The Port of Kodiak is the main city on Kodiak Island in the State of Alaska. Located about 135 nautical miles south-southwest of the Port of Homer and about 550 nautical miles northwest of the Port of Sitka, the Port of Kodiak is a busy commercial fishing center and a popular destination for lovers of the outdoors. In 2008, the Port of Kodiak was home to over 6200 people.
The Port of Kodiak can be reached only by ferry or air. The island is rich with wildlife that includes the Kodiak bear (the largest species of brown bear), the black-tailed Sitka deer, mountain goats, salmon, and halibut. Before the arrival of fiber optic cable, all communications with the outside world were channeled through the antenna farm at the top of Pillar Mountain.
People have lived on the Kodiak Archipelago for more than seven thousand years, and the native people who live there today, the Alutiiq, descend from those original inhabitants. In 1763, Russian explorer Stephan Glotov first arrived at Kodiak Island. Fifteen years later, Captain James Cook mentioned "Kodiak" in his journals.
Attracted by the huge number of sea otters, Russian fur trapper Alexander Baranov founded a settlement and built a warehouse in the future Port of Kodiak. The warehouse is today the Baranov Museum in the Port of Kodiak. The indigenous people prized the sea otters and would not harm them. This led to war with the Russian trappers and the eventual enslavement of the Alutiiq people.
Missionaries from the Eastern Orthodox Church came to the island and the Port of Kodiak in the late 18th Century. With a growing white population in the Port of Kodiak, it became the capital of Russian Alaska.
Russia and America joined to establish the Russian-American Company with the goal of sea otter harvest. By the middle 19th Century, the sea otter was nearly extinct. At the same time, disease and war had reduced the indigenous population by as much as 85% since the first Russian landing at the Port of Kodiak.
The United States purchased the Alaska territory from Russia in 1867 (the event is known as "Seward's Folly"). The Port of Kodiak became a commercial fishing center, and canneries grew up on the island. Unfortunately, the worldwide farm-raised salmon industry forced many of these canneries to close by the early 1900s.
During the Theodore Roosevelt administration, the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge was created when animals like Sitka deer, mountain goats, muskrats, beavers, rabbits, and squirrels were introduced to the island.
The Port of Kodiak was incorporated in 1941. At that time, the United States expected Japanese attacks and turned the Port of Kodiak into a fortress. Fort Abercrombie was built in the Port of Kodiak, and the US military constructed roads, an airport, bunkers, and gun emplacements that contributed to improving the physical infrastructure of the island. The Port of Kodiak was an important staging area for the United States during World War II, and the city's population grew to over 25 thousand during that period. The Port of Kodiak gained a submarine base, an air station, and an army outpost. When the Japanese captured Kiska and Attu islands in the far western Aleutian chain, American and Canadian forces turned the Japanese back before they could reach the Port of Kodiak.
After the war, the Port of Kodiak's fishing industry grew rapidly. Alaska became a state in 1959, bringing additional government aid to the Port of Kodiak in the form of housing, education, and transportation. The Port of Kodiak continued to grow as a commercial fishing center, and new fish processing factories appeared on the island.
In March 1964, the Great Alaska Earthquake brought a tsunami to the Port of Kodiak, and waves over nine meters high swept through the city, killing 15 people and causing millions of dollars worth of damage. The same tsunami destroyed the native villages of Old Harbor and Kaguyak as well as the Alaskan King Crab Company and much of the Port of Kodiak's fishing fleet.
The modern Port of Kodiak is a year-round commercial fishing center, and the fishing industry is the island's economic base. One of the United States' top three fishing ports, the Port of Kodiak is home to over 700 fishing vessels. The former Naval Air Station in the Port of Kodiak now serves as the largest Coast Guard Station in the United States. It also supports the fishing fleet, freighter traffic, and recreational boating in the Northern Pacific region.
In addition to the Port of Kodiak's vigorous fishing industry, there are several fisheries-related research facilities in the city. The Fishery Industrial Technology Center (FITC), a unit of the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, operates a graduate program and conducts training in fisheries and food science. The center also conducts research to support fish-harvesting technologies, seafood science, and fish processing technology.
The Kodiak Fisheries Research Center (KFRC) is a top-notch research facility run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is open to federal and state researchers. The KFRC is dedicated to preserving, enhancing, and managing the marine ecosystems and resources of the North Pacific. The National Marine Fisheries Service, the State of Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the University of Alaska operate labs and offices in this facility.