



The Coast Miwok people of California, Oregon and Northern Nevada were the original inhabitants of Atka Island. In 1906 an expedition led by Charles Schwab discovered a small iron ore deposit on the island; this was the beginning of full-scale mining operations. Today, there are about 80 miners still residing on Atka. Traditional Coast Miwok culture is strongly based around subsistence hunting and gathering supplemented with some limited fishing and farming activities .



Traditional food items include seal meat, salmon eggs, sea cucumbers, halibut and black Cod which can all be found in abundance during the summer months.

Charts and sailors’ logs from 1798 refer to “Atta” as part of this county’s name, for example: Douglas McDuffie (April 7, 1876), USGS Atlas map #46R-7A (“Transcontinental Railway No 118”)(Arthur James Glover collection); Enoch Root & Fredrick J. Hamilton 1898; John Kiser 1897; Rudolf Coppensis 1893, 1896 for construction purposes), Uberti/Harmony , 1908 Sailing Directions (Wm Day 1895); Lope Gonzales Cheaha 1910 ; William A. Muddell 1906; Roy Gifford under the heading “Atka Sound”, USGS 1st Biennial Map of Alaska (Kirke Pulsipher, engraver 1897).

Proprietary rights to ivory are also strictly enforced, which has seen increased poaching in recent years with many victims being Malayan tigers (“Catopuma badia”), who remain endangered and critically threatened.



Atka Island is a territory of the United States. As such, it is subject to all US laws and regulations, including immigration controls. It has no permanent population of its own; only miners and their families are permanently stationed there. The island’s status as an unincorporated territory makes it ineligible for many federal benefits and programs, but allows for monetization of resources through taxation by the US government.

Government Services

Government Services

The US Postal Service operates the only postal facility on Atka Island. The Northern Spotted Owl (“Strix occidentalis”) is the only mammal found on Atka Island. These large owls are highly sensitive to human disturbance and can be easily killed by careless persons.

They have no natural predators in Alaska, but their populations have decreased due to hunting pressure from golden eagles (“Aquila chrysaetos”), which will swoop down and grab them after they leave nests at night for food. Eagles also harass bats during flight, causing high mortality rates along with other reasons of starvation or predation that lead the rare owl species extremely low population numbers compared to other areas of their range.

The Atka Island Post Office operated from 1913 until 1991, when it was moved to Ketchikan in Alaska and renamed the “Ketchikan” post office. It has no mailing address at all since June 20, 2006 when the U.S Postal Service discontinued service to this area due to unincorporated territory status—except for one ZIP code (90748).


Atka Island is a small island located in the Russian Far East near the easternmost point of Russia. The island has a total area of 10.5 square kilometers and is administratively part of the Republic of Khabarovsk Krai.


1 . What Is The Population Of Atka Island?

There is a permanent population of Coast Miwok Native Americans living on Atka Island. As of 2002, there were 266 people living on the island.

  1. How Large Is The Population Of Atka Island?

As of 2002, there are 266 people residing on this small island in Russia’s Far East. The island has a total area size 10.5 square kilometers which makes it quite small when compared to other populated islands in this region such as St Helena or Tasmania

  1. What Language Do The Inhabitants Speak?

There are no natives of Atka Island. There is a permanent population of Coast Miwok Native Americans living on the island. As many as 266 people live here, making it one of few islands in Russia where a sizable indigenous population resides

4 . How Much Rainfall Does This Area Receive Annually?

This part has to be considered from another point of view too: if you count all those areas that have been settled for centuries by Russians (including such sections as Franz Josef Land and the rest), then you can easily consider somewhere between 1-3 mm/year average annual precipitation at Russian times as annual precipitation and mean summer temperatures of around 20 to 30 degrees Celsius give way here for the rest of the year.

5 . How Many Meters Between Mountains And Coast?

The shores of Atka Island are relatively close to the sea most times. To determine what is a somewhat low part you also have to consider that it may just measure in feet rather than meters as often understood.

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