The Port of Dutch Harbor is located within the city limits of Unalaska in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. The city's port, the Port of Dutch Harbor, is about 835 nautical miles west-southwest of the Port of Cordova and 1125 nautical miles southwest of the Port of Juneau. The Port of Dutch Harbor is home to the Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base and Fort Mears, US Army, a National Historic Landmark. The crabbing fleet in the Port of Dutch Harbor is featured on the Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch documentary series. In 2005, the Port of Dutch Harbor and Unalaska were home to almost 4350 people.
When reporting the volume of the seafood catch, the Port of Dutch Harbor is the largest fishery in the United States, and the city's economy is dependent on that industry. Working with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the local fish processing industry is producing about 3.5 million tons of fish oil biodiesel annually in a pilot project for alternative fuels. Unfortunately, it is yet too expensive to ship the fish oil to other locations.
Before non-natives entered the area, Unalaska Island was inhabited by the Aleut (or Unangan) peoples for many millennia. The Aleut people had a complex society with 24 settlements in 1759. The Unangan people called the island "Ounalahka." Today, the regional native corporation has taken this name for their corporation.
In 1759, Russian Stepan Glotov and his crew came to the future Port of Dutch Harbor to expand their fur trade. The Russians named the Port of Dutch Harbor because they thought a Dutch ship had entered the harbor before them.
From 1763 to 1766, the indigenous people fought the Russian invaders. They killed almost 200 traders and destroyed four Russian ships. The Russians responded by sending forces to massacre many Natives. Unalaska and the Port of Dutch Harbor became a Russian trading port in 1768, dealing in fur seal skins. Eventually, the Russian-American Company had a monopoly on that trade.
In 1778, Captain James Cook almost ran aground near the Port of Dutch Harbor. Escaping disaster, Cook met navigator Gerasim Izmailov on this trip into the harbor. Ten years later in 1788, the Spanish entered the area, visiting several Russian settlements. The Port of Dutch Harbor was their westernmost stop, and they claimed the island of Unalaska, naming it Puerto de Dona Marie Luisa Teresa.
The Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Ascension was constructed in the Port of Dutch Harbor in 1825. The priest, Ivan Veniaminov, developed the Aleut's first writing system with help from the Aleut natives and translated the Bible into Aleut. Unfortunately, the Aleut population was nearly decimated by epidemics of chicken pox, measles, and whooping cough from 1836 to 1840. By 1840, less than 400 Aleuts lived in the Port of Dutch Harbor area.
The United States bought Alaska from Russia in 1867, bringing Unalaska and the Port of Dutch Harbor into United States territory. The Methodist Church opened a clinic and school for orphans in the city in 1880.
The Alaska Gold Rush brought many ships to the Port of Dutch Harbor in the early 20th Century. The North American Commercial Company had established a coaling station there. Epidemics visited the island and the Port of Dutch Harbor in the early 20th Century. In 1919, the worldwide epidemic of the Spanish flu visited the island, bringing a sharp decrease in the population.
In 1940, the United States began to fortify the Port of Dutch Harbor, building the Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base and Fort Mears. Japanese forces attacked the city in 1942 during their Aleutian Island campaign in the Battle of Dutch Harbor. When they occupied the westernmost Aleutian island, Attu, the Americans arrested most of the indigenous people, sending them to internment camps in southeast Alaska for the remainder of the war. Many of the native people died during that imprisonment.
In the middle 20th Century, the Port of Dutch Harbor and Unalaska became a king crab fishing center. By 1978, the Port of Dutch Harbor was the biggest fishing port in the United States. However, the king crab population crashed in 1982, destroying the industry.
By the middle 1980s, the fishing fleet was focusing on bottom fishing, seeking their catch in the deeper sediments. Since 2005, Port of Dutch Harbor fishermen have been featured in Deadliest Catch, the Discovery Channel's documentary program.