St Matthew Island, Alaska

St. Matthew Island is a remote island in the Bering Sea in Alaska, 295 kms (183 miles) WNW of Nunivak Island.

The island has a land area of 137.857 sq miles (357.05 km2), making it the 43rd largest island in the United States. Its most southerly point is Cape Upright which features cliff faces which exceed 1,000 feet (300 metres). Similar heights are found at Glory of Russia Cape on the north and the highest point, 1,476 feet (450 metres) above sea level, lies south from the island centre.

There is a small island off its north-western point called Hall Island. The 3.1 miles (5.0 kms) wide sound between both islands is called Sarichef Strait. A small rocky islet called Pinnacle Rock lies 9.3 miles (15.0 kms) to the south of Saint Matthew Island. The entire island's natural scenery and wildlife is protected as it is part of the Bering Sea unit of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

The climatic conditions in the entire Bering Sea Area, according to National Climatic Data Center (1986) is reported as maritime with "considerable wind and cool, humid and cloudy conditions" with mean annual temperature of 3.2 °Centigrade.

In prehistory, the island was inhabited by members of the Aleut tribe. The first recorded attempt at settlement occurred in 1809, when a Russian group led by Demid Ilyich Kulikalov, under the guise of the Russian-American Company, established an experimental outpost. A 2013 sailing expedition to the island showed that, in spite of the lack of human habitation, extensive areas of beach were heavily contaminated with plastic marine debris, particularly from the fishing industry.

It is an ideal place for lovers of arctic land mammals, birds and flora that thrives in sub-freezing conditions. However, the reindeer population died out in 1980. There is an abundance of animal, bird and plant life still on St. Matthew Island for naturalist travellers.

The Alaska Cruise season begins in May and ends in September. Although July and August are the warmest months to experience these incredible sites, autumn and spring are the most fun, the most beautiful and the savings are the best.

Be prepared for one season colder than where you have travelled from. This is especially important for those who travel early and late in the season. The average temperature range is from overnight lows of 4c to daytime temperatures of 17c. The Inside Passage has an annual rainfall of over 50inchs but Anchorage rainfall is only 16inch pa.

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